F.J. Ossang: The Grand Insurrectionary Style by Nicole Brenez

F.J. Ossang: The Grand Insurrectionary Style   

Nicole Brenez

Cinematographer, writer, singer, messenger: F.J. Ossang, born in the Cantal on 7 August 1956. Practices poetry in all its forms. Subject of a retrospective at International Film Festival Rotterdam, 25 January – 5 February 2011.
He makes music – nine albums with his band MKB (Messageros Killer Boys) Fraction Provisoire; he writes prose – some twenty books, including De la destruction pure (1977), Corpus d’octobre (1980), Descente aux tombeaux (1992), Unité 101 (2006) and the emblematic Génération néant (1993); he makes films – ten movies and as many visual poems, if poetry means a violent outburst of vitality.
Ossang pretends not to concern himself with painting and drawing, but he has created sublimely beautiful tones of grey in Silencio (2007), and always gives carte blanche to his outstanding cameramen: Darius Khondji for Le trésor des îles chiennes (1990), Remi Chevrin for Docteur Chance (1997) and Gleb Teleshov for Dharma Guns (2011), making it possible for them to create radiant images without equal on any silver screen in the world. Joe Strummer said (after Docteur Chance) that Ossang is the only filmmaker he would immediately work with again. Ossang’s work belongs to the grand insurrectionary style that runs throughout the history of anti-art, from Richard Huelsenbeck to the films of Holger Meins. (1)
Ossang’s aesthetic has the singular capacity of displaying his expressive, narrative and rhythmic inventions in the context of an iconography of the most popular kind – in such a way that their poetic intensity transforms archetypes (bad guys, social groups, femmes fatales, warriors) back into prototypes, and facile effigies into fascinating creatures distraught with love, emotions, flux and space. He is a great filmmaker of adventure: bold images and scenarios in the form of expressive epic poems; the psychological vicissitudes of characters who move from rapture to ecstasy until they evaporate in the upper atmosphere because they can never again descend – like, for instance, at the end of Docteur Chance.

The story does not present events in the dreary manner of the average film, but allows room for visual developments, like Jean Epstein or the Soviet masters, including the Mikhail Kalatozov of I Am Cuba (1964). Instead of showing the chase or the race, Ossang films the world that produces such velocity, plunging into the substance of colours and the experience of sensations. Whatever the story may be, it springs from a love of words: not so much the dialogue but the formulation, the insert, the slogan, the point – giving rise to the monumental handwriting that so characterises his work.

But, most of all, Ossang’s cinema involves bringing back epic gestures to popular visual culture, tearing things apart until they become inconceivably beautiful. In Dharma Guns (2010), he creates a poetry of the ‘final images’, fits of giddiness, psychological account-settling that invade our brains as death approaches – the gleams and flashes he has still to extract from his much-loved argentic.

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