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VENICE 2006 Competition

These Encounters of Theirs: deserted by audiences and the filmmakers

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These Encounters of Theirs: deserted by audiences and the filmmakers

An immobile camera, semi-immobile actors, lines performed almost tonelessly: judging by the general flight of journalists from the press screening of their film at the Venice Film Festival, it is still difficult to take the works of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, the French filmmaking couple who have been long-time residents of Italy and are among the most esteemed members of an austere and rigorous arthouse cinema with an almost inexistent market.

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Rather, their films are much more frequent guests at arthouse film series or festivals, such as this year at the Lido, where These Encounters of Theirs is in competition for the Golden Lion.

However, the film was not presented by the filmmakers at the press conference today (it was known they would not be in attendance) but, to everyone’s great surprise, by festival director Marco Muller, along with the film’s cast, to explain that the reason behind this absence was "a serious problem".

Then, with a dramatic turn, a letter was read that was written by Straub and Huillet precisely for this occasion. A very powerful letter with decidedly polemic tones against the circuit of international cinema from which they always distanced themselves. Their absence has been considered "a vendetta against many ruffians" after a series of festival appearances that went un-awarded or, as happened once, when Jean-Luc Godard had to pay for the screening of one of their films. Straub also wrote that he could not "celebrate with so many public and private officers searching for a terrorist. I am the terrorist".

The film seems like a return, 27 years after From the Clouds to the Resistance, to Cesare Pavese’s Dialogues with Leucò, a work written immediately following WWII by the Piedmost-born writer. Straub and Huillet this time chose a bucolic setting, the Tuscan countryside, for five of Pavese’s 26 brief dialogues, suspended between reality, myth and classical evocation.

Produced by Straub-Huillet’s company and Pierre Grise Productions – with the participation of the Region of Tuscany, the Province of Pisa, the Teatro Comunale of Buti, "Il Saracino", the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), the Le Fresnoy-Studio National Des Arts Contemporains (Paris) and Archipel - L.T.C. Saint-Cloud (Paris) – the film is being sold by Pierre Grise Distribution.

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(Translated from Italian)

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