One sings, the others too

The question always arises with collective works with skits: do several programs in line with them make a single film? In any case, the successful friction of these four more or less documentary short films (born of an order sent to several filmmakers by the digital scene of the Paris Opera) gives rise, on the common motive of women who sing, to ‘interesting echoes that reverberate in each other. The directors had a carte blanche: it was therefore by chance that the thematic affinities, noted in the segments, prompted them to present them together, in what should have been the subject of a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival.


Of the four signatures, we note curiously that the director and first-time director Julie Deliquet delivers the most script-baroque proposal, and focused on sleight of hand: a variation spun on the representation, the tragic and the mask, bedside of a sick woman whose returned pain rhymes with the operative agony of heroin the Traviata. With a welcome economy of means, two investigative films come to frame it, launched on the fleeting footsteps of a group of cave singers in Algeria (desert legends pursued by Karim Moussaoui, the author Waiting for the swallows), and a rough diamond soloist, hidden from the eyes of men in Iran (Jafar Panahi continues here his art of the clandestine film shot with nothing). The emphasis then the tenuousness, the lyrical exacerbation of great emotions followed by the counting of archaic songs: all this would have been terribly programmatic if Those who sing did not welcome these various recitals with cunning, suspense or humor, by variously intertwining the world of the stage and behind the scenes.


The Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa obviously took his foot in mending the sauce from the archives of the INA to pastiche an evening of ceremonial at the Opera Garnier, in the 1950s, surrounded by a string of stars who came to listen to the Callas. Comedy is embroidered with insistence in this miniature of worldly Frenchness and of the spectacle society – a black and white patchwork whose images, in reality taken from several galas, playfully pretend to paint a unique and expansive ceremonial that would drag on until more thirsty. Those who sing does not draw as much a portrait of the women-instruments that pass through it as that of the societies in which their voices resonate, with more or less freedom and reverence for their art. Expected, but no less powerful, the scene of the film that takes the song away is undoubtedly that which Panahi films: a voice rises there from behind a sheet, concealing the modesty of a gifted young woman whom the religious authorities forbid to sing. A non-representation with a curtain drawn, where the one who sings would lend her voice to all those who are silent.

Sandra Onana

Those who sing of Julie Deliquet, Sergei Loznitsa, Karim Moussaoui and Jafar Panahi (1 h 15).


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