Guest: Balthazar Clémenti – In the Shadow of the Blue Rascal + Soleil

Balthazar Clémenti with his mother Margareth Clémenti in ‘Soleil’ (1988)

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At our previous Night of the Experimental Cinema, Balthazar Clémenti stole the show on AB’s main stage, winning over the audience with an animated talk about the work of his father, Pierre Clémenti, and the film on the program that evening, Positano (1969). We are honoured to welcome him back! Balthazar Clémenti devoted his life to the recently completed restoration of his father’s integral oeuvre, in which he himself appeared as a child.

French actor and sex symbol Pierre Clémenti (1942-1999) is best known for his darkly enchanting screen presence in films by some of the most significant European filmmakers of his era (Buñuel, Visconti, Bertolucci, Pasolini, Garrel, Rocha, …). In 1967, he bought his first 16mm Beaulieu camera. Over the course of more than fifteen year, Clémenti would film a series of intimate diaries, starting from daily encounters, family, friends, his travels, life on set, but also the revolts in Paris.

In July 1971, Clémenti was arrested in Rome for possession of LSD and cocaine (which he maintained were planted by the police due to his radical leftism and long-haired aesthetic). He eventually spent 17 months (!) in Italian prisons before being released for lack of evidence. Balthazar Clémenti, who witnessed the raid and arrest with his own eyes as a five-year-old, describes him in the introduction to his father’s newly translated memoir A Few Personal Messages (2022/1973) as “forever haunted by his time in prison.”

In 1978, he started filming his sole narrative feature, In the Shadow of the Blue Rascal (À l’ombre de la canaille bleue), again incorporating events from his own life, such as his experiences in prison. It would take him seven years to finish the film. Equal parts Jean Genet, William S. Burroughs and Kenneth Anger, Clémenti’s hallucinatory sci-fi-noir may be his masterpiece. Shot on 16mm, Clémenti’s dystopian vision of Paris is called Necrocity, a hedonistic netherworld where state police (with the chief played by Clémenti himself) chase gangsters through a hazy, heroin-fueled nightlife. With its highly foreboding, trance-inducing atmosphere – marked by dazzling superimpositions and an unrelenting industrial soundtrack by Gilbert Artman – Clémenti’s post-punk Surrealist transmission is one of the great French underground films of the ’80s!

A perfect synthesis of the punk policier style of Blue Rascal with a more introspective lens, Clémenti’s last and favorite film The Sun (Soleil) is his magnum opus: it both tells the story of his imprisonment and transcends it, erupting with memory and footage from throughout his life (his adored Corsican mother Rose Clémenti, his first wife Margareth Clémenti, his son, the streets of Paris, …). Clémenti’s voiceover narration draws from his aforementioned memoir. The film ends with an iris-like image transposed over images of his little son Balthazar playing with a candle flame in the forest.

Ce dernier film est celui que je préfère… peut-être le plus abouti…” — Pierre Clémenti


〉   New restorations of the films

〉   Introduction by and Q&A with Balthazar Clémenti, the son of Pierre Clémenti


Pierre Clémenti in À l'ombre de la canaille bleue (1986)
À l'ombre de la canaille bleue

Pierre Clémenti

À l'ombre de la canaille bleue

FR • 1986 • 82' • colour • digital • fr lang • en sub


FR • 1988 • 16' • colour • digital • fr lang • en sub