L’Inclinaison des chapeaux: The making of an impossible documentary
- Antonin Schopfer and Thomas Szczepanski present a mysterious documentary in the Panorama Suisse section of the Solothurn Film Festival, in which reality goes hand in hand with fiction
The 52nd Solothurn Film Festival has played host to Antonin Schopfer and Thomas Szczepanski’s first feature-length film, L’Inclinaison des chapeaux, in the Panorama Suisse section. Schopfer has already wowed Solothurn with his performance as a young man cast adrift in Gabriel Bonnefoy’s Pipeline [+see also:
film profile]. However, this time, he has returned to the festival in the role of a director, accompanied by Szczepanski, with whom he has collaborated since 2011 (on Tomorrow Is Way Off). The result is truly incredible.
It’s summer. Antonin sets out on the road along with his friend-cum-accomplice-cum-cameraman-cum-jack-of-all-trades in order to track down the father he hasn’t seen for 15 years. The unlikely pair leaves the city in search of Antonin’s family home, where 15 years prior, his father had sent his mother packing. Antonin wants to make a film about meeting his dad, and their love-hate relationship. The feelings that bring the main characters to life in L’Inclinaison des chapeaux are complex and contradictory, staying true to life itself: affection in stark contrast with resentment, and incomprehension versus a burning desire for the truth.
L’Inclinaison des chapeaux is one of those films that destabilises things, teetering between genres, unclassifiable. Are we dealing with a documentary, or a work of fiction? Is Schopfer and Szczepanski’s film reality, or are we in fact dealing with something that’s been staged? The two directors haven’t felt the need to choose between the two, so why should we?
L’Inclinaison des chapeaux fully embraces its hybrid status, which lies somewhere between reality and fiction. The film shouts at the top of its lungs that cinema isn’t about format or fruitless cataloguing, but rather can be a weapon against conformism. Schopfer and Szczepanski show us that cinema – the true kind of cinema – encourages us to reflect, opening our eyes to a world that we often can’t and don’t want to see. From this point of view, L’Inclinaison des chapeaux forces itself on Solothurn, in the true spirit of punk, as a DIY alien. What we’re watching on screen is the making of an improbable documentary where amateurism and a sort of refreshing cheesiness are the driving force and lifeblood of the entire film. Schopfer and Szczepanski invite us in to witness what normally happens behind the scenes and reveal that the most interesting moments of a film often happen off-set.
At the beginning of the movie, Antonin states that cinema is not a form of psychoanalysis, but L’Inclinaison des chapeaux often proves otherwise. Even if we can’t talk about therapy in the strictest sense of the word, cinema can be cathartic for both audience and director alike. In many cases, the camera allows us to observe reality from a redemptive distance. Schopfer’s past, like his present, is filtered through a prism of cinema and transformed into something altogether different, nestled somewhere between crude reality and fantasy. Perhaps that’s what real life is like: a concentration of objective facts and dreams? L’Inclinaison des chapeaux ends up being a sort of catharsis for both father and son by reconstructing their relationship via the filmic process. The further the film limps along in uncertainty, the stronger their relationship becomes. It’s as if the insecurity of the creative act feeds the protagonists’ feelings. The tragicomic universe of L’Inclinaison des chapeaux recalls at times the conscious vitriolic naivety of July Delpy and Vincent Macaigne’s films as well as the amateurism of young independent American directors (members of the “mumblecore” subgenre). This is a film that shouts at the top of its lungs about what makes it different.
(Translated from Italian by Beatrice Guarneri)
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