Dir: Hervé Le Roux
192 min., 35mm, 1:1.66, Color and b/w, WP
Produktion: Les Films d'Ici. Kamera: Dominique Perrier. Ton: Frédéric Ullmann. Schnitt: Nadine Tarbouriech, Anne Seguin. Mischung: Gérard Rousseau. Kamera-Assistenz: Lionel Julien. Produktionsleitung: Francoise Buraux, Catherine Roux. Produzenten: Richard Copans, Serge Lalou.
Uraufführung: 17.10.96, Festival Georges & Routa Sadoul, Paris.
Weltvertrieb: Les Films d‘Ici, 12, rue Clavel, F-75019 Paris, Tel.: (33-1) 44522323, Fax: (33-1) 44522324.
Mit Unterstützung des Centre National de la Cinématographie und des Ministère du Travail et des Affaires Sociales
Thu 20.02. 13:00 Delphi Thu 20.02. 20:15 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Fri 21.02. 10:00 Arsenal Sat 22.02. 11:00 Akademie der Künste
The starting point for the film was a photo I discovered in a cinema journal. And then, one day, I saw the '68 film. From that moment on it haunted me. I cold not get the film out of my mind, I even thought of integrating it into a feature film. Then I decided I should be dealing with what really intrigued me, i.e. with this young, angry woman worker. I had to find her. My search for her was the only possible subject for me. I then talked to Dominique Païni who introduced me to Richard Copans. We both agreed that research and filming had to be done on a twin track. We also felt that we had to find out whether there were any traces left to investigate before we got the whole filmmaking machinery started...
I did some research, a process reminiscent of a ,detective film': the more I found out the more obvious it became that my financial sponsor Richard, who had been a student at IDHEC in 1968 and who was one of the initiators of the strike, always knew just that little bit more... This was in early 1992. The script for Grand Bonheur was beginning to yield an income and I was ready for new adventures... It took two years before we returned to this project. Both of us were still very keen to make the film. Thanks to a small advance by the CNC and with the support of the Ministery of Work we were able to start filming very soon.
My real ambition was to create a space where voices could be heard... to play with time. For example, what does Pierre Guyot say, the man who wears a tie in the '68 film? "I am a communist". "It must be possible to end a strike." "Wait and sign." He wasn't manipulated into saying this, these are his convictions. Then we ask him to talk about his life, his family situation, the Algerian war. In the end, we have a very different image of this man.
Filming took three months. We worked from May to August 1995 with some interruptions, simultaneously doing the research. In other words, one day we would do an interview, the next day I would be on the phone researching new leads to find yet another person. Or we would try to set up a meeting for the day after... As a rule we tried not to meet people before filming them, but to ,see' them only with the camera. We wanted to retain a maximum amount of freshness and spontaneity. I would call my interviewees, tell them my little story, that I was making a film about ,Wonder', that I wanted to show them a video cassette. We would make a date, arrive at the location, install the camera, show them the cassette and then talk...
The team was reduced to a minimum: I had Frédéric Ullmann doing sound and Dominique Perrier doing camera work. We had worked together before (In Grand Bonheur Frédéric was responsible for sound and Dominique was the director's assistant). We had to work very fast, so our hosts didn't feel as if a whole film crew had invaded them. As soon as the camera was taken out of the car - we never knew the location nor the people - we had to find a suitable spot, a minimum of decor, frame the scene properly, in short, do a kind of pre-editing, arranged as speedily as possible. It really was team work. Not only did we communicate with gestures or eye contact, we also had to be attentive listeners. Without Dominique's or Frédéric's special care the film couldn't have been made. By the way, there are moments in the film when the interviewees would address them, not me. It's obvious by the direction they were looking to. These moments are really precious to me. I could be reproached for not doing the interviews like a proper ,journalist'. I seldom contradict, I don't pursue a particular argument. But I take this liberty since I am not interviewing Bosnian or Serbian war criminals. Anyway, I wouldn't be able to handle that situation. When I set up a fictional situation I have to love each character. In a documentary, where real people are also the characters, the situation is much more complicated. It is absolutely necessary that everyone gets the opportunity to speak. This doesn't preclude the viewer from forming his or her own preferences.
In any case, I didn't write a doctoral thesis about Wonder. I am not interested in exact dates. It doesn't really matter to me when exactly the women on strike won the right to take showers. What is interesting, however, is to focus on their ability to remember. The foremen claim that the shower strike happened long before '68, but Marie-Thérèse swears it was '70. There is no point in confronting them, everyone chooses their words so carefully. When we edited the film, however, we preferred the most plausible version of the story. Marie-Thérèse's narrative seemed to make the most sense since she had been employed in the women's workshops and begun work in September 1968. Perhaps she remembers the chronology of events more precisely than the foremen who had worked there for forty years.
In the film I am visible several times. I felt it was a moral duty. I couldn't ask people to talk in front of the camera, to present themselves, while I hid off-screen. Being on camera myself became a dramaturgical necessity. It's like this: there is this rather peculiar person who bothers people at home with a portable television, a video recorder and a video cassette and who has an idée fixe: to find the woman who was filmed on June 10th, 1968 at the ,Wonder' factory gates. This strange person must be given a body and a voice, in short, be physically present.
The '68 film reappears throughout Le Roux' film, either illustrating the arguments of the interviewees - in regular speed or in slow motion - or marking the shift between the present situation in front of the video recorder and the historical situation at the factory gates. For example, when Willemont appears at the edge of the frame or when Joubert, the union representative, speaks about the overwhelming presence of company managers at the time of the resumption of work, we get to see it.
There is also a scene where we hear the siren which signifies the end of the work break, and we see the working women entering the factory through the small gate with their heads bowed.
Then there are the sequences which we see from a different perspective when they are quoted for the second time: for example, we see Pierre Guyot, ,the man with the tie', in a different light before and after we have heard the story of his private life.
Generally speaking, the further we go, the more we know about the protagonists, and the better we can understand the images from the 1968 film.
One case in point is the slow motion sequence, which was edited into the interview with Bruneau, when he says that the students from the IDHEC had the aspect of voyeurs. At first the meeting seems to confirm his theory, but the camera pans to the side and we recognise all the protagonists in the crowd who are carrying out their ,instructions' - Poulou; the man with the beard from Chaix; Willemont; the people from the CGT; Bruneau, who is accompanying the girl; Guyot, who places his hand on her shoulder before she moves out of the picture; and Adler in the rear. They all form a kind of spider's web around her through which she, with much grace, makes her way, reminding us of Anna Karina...
At the end the 1968 film is quoted in its entirety - a brief take of the factory, followed by an 8-minute panning sequence. Not a single frame is missing.
She is the centre of the film. The investigation moves in on her and then again leaves off the trail. From the beginning there was this tension in the air. Everyone asked us whether we had found her. Before a public viewing of the film a viewer who couldn't stay through the end of the film asked me the same question: "Will she be found?" So far, none of the journalists who wrote about the film have given away the ending. I hope this discretion will continue and no one will give away the name of the ,murderer'...
Documentary vs. feature film: I am not a documentary filmmaker (this word is horrible). REPRISE is a normal film. It was directed insofar as directing is defined by creating the set, frames, by editing, mounting, mixing. It also helped that I sometimes ,acted'. Directing the other ,actors' became easier. (...) For the crew the difference between a documentary and a feature film was negligible.
When we set up contacts with everyone in summer 1995, explaining our intentions, most people including the unionists asked: "We would like to contribute but who would ever be interested in these old stories?" In Autumn '95 we began to film and in December the strikes commenced. We had to cross the Place de la République to get to our editing room. We saw people with signs, the same people who hadn't thought much of the ,movement' just a few months before. It was very disturbing to see them in the film, on the editing table, and then again on the streets. It was a little bit like The Purple Rose of Cairo, as if they had come down from the screen. I didn't want to make an antiquated or a nostalgic film (even if it might trigger a lot of memories for the generation of '68). Twenty year old people consider it a ,historical' film. It describes a vanished world: large industrial companies in left-wing suburbs, a kind of company culture, a sense of belonging which has disappeared and been replaced with insecurity, the fear of the loss of jobs. And yet, despite predictions by officials about the workers's situation, it remains basically unchanged, the way others predict the death of cinema. While we were filming we heard about this industry-scale slaughterhouse, ,Bigard' in Quimperlé, where the board wanted to introduce fixed times during which employees would be allowed to go to the toilet. We mention this in the film.
Issues like this turn up in discussions after the film again and again. In Belfort the public discussed the situation of women workers at Epée in Besançon. Their relationship to work and to their company is comparable to that of the women at ,Wonder', even amongst the skilled workers.
On May 16th, 1968 students at the IDHEC commence their strike and decide to occupy the school. The next day the ,Etats Généraux du Cinéma Français' is established in the Rue Vaugirard. It is decided that the film industry is going on strike indefinitely. The ,États Généraux' establish an extraordinary strike committee, permitting the making of films only if they deal with "the student and worker movement, or with the Vietnam war negotiations." At the same time IDHEC students establish an association in order to gain access to the school's filmmaking equipment (16mm cameras, sound material) per legal decree. Film projects first have to be approved by the ,Assemblée Générale des élèves'. Some projects are approved: Azimi's project about the occupation of the Sorbonne, Jacques Willemont's film about the various political organisations participating in the ,movement'. It was agreed to begin this second film with L'OCI (Organisation Communiste Internationaliste). For practical reasons, i.e. lack of gasoline, factories were chosen which lay in the vicinity of Porte des Ternes, the school's location. The shooting commences at ,SIDI' in Levallois. L'OCI subsequently suggests filming a meeting at the ,Wonder' factory in Saint-Ouen on June 10th. The film team arrives at the very moment that resumption of work has been decided. They begin to film. Pierre Bonneau is the cameraman, Jacques Willemont holds the microphone, Liane Estiez is at the Nagra, Maurice Portiche is a kind of assistant.
The crew only has one single film roll at its disposal and films without interruption, a ten minute sequence. The film is shown in the Assemblée générale. Because of the uncertain economic situation it is decided to distribute the film independently, ignoring original plans of a larger project.
Since the first screenings of the film, Wonder has been considered an important document. Shortly after screening it at the festival of Hyères in Summer 1968 it was distributed by collectives such as Cinélutte. In 1970 it complemented a program also featuring Camarades by Marin Karmitz. It has been integrated in parts in films such as Histoire de Mai by Pierre-André Boutang and André Frossard (1978), Mai 68, quinze ans après by Jean Labib (1983) and Génération by Daniel Edinger, Hervé Hamon and Patrick Rotman (1988). This confirms its cult status amongst the '68 films. Furthermore, Wonder is referred to in Eric Barbier's feature film from the series ,The School Years'. While this film purposely only deals with a short episode, it is filmically one of the most extraordinary documents of May '68.
The film consists of a single, continuous take, with original sound and no commentary. It shows how a young worker at the factory gates of the battery factory ,Wonder' in the Parisian suburb Saint-Ouen refuses to take up her work, even though the unions have called an end to the strike. You see how she cries out in despair, how two union functionaries try to calm her down, telling her that the working class has achieved a great victory, that "the future will be nothing like the past." Ulrich Gregor: History of Film since 1960, vol. 3, Munich, 1978
The only interesting film about the events, the only really powerful film I saw is the IDHEC students' film about the end of the strike in the Wonder factory. The film is startling and painful. It is the only really revolutionary film perhaps because it represents a moment in time when reality changes. Within two minutes a political situation is transformed into an event of extraordinary dramatic intensity. Jacques Rivette, July 27th, 1968
This is a primitive film, a film from which others have come. In May 1968, the workers are returning to work, and the Unions are claiming a seeming victory. In the Wonder factory, everything is going back to normal again. Suddenly, a woman goes into revolt, claiming that she won't go back to work again, that it is too awful. A student from the IDHEC is there with a 12-minute reel of film. He films the scene. This small film contains the very source of militant cinema; it is like La sortie des usines Lumiere, only the other way around.This is a miraculous moment in the history of direct cinema. Spontaneous revolt, filmed close to the bone, that is what militant cinema has tried again and again to find and to show. In vain. Serge Daney, Serge Le Peron, in: Les Cahiers du Cinéma, May 1981
On May 3rd, 6th and 7th there were increasingly frequent clashes between protesting students and police in the Quartier Latin. In the night from May 10th to May 11th 40 000 students opposed the authorities. Official sources announced that during the ,night of the barricades' 600 people were injured. On May 13th unions called a general strike as well as a protest march against repression and a declaration of solidarity for the students. On May 14th and 15th company headquarters of ,Sud Aviation' and ,Renault' were occupied. On May 27th unions and employers signed the Grenelle accords, followed by negotiations with all union branches. The accords were widely rejected, the strike continued. On May 30th De Gaulle declared the dissolution of the national convent. On the Champs-Elysées a pro-de Gaulle demonstration took place. In early June the resumption of work seemed imminent, between June 10th and June 12th this was beginning to happen. Between June 23rd and June 30th the legislative held elections resulting in an overwhelming victory by the Union de démocrates pour la Ve République (UDR).
In the summer of 1916 Estelle Coutecuisse established a small factory in the eighteenth district to produce batteries and electrical accumulators. Due to widespread anglophilia, the desire to show solidarity with British Allies at war, the soon-to-be-fulfilled hope of attracting the British Army as a client, for all these reasons the factory was given the English name ,Wonder'.
After the end of the war ,Wonder' was moved to Saint-Ouen. The factory experienced a continuous rise under the management of Mr Victor Courtecuisse who was head of the company until 1970.
The fifties and sixties became the twenty glorious years for ,Wonder'. France's demand for ,Wonder's' products was great. It needed them for transistor radios, the demand on African markets was rising, comparable to the early years, the company received important military commissions to do with the war in Indochina and Algeria.
In order to meet the demands of this expansion, new branches were established in Vernon, Louviers, Lisieux, Pontchateau etc.
In 1966 ,Wonder' owned more than 37% of the market share, far ahead of two other French companies, ,Leclanché' and ,Mazda'. (...)
At the end of the sixties the situation changed for the worse. Military commissions ceased to come in. Due to the establishment of shopping centres foreign brands were beginning to enter the French market.
In the early seventies, due to the invention of alkali batteries the American brand ,Duracell' as well as Japanese products appeared on the market. French and European companies were totally unprepared for this new development. For ,Wonder' it came at a most inopportune time because the company had just begun a costly, relatively unprofitable joint venture in Africa. (...) In 1984 the family decides to sell out. After an ugly fight with the Worms Bank Bernard Tapie takes over the company.
On Tapie's order the main emphasis was to be on production. ,Duracell' now produced 500 000 batteries per annum per worker, ,Wonder' only 120 000. (...)
Late in 1986 the historic grounds of Saint-Ouen were closed. In 1988 the group Bernard Tapie sold ,Saft-Mazda-Wonder' to the American group ,Ralston' who wanted to introduce their product ,Energizer' to the French market.
Late in 1994 the last ,Wonder' factory in Louviers was closed. The ,Ralston' group kept one factory in France, the former unit ,Saft' in Caudebec-les-Elbeuf where ,Wonder' batteries are produced. They are still in demand in Africa and ,Domtom' where brand recognition is very high. After a long legal battle with ,Ralston' who was convinced it also acquired the firm's property Tapie gave the old factory in Saint-Ouen to one of his friends, an antique dealer, Monsieur Steinitz who now uses it as a warehouse.
Pierre Bonneau, camera man of the '68 film. Remembers the arrival of the team in a 2CV. Can't resist the temptation to drive an extra round in the factory's vicinity.
Jacques Willemont, during the shooting responsible for sound. Never had contact again with the ,Wonder' people. The local union chapter of Saint-Ouen. Union leaders viewed the video together with former, now retired activists. One of them, Ida, talks about a co-worker who was very active during Tapie's time. She identifies two persons in the film: Edmond Adler and Pierre Guyot.
Edmond Adler, Computer consultant for ,Wonder' in the early sixties.Fired in 1964 after establishing a union chapter. Today he is the director of ,Semiso', society for the different branches of industry in the city of Saint-Ouen. He appears in the '68 film, eyes hidden behind enormous black sunglasses. He describes the working conditions for assembly line workers and the pressure exerted on the union, initiated by the chief of personnel.
Georges Abbachi, former secretary of the local union chapter, former vice mayor of Saint-Ouen. Occupies himself with former activists. Knew the chief of personnel of ,Wonder' "quite well". Describes the de-industrialization taking place in the community during the last twenty years.
Jean-Louis Blanc worked for ,Wonder' until 1972 as a painter. Was a union representative until the closure of the factory. Insists on the registration of the factory in the Quartier des Puces and on the family atmosphere at Wonder, hence the conflicts... Furthermore, he is specialized in catching beasts of prey.
Mr Meunier and Mr Parenti joined production in 1948 as skilled workers. Became ,masters' thanks to internal promotions, then they assumed leading positions. In 1968 they were foremen. Identified Mrs Campin in the film. They remember the rough working conditions, the store room for coals - and the women workers with their ,Rimmel' eyes... Very bitter about their time under Tapie.
Pierre Guyot, the man wearing a tie in the '68 film. Former secretary of the cell ,des Puces'. Son of Raymond Guyot, an important functionary of the Communist Party of France. Talks about his ,adventures' during the Algerian war.
Louis Morin was employed as a mechanic at ,Wonder' from 1957 until the factury closed. His wife als worked there in the late fifties as an unskilled worker. Talks about founding the alliance of French Unions together with some friends - about their first demand, i.e. soap, about the strike of '68 and Tapie's arrival in the early eighties who was received like a god.
Gérard Renoux, secretary of the local union of Louviers. Works in the ,Ralston' Factory in Caudebec-les-Elbeuf, who produces the last batteries with the brandname ,Wonder' today. Encourages us to visit all the factories of the now extinct group of companies in Louviers and environment.
Jacques Joubert, union representative of Wonder in 1968. Today he is a permanent representative of the Confederation Nationale du logement. Describes negotiations with company executives, the uncertainty regarding the end of the strike, the ,normalisation' after the strike. Describes ,Wonder' as a company with a ,high risk factor' in regard to working conditions.
Liliane Singer works as a nurse today. In 1968 she worked as a stenotypist at ,Wonder'. As an activist at L'OCI it was she who made the connection to the students of the Paris film school. Remembers the hopes and disappointments of workers, their struggles with the local union chapter.
Poulou, the ,chaos man' in the '68 film. Then a high school student, sixteen years old and a ,Maoist'. Never showed up at ,Wonder' again. Participated in the ,long march of France'. Today he lives on the Isle of d'Oléron, where he organizes the ,Club of Allassins' each summer.
Marie-Thérese began work as an unskilled worker at ,Wonder' in September 1968. Describes the working conditions for women and the rise of union activities after '68, how conditions were met for the first time in 1972 and the Tapie ,style'.
Yvette began work at the assembly line as a fourteen year old girl. The only unskilled worker and woman who joined the general strike at ,Wonder' on May 13, 1968. Met her husband Guy during the events at the local union chapter.
Ms. Marguerite worked herself to the top at ,Wonder'. She started as a worker, then became a forewoman, finally workshop manageress... Insists on the difficulties she encountered in her management job, especially in the seventies, when the ,Maoists' as well as numerous Portugese women workers appeared. Is very critical of the directors who came and went in the last few years. Very sentimental when thinking about Mr Victor and Mr Lemasson's times. Doesn't want to talk about Tapie. Heroine of the famous episode with the umbrella.
Denise worked, along with many others, until the factory was closed. She remembers everything, especially how work was very tough. Describes very meticulously the production process from the raw material to the delivery.
Lucienne, Denise's sister, also joined ,Wonder' at age fourteen. Originally wanted to become an elementary school teacher. Her girlfriend Jacqueline remained at ,Wonder' because she didn't want to go into domestic service. Together with Alain, Lucienne's husband who also worked at ,Wonder' she reminisces about Mrs Campin, boss of the ,sooty workshop'.
Maurice Bruneau, another unionist in the '68 film. Lives in retirement now. In1968 he was representative of the metal union of Saint-Ouen. Involved in the ,Wonder' strike in this capacity. Talks about the early days. Remembers the girl well. Irritated about the film crew's presence when work had been resumed.
Hervé Le Roux himself is rather surprised about these lively memories, ready to be inscribed onto the screen. It has little in common with television because of its wonderful effervescence and occasional bitterness. The filmmaker must have loved this angry woman's face. The tragic dimension, the enormous committment, often suffused with nostalgia are integral to these images, often hidden behind a wall of emphatic rather than derisive humour. What happened on the streets in 1968 was more than the resumption of work. It was really about the radical, irreversible process of expropriating the individual's power over the ,social'.
Cinema here works hard every single moment: REPRISE is a difficult film in the best sense of the word. It isn't chic, distanced mourning work for the esthete of history ... but a solid and thorough film, (..) in which Le Roux shows his craft without any pretentiousness. Vincent Dieutre, in: La Lettre du Cinéma, Spécial Sadoul
Hervé le Roux was born in 1956. He is a journalist and critic, writes a.o. for the ,Cahiers du Cinéma', worked in 1984 and 1988 in the programm planning for the ,Festival d'Automne' in Paris. He was directorial assisstant for Incognito (direction: Alain Bergala) and collaborated in the production of the short films L'Ourse bleue (1988, director: Marc Chevrie) and Tu m'as dit (1990, direction: Renée Falson). He is a script writer and director for Grand Bonheur, which opened the section French film in Cannes in 1993. Together with Gilles Cornec and Patrick Leboutte he wrote ,Cinégénie de la bicyclette' in 1995.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.