Notes on „Genèse“ by Philippe Lesage

Rewatching Philippe Lesage’s Genèse after two years, I was taught a few things:

Firstly, that rewatches – no matter the distance between first and second viewings – make one notice when time quickens. It quickens, here, when recognisable songs sound different. In Genèse there are five of these songs:

  • Aldous Harding – Imagining My Man
  • The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird
  • TOPS – Outside
  • Le Tigre – Deceptacon
  • John Maus – Do Your Best

Three of these songs (excepting Deceptacon and Do Your Best) are played at least two times throughout the film. They’re not played in their entirety, and are used once or twice respectively in either a non-diegetic or diegetic context: Diegetic for bars and clubs, non-diegetic for the times in parks where a bar’s noises/lyrics reverberate in a quietened mind. The songs sounded different in the film than when I last watched it, and from when I listened to them on their own. They sounded pitch-shifted this time. It also helps that they’re songs I recognise from the above, very real physical and mental spaces – instead of merely existing on the director’s iPod or Spotify playlist.

Familiar, shortened and pitch-shifted is the ideal way to filter a year that ends adolescence; a year shared between the film’s protaganists/half-siblings (or were they step-siblings?) Guillaume and Charlotte. Director Philippe Lesage is the correct age for this vantage point, assuming the Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge… series is the benchmark. Of that series’ best films, Travolta et Moi’s director was the youngest (Patricia Mazuy, 33 or 34) and Les Roseaux Sauvages’ the eldest (André Téchiné, 51). Lesage splits the difference at 40 (or 41?), his age at the time of Genèse’s filming (2017-2018). The specific age isn’t so important as the 40+ y/o director, if showing what they’ve learned properly, feels less urgently that their youth is passing. Their youth has already passed, and as such, a filmmaker still close enough to this adolescence cannot make a film about it – they merely make a film.

And finally, the second and third things I learned from this viewing –

  1. Unrequited love is the most beautiful kind in cinema
  2. Théodore Pellerin (Guillaume) is the rare, newer film actor who truly excited me – alongside Aenne Schwarz (Alles ist Gut) and Tom Mercier (Synonymes).