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Caught in the Act: The Films of Raymond Depardon

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This weekend Facets concludes its retrospective on French filmmaker Raymond Depardon, whose diverse career includes excellent films in several styles. Depardon learned photography as a child and became a photojournalist in his teens. His first films were inspired by the "direct cinema" documentaries of Ricky Leacock and D.A. Pennebaker, but later he made fictional films as well as impressionistic film essays not unlike those of Chris Marker. While Depardon's not a great stylistic innovator, his best work responds intensely and affectingly to its subjects. All films and videos are in French with subtitles. Screenings take place at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton. For more information call 773-281-4114 or visit www.facets.org.

For Caught in the Act (1995, 109 min.), Depardon got permission to film interrogations of suspects arrested in Paris for minor offenses. They provide a curious subterranean human comedy--from a graffiti artist who can't explain why he sprays subway cars to a woman caught hot-wiring a car who claims that she was trying not to steal it but to open the rear door. Visually the film is best at its most minimal, as in the first third: Depardon uses the same profile shot to show an official interrogating different suspects in the same room, its monotonous severity evoking both the conflict and the tedium of the process. (Saturday, July 10, at 3 PM)

Emergencies (1987, 94 min.), in the tradition of direct cinema, examines the psychiatric emergency room of a Paris hospital. The patients, among them a coldly rational 65-year-old man who's just tried to hang himself and asks for "help" in the form of cyanide, are morbidly fascinating. (Saturday, July 10, at 5 PM)

In the autobiographical essay film Les annees declic (1983, 67 min.), Depardon revisits photographs he took between 1957 and 1977. A voice-over detailing his early career accompanies shots of movie stars at events such as the opening night of Breathless, while inserted images of the photographer's face embed his identity in the images he's created. Also on the program is Contacts, William Klein's video short about Depardon. (Sunday, July 11, at 3 PM) --Fred Camper

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