Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Cédric Villain "Portraits ratés à Sainte-Hélène" (Annecy 2008 Prize Winner)

Portraits ratés à Sainte-Hélène illustrates the dying days of Napoleon Bonaparte on the God forsaken hole that is (or, maybe, was) the remote Atlantic island of St. Helena where he was imprisoned by the British for five years until he died on 5 May 1821. Cédric Villain's idiosyncratic account picks through the little known facts about the island's geographical position and the ex-emperor's gradual decline in his defeat and exile, where there seems little to have interested him other than food. Certainly at his autopsy, covered with a scientific detachment here, he was noted for the large amount of fat tissue and tiny .. well, I'll not spoil the film. I never learnt about this when I studied him for A Level History all those years ago. Cédric employs a clinical technique in subject matter, his economic use of language, the narrator's dry delivery, and clear graphics. The deep blue of the backdrop against which are set maps, arrows, dates ..... is utterly absorbing in a way my History lessons never were. It is also very funny. The irony of the deadpan delivery of fact and the often incongruous images is delicious. Thus it was one of the prize winning short films in this year's Annecy, where he won the "Jean-Luc Xiberras" Award for a first film. To be clear, the movie is also an investigation into the authenticity of his death mask and portraits. History was one of my strongest subjects at school, comparatively speaking, and I never knew anything of this essential material. The music by Peter Orins is just right and complementary. The link is to the website where you can download the French version in high definition or view it in Flash with subtitles. Postcript: I apologised to Cédric on their behalf for my countrymen keeping Napolean a prisoner and got the reply: "And English should not apologise for making Napoleon a prisoner, because he deserved it as a bloody tyrant!" Lovely guy.

1 comment:

Napoleona said...

How dare he? Living in that country myself I think everyone who hates Napoleon should apologise including that horrible, horrible man. By that I mean he who said, "And English should not apologise for making Napoleon a prisoner, because he deserved it as a bloody tyrant!"
He was not a Tyrant, it's untrue, That old imbecile should really reconsider what he said. How is that lovely? It's sickening! He doesn't understand! Napoleon was the most amazing person to ever live! How could he? You were only right to apologise if you hated Napoleon.
I love those pictures, excuse my mad outburst. Especially the one with Nap inside four coffins. The colors are simple and contrasts really well, anyway thanks for posting. =D