By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

It’s been a while since Alain Cavalier chose digital video (DV format) to shoot intimate personal mosaics, diaries of immense depth dealing with life, death, and things between. Ce répondeur ne prend pas de messages (1978) was an early precursor of this autobiographical style that gave birth to films such as La Recontre (1996), Le Filmeur (2005), Iréne (2009) and even the anecdotic short documentary Lieux Saints (2007) which dealt with Cavalier’s own intimate revelations in public bathrooms.

In Pater (2011) Cavalier takes a detour from his own trademark style to reinvent himself in a revealing, outstanding way. Creating a fictional political drama from what seems to be an amicable game between friends, the director discovers a filmic metalanguage which speaks of his own methods of filmmaking, while the biographical eye of his early films remains intact in passages where the interaction between the man and the players on his game (Vicent Lindon giving an outstanding performance, in and out of character) takes a casual, almost intimate role.

Different levels of cinematographic languages deal with what appears to be Cavalier’s current concerns: Modern politics and political power play, the casual relation and interaction between friends (who in playing the game of making a movie, also reveal a great deal of biography), and the substantial importance of his method of shooting, which he discusses in detail in some scenes with Lindon and Bernard Bureau, one of his real life friends. All of this creates a fantastic kaleidoscope in which these elements (the documentary, the film essay, the fiction) overlap, conflict with each other, brawl in a confused but perfectly formed oeuvre, which blurs the already diffused lines between genres in modern cinema.

Deliberately renouncing the ordeals of big production companies, Cavalier found a new “intimacy of the method” with the modest DV format and created a sort of personal new genre (or deconstructed a series of old genres), an accomplishment that truly puts him among the best filmmakers of his time. Pater is an overlooked masterpiece.

Director: Alain Cavalier
Producer: Michel Seydoux
Cinematographer: Alain Cavalier
Starring: Vincent Lindon, Alain Cavalier, Bernard Bureau, Jonathan Duong, Hubert-Ange Fumey, Jean-Pierre Lindon
105 mins