26 February 2011 | JvH48
Artistic and scientific freedom enchained, even in so-called "free" countries
This film is about artistic freedom. In the ideal world it should be minimally bound by political, economical or other constraints hindering the creative mind. The story starts with the portrayed filmmaker stumbling on Soviet censors, who are not satisfied with his work. They decide to replace him by someone more "professional" (of course, they actually mean "flexible").
A few incidents later his new location becomes Paris, to where the filmmaker moved in hopes for more freedom to follow his own ideas. How wrong he is, though other limitations become prevailing here, strongly influenced by commercial and budgetary considerations. In other words, a heavy emphasis on the box office. Anyway, he is enchained again, though this time for different reasons.
This seems to be the story of his life. As a child he discovered his talent with a photo camera, at which time he also had to cope with disagreeing parents. The film title is a variation on the French expression: Chantre Pas, or: Cannot Sing. Freely translated "Outsider", because that is what he will be throughout his life time.
One may think that these limitations are only affecting artistic professions, like film directors, painters, writers, and so on. But the very same applies to e.g. knowledge workers, interested in advancing technology or improving quality, while their bean-counting managers only measure how planning and budget compare with actual results. Being a knowledge worker myself, I find many similarities with the "outsider" who is the main character of this movie.
About the film itself, I have one comment. Several archive pieces were shown, probably to provide for some background. I would propose to leave them out altogether, if only to reduce the 122 minutes length to something more fitting the issues covered.
All in all, the theme is very interesting and the scenario achieves much of its potential, especially by demonstrating that similar but different obstacles become manifest in two very different countries. I don't see, however, these dilemma's will appeal as much to the average film consumer. That I felt myself heavily involved in the subject, can be explained easily from my own professional background. Some evasive maneuvers were often necessary to get the results that I myself found satisfactory. Usually that went rather smoothly, so I cannot complain myself about the freedom I got. Still, the tension is always there in the background.