With Back to Normandy, a nostalgic travelogue with philosophical aspirations, director Nicolas Philibert not only returns to the scene of a crime but the scene of a movie shoot. In 1976, Philibert was working as an assistant director on René Allio’s I, Pierre Rivière, Having Butchered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother…, a film based on a 19th-century countryside murder that resurfaced after the great Michel Foucault wrote a book about the haunting confession Rivière wrote from prison. After considerable if not atypical pre-production hassles, Allio shot the film very close to the location of the original crime, and with a cast that consisted almost entirely of locals with absolutely no acting experience or, except for the elusive lead of the film, interest in pursuing the craft in the future. Philibert seeks out these persons, who dish out anecdotes about their experiences working on the film and the effects, if any, those experiences had on their lives. Beginning with the birth of a piglet and ending with a revelation best left undisclosed, Back to Normandy attests to the grit of working-class people while ruminating on the relationship between fact and fiction, the role memory serves in people’s lives, and how those lives are consigned to history. Philibert’s ambition, like his philosophical inquiry, is vague, dawdling and sometimes terribly uninteresting, but if it feels as if he’s forcibly scouring for meaning, looking for something but not knowing what that something is, the final shot of the film not only confirms this but poignantly and stunningly recasts the film in a new light: a study of the filmmaker as the loneliest of hunters.
- Kino International
- 113 min
- Nicolas Philibert
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