Sunday, September 19, 2010

Leaud's Phonecall

Rue Fontaine (Philippe Garrel, 1984; photographed by Pascal Laperrousaz)

Besides the grainy darkness of Pascal Laperrousaz's 16mm images, one of my favorite things about this Garrel short, the highlight of the Paris vu par .... vingt ans après anthology film (a largely muddled "twenty years later" follow-up to the movie commonly called Six in Paris in English), is a brief scene where Jean-Pierre Leaud calls Christine Boisson from a payphone.

While the camera is pointed at Leaud (the whole scene is done in one take), a microphone has been set up elsewhere with Boisson. Instead of hearing his voice clearly and hers coming out the receiver, we hear her side of the conversation -- her voice is disarmingly crisp and his is tinny. Garrel and sound recordist Jean-Luc Rault-Cheynet complicate things further by also recording Leaud's side of the conversation and bookending the recording of Boisson with direct sound of Leaud picking up and putting down the phone. That is, they go against the conventions of showing a phone conversation in a movie (sound and image from the same point of view), and with the reality of a phone conversation as something that always occurs from two perspectives at once.


Trevor said...

I am fascinated by the untethering of the soundtrack from the images. I think I started looking for this with greater interest after seeing The Girlfriend Experience. I think there is so much richly aesthetic possibility in playing with sound this way, but I wish it was written about more. Is there even a single book on this subject? This sounds like an interesting case that I'd like to check out. I haven't seen it, but it seems significant that the image doesn't as clearly give us Leaud's face to see his expressions (maybe I'm wrong?), as the more static an image is, the more we tend to listen to the soundtrack. This seems a perfect image for displacing our attention to what we are hearing.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

You can somewhat see Leaud's face, but it's still very dark (actually, almost the entire short looks this dark).

The name of this blog, actually, came from a circa early 2007 (that is, when I started Sounds, Images) obsession with the separation of sound and image, which, in those heady, essentialist days, I was convinced was "the pinnacle of cinema" or something. The fact remains, though, that sound is possibly the most under-examined aspect of filmmaking -- not just in terms of criticism, but in terms of filmmaking itself. Still a lot to be found / expressed.

Anonymous said...

I would reccomend Michel Chion's writings as a good place to start for discussions of sound, the voice, the relation to the image, etc. There actually is some good work that has been done on the subject, it isn't as barren or dire as one may fear.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...


Thanks for the tip. Never read any Chion, and I have to admit that at first I thought you meant Michael Chanan, who has written some really interesting stuff about sound recording (though the writings of his I'm most familiar are the ones that deal with music, not film).

Evelyn Roak said...

Ha, i'm not familiar with Chanan but sounds like they do some similar work. I believe Chion wrote for Cahiers at some point and he has himself written on 20th century music as well-and composed/recorded too.

His book the voice in cinema and audio-vision both have fascinating, sophisticated discussions of the sound/image relationship and the ideas/actualities of their disjointing. Also, his short book on Jacques Tati is nothing short of a masterpiece.