Michael Roemer, Eclipse and Rebirth by an unknown director


Donna (Trish Van Dever) and Joe (Brooke Adams) in a movie

The history of cinema is not static, and it sometimes happens that a work that remained unknown until recently strikes the conscience of cinema. It’s just such an occurrence that Michael Roemer, an anonymous American film director, has three films that appeared out of nowhere and are today distributed by Les Films du Camélia: Nothing but a man (1964), a vibrant portrait of the American black state, Harry Plotnick alone against all (1970), a scathing Jewish comedy from New York, W Revenge is mine (1984), a female drama with Gothic accents. If the first two had already been subjected to French exploitation (in 1966 and in 1990), without leaving too many traces, the third, filmed for American public television, remained unpublished until then.

Discovered in restored versions, these three films are striking for their extraordinary beauty, their sensibility that belies American standards, their subtle articulation and the thickness of characters. Reached over the phone, their author, a 95-year-old retired Yale professor, is heard in the shimmering voice and gentle tone of someone still amazed at his career.

Michael Romer’s story marries the tortured XX trackH a century. Born in Berlin in 1928, in the last fires of the Weimar Republic, demobilized at the age of 11 in England, thanks to Operation Kindertransport, which saved tens of thousands of Jewish children for placement in foster families. I had a difficult childhood in Germany. says the director. I grew up in a family very upset by Nazi legislation preventing my parents, who were Jewish, from getting to work. Just before the war, I was fortunate enough to be sent to an English school for refugees. I was a good student, the future opened, and I was able to continue my studies in America. »

On the way to the documentary

In 1945, thanks to a scholarship, he landed in Boston (Massachusetts) to join the prestigious Harvard University, from which he graduated in arts four years later, “with male”. The first to be seduced by the theater (“You were a very bad actor.”), and then back to the movies. I started watching movies at university. He explains. For the first time in my life. I completely believed in what was happening on the screen. I desperately needed to believe in something. It is usually God’s turn, but it was hard to believe in God after the concentration camps. »

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