A Tale of the Wind (1988)

Directors: Joris Ivens, Marceline Loridan

I suspect this gets classified as “documentary” largely because, you know, Ivens made documentaries all his life, and surely he wasn’t going to do any differently this late in his life (the film was released shortly before his 90th birthday, making him the oldest filmmaker in the world at that time). Except he did, although I’m damned if I quite know what it was he did; I suspect it’s also classed as “documentary” largely because other people don’t know what else to call it either. I’m filing the film here under both documentary and fantasy, because it really is both of those things, sometimes simultaneously too, and trying to untangle the threads of each mode is tricky at times. It’s not really documentary but it’s also not exactly narrative either. I’m sure I’ve seen other films like it, though surely not many, and I’m damned if I can think what any of them are right now. Maybe compare it to the “non-fiction novel”? I don’t know.

One thing seems to be reasonably certain: most of the film actually seems to be the work of Mrs Ivens, his co-director Marceline Loridan, who this blogger rightly observes shouldn’t be left out of the equation. It seems the film began as a sort of film-about-a-film deal, in which Ivens and his crew would make their film about the wind and Loridan and her separate crew would film them doing so… except Ivens fell ill during shooting so it had to be rethought. As such, I’m presuming that—the obviously fully scripted scenes aside—a certain amount of what we see is re-enactments (to varying degrees) of things that actually happened, maybe even the actual things themselves; the amusing scene of Ivens and Loridan being harassed by officials who won’t let them film the terracotta warriors has more of a ring of truth to it than some others—i.e. it doesn’t look acted, which is not to say that it wasn’t, of course. Mr Honeywell invokes phrases like “magical realism” and “a sort of cinematic interior life or mental construct”, and that really seems to be the best way to describe whatever the hell A Tale of the Wind is, along with Loridan’s own reference to it occupying a sort of “no man’s land between Lumiere and Melies”. Quite perplexing, but fascinating and full of attractive things.

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