Critics workshop rendezvous with Claire Simon

English Daily #3
“When you make a film it’s like love,” Our Body director Claire Simon tells our group of young film critics at the GAIFF Critics Workshop, “you do something very strong with someone and then it’s over.” She’s talking about the emotionally-charged relationships she forms with her subjects while on set and the strange experience of encountering them later, once normal life has taken over again. It’s an apt metaphor and one that fully dovetails with the theoretical underpinnings of her film.

A documentary about a ward of a Parisian hospital focused exclusively on women’s health, one of the things Simon talked to us about was her interest in balancing the subjective and objective in her approaches to documentary form. In the film’s opening moments, Simon moves seamlessly from a handheld POV shot to a static wide view of her walking down the street, setting the stage for the many aesthetic gambits she pulls throughout. “I never stay very long [on a subject],” she tells us, “I move. I try to follow the order of the body, the link from one body to another.” Simon elaborates that she is after a collective, feminine language of the body and by following different women in a loosely chronological manner, taking us from their first experiences with sex and abortion through to death, she is able to craft a universal experience without losing sight of the particular.

She agreed to talk to our group to give us insight into her film as well as help us develop our interview skills and she was not only insightful, but gamely able to push us as critics too. Talking to us about her deep affection for esteemed documentary auteur Frederick Wiseman (“Wiseman goes to the north pole and takes a piece of ice” she remarks on his unique abilities to make the often mundane, vivid and unique), she claims that no critics have ever really understood him and challenges us to really think deeply about documentaries. “Nobody takes the time to think ‘why does she do this film now?’” she complains about her own critics, but judging by how generous she was with her insights, I don't think it would take much to do so and I would be happy to have the chance again.

This review was written as part of the GAIFF Critics Workshop