UNIQUE APPROACH TO THE HUMAN BODY: BERTRAND MANDICO

Bertrand Mandico is fascinated by bodies; he’s provoked by them, he paints them, he changes, moves and deforms them, and takes them from one shape into the next. It doesn’t matter who the parts belong to, what matters is that they move in front of the camera. Not even death saves bodies from Mandico’s camera, which animates and destroys them, but, at the same time, returns them to life. This is the case in the short Living Still Life (2014), where a woman –with a stop motion alchemy of sorts– manages to make dead animals walk again with this animation technique.

It’s precisely in these animations where the corporeality of the physical elements set on stage account for the visual cross-cutting nature of his work, drawing a comparison to challenging cult filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk. While in charge of a retrospective and tribute to the Polish creator, Mandico made Boro in the Box (2011), a biography/tribute of sorts where the protagonist-filmmaker is transformed into a camera, a wooden box from which he looks at the world.

The close relationship that Mandico establishes between self-image, bodies and cinema itself is thus made perfectly clear. This world is explored in a far more reflexive and explicit way in his most recent short, Ultra pulpe (2018), staging the shooting of a genre film where all the bodies, even those which are dismembered, speak about the likely romance between the female director and the leading actress.

Since his debut at the turn of the century, Mandico had devoted his entire career to short films, rendering a series of powerful and surreal images, with quasi mythological characters/beings –like in his Le cavalier blue (1999) animation– which move through oneiric and almost nightmarish worlds, living amongst and meeting other similarly strange beings.

Les garçons sauvages (2017) is his first feature. Critically acclaimed, it is an expansion of his universe where hyper-sexuality and the bizarre make up a fascinating amalgam. At the same time, it is definitively a political film that subverts the established order, recreating a world of desire and fantasy following the structure of adventure films, with crimes, ships and a wild island, where the main characters, all of them women playing men, arrive after being detained for committing a crime.

One of the most valuable aspects of Bertrand Mandico’s films is the permanent collaboration with Romanian-American actress Elina Löwensohn, who has not only played the leading role in the movies mentioned above, but has also collaborated as screenwriter and creator in many of their shared projects. Both will be in Valdivia presenting all the screenings so as to further enrich this big screen event, set to be, by all accounts, a truly fascinating experience.