Noir et blanc by Claire Devers was released in theaters this Wednesday. A radical and sensory film, Camera d’or at Cannes in 1986, remained untraceable for a very long time because it had never been released on DVD. It comes out in a very nice restored copy in 4K.
Antoine is a young man with no history until the day he has to follow massage sessions. He meets Dominique, a black masseur, who finds himself sadistic. He will go to the end of this strange report without wanting to tell anyone.
Rarity alert! This film, released in a handful of theaters and which will soon have a DVD edition with a bonus, had become almost invisible for nearly 30 years!
Black and White, that’s its title, is the first feature film by director Claire Devers, winner of the Camera d’or in 1986 at the Cannes Film Festival. Very well received by the press at the time of its release, and followed by an international career, Noir et blanc then became untraceable, because it was certainly published on VHS, but never on DVD.
This invisibility is all the more damaging because Black and White is a singular and remarkable film. Its form, its subject, its radicalism… Everything impresses in this first feature film.
“At first, I left to do a report on sports centers, weight rooms. (…) From there, I came across a subject that I did not suspect: narcissism, refocusing on oneself. Then I read Tennessee Williams’ short story, The Black Masseur. Everything got mixed up then. I only kept the symbolic image of the Black from Tennessee Williams. Bodybuilding centers interested me as a social phenomenon.”
From this starting point, Black and White then evolves into a very sensual, sensory film, with work on image and sound that form a whole. The film features long massage scenes, with no dialogue. If it is indeed a question of putting in image a sado-maso relation, Black and white does not seek on the other hand to film the enjoyment by violence. The approach is modest, and suggests more than it shows.
“I am very surprised by the discomfort that this film causes in some people, especially by its intensity. I didn’t expect it to be so repulsive. That my film makes me so uncomfortable. I thought he would be scary, but I didn’t think some people would have trouble following the story because of this scare.“, can we read in these remarks reported by Claire Devers in the press kit.
Black and white, a classic of sado-masochistic gay cinema
Noir et blanc also left its mark on its era, for the relationship it reveals between two men. Should we see a love story there? “For me, there is no homosexual relationship between the two characters“, explains Claire Devers bluntly. On the other hand, the idea that the film makes it possible to imagine things appeals to the filmmaker.I need the viewer to relate to the film“, she said during the preview of the film, this Wednesday at the Reflet Médicis.
For the stubborn magazine, Black and white is “a classic of sadomasochistic gay cinema“. “The homosexual community received the film very well, I think, because I was talking about the suffering that we could encounter in the early 1980s, with AIDS“, indicates Claire Devers in the columns of the magazine LGBTQ +. I understood that I had touched a very strong emotional fiber, but that was not my intention. Me, I was more into a mental elaboration thing, within the scope of the concept of masochism“.
This radical film which summons both the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the filmmaker David Cronenberg should in any case not leave indifferent those discovering it for the first time today.
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Finally, a little wink: note the appearance of Maiwenn’s mother in the film, Catherine Belkhodja (Maïwenn, incidentally being mentioned in the acknowledgments of the end credits). The two main roles of the film are held by Jacques Martial and Francis Frappat.
Black and White is in theaters now.