German film-maker Patrick Müller here adapts to the screen Charles Baudelaire‘s poem, “L’homme et la mer (Man and the Sea)”, from the poet’s most famous collection, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), first published in 1857. This is his second adaptation of a Baudelaire poem, after Le Chat (2013).
The piece displays a distinctive approach by the film-maker, who shot it on the tiny and mostly obsolete super 8 celluloid format, popularised as a home movie medium from the time of its release by Eastman Kodak in 1965. Müller’s artisanal work includes hand-processing the film himself, then transferring it to the high-quality 4K video format for completion. This combination of analogue and digital creates uniquely beautiful images, with the sensuality of the film grain rendered in uncharacteristic clarity, and the choices in colour grading adding further to the poetry of the visual stream.
The softness and quiet passion of Müller’s voice entices us inwards to the text and the film. As with Caroline Rumley’s, Open Season, shared on Moving Poems yesterday, the soundtrack of L’homme et la mer is punctuated by sudden breaks to silence, as if to give moments of contemplation before beginning anew with the next fragment of the film.
The French-English translation of the poem in the subtitles is by Lewis Piaget Shanks (1878-1935).
Müller’s detailed process notes on the film may be read at filmkorn.org.
This is Semi-Automatic Pantoum, directed by Matt Mullins, made to accompany the collection Semi-Automatic Pantoums: A Collaboration on Gun Violence [PDF] by the Chicago-based collective Poetic Justice League. According to their origin story,
In 2018, in the season of Donald Trump and longing for another time, Chris Green was driving down a Chicago road to see his poetic super heroes Jan Bottiglieri, cin salach, and Tony Trigilio. He proposed The Poetic Justice League, a group for poetic non-silence on the big issues of the day. They dreamed up PJL to unfold group poems, to wake up poets and readers to a sense of newborn responsibility. [links added]
The pantoum is one of those forms with repeating lines, which makes it a good if macabre fit for the subject of semi-automatic weapons and the semi-automatic reactions of various political factions to the American epidemic of mass shootings. Matt Mullins added some lines of his own to the video, but otherwise the text is the same as “There Are Bullets in This Poem” (page 5 of the collection). As Matt said in an email on Monday,
It’s intensely disturbing that these horrific mass shooting events just won’t stop happening (I write you this the morning after we realize that families can’t even go to a food festival without being murdered by someone with an assault rifle.) American gun violence has gone far beyond insanity, and yet, as we all know, the politicians in the palm of the NRA will do nothing.
To write your own semi-automatic pantoum, see the collective’s instructions for teachers.
The Poetic Justice League hopes that high school students form their own PJL chapters! You will receive a PJL hat and will be included in all publishing and promotional ventures . . . and we will continue to include you in all future PJL political poetry adventures.
The only requirement is that students contribute their own collaborative political poems modeled after PJL projects. For now, we’re seeking semi-automatic pantoums–we will post the pantoums on our site.