Modern Life

“A deeply humane and warm-spirited portrait of French farmers whose way of life is on the verge of disappearing.” — Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly
Year: 2008
Country: France
Running time: 88 mins

France
Producer: Claudine Nougaret
Photography: Raymond Depardon
Editor: Simon Jacquet
Music: Gabriel Fauré
In French and Occitan, with English subtitles
CinemaScope

With: Marcel Privat, Raymond Privat, Alain Rouvière, Cécile Rouvière, Marcelle Bresse, Paul Argaud, Amandine Valla, Michel Valla, Marcel Challaye, Germaine Challaye

Festivals: Cannes (Un Certain Regard), Vancouver, London 2008, San Francisco 2009

Winner Prix Louis-Delluc 2008

Filmmaker/Magnum photographer Raymond Depardon's connection with the isolated farming communities of France's Haute-Loire region goes back to his childhood there. You sense the familiarity as his camera steers you surely down twisting mountain roads to pull up at another ancient stone farmhouse. His interviews with a handful of the region's old small-landholders are composed with an arresting formality that conveys simple respect. Every encounter reverberates with generations of experience and obstinate allegiance to the land. A film for the ages. — BG

“Depardon has met some of these farmers and households before. But they were never filmed with this intensity of attention and affection, this Rembrandt-like luminosity of portraiture. The film is a valediction forbidding mourning... These people would rather die than reveal a thought or feeling. Which makes all the greater the film's feat in conveying this world – its prejudices, its passions (for the old turnings of earth and time), its bereavement pangs, its jealous solitariness. These men look like great paintings as they sit there, saying nothing with their mouths, yet saying everything with the glitter of their eyes, the set of their jaws... Near the end, the grimmest farmer of all, sitting or half-reclining in a field, lets slip... a single, rolling, unrecalled tear. ‘C'est la fin’ he mutters. He feels no need to explain what is at an end. We know... The world has to grow up; the greater number has to gain the greater good. But that is no reason not to record and immortalise the individual tragedies that feed the mulch and march of history.” — Harlan Kennedy, americancinemapapers.com

Read The Lumiere Reader's recent review of Modern Life here.