July 25, 2021

“Books and films are different materials of the same mental adventure”

Where have I seen it before? we might ask ourselves when we meet Jérôme Prieur. This is a fairly common phenomenon, it must be admitted. What is perhaps a little less is to realize that his silhouette and his face appeared to us in … In Search of Lost Time. Or more exactly in Recovered time (1999), the film that his friend Raoul Ruiz adapted from the work of Proust, where Prieur played a stealthy and tasty Monsieur Verdurin, as he recounted in a wonderful little book, Chez Proust, by turning (La Pionnière, 2016), where we also meet Alain Robbe-Grillet en Goncourt (award that the author of Erasers however never obtained) and Odette de Crécy in the guise of Catherine Deneuve (since the actress played with Ruiz the former lover of Swann).

Proustian, this great reader has been since his adolescence, he who has published more than twenty books and made at least as many films, with or without Gérard Mordillat, his accomplice for the documentary series Body of Christ in 1998 (followed by The Origin of Christianity in 2003, L’Apocalypse in 2008, Jesus and Islam in 2015). In any case, we find the author of the Research to the summary of Magic lantern, a somewhat crazy book, the first version of which, now out of print, had appeared in 1985 in the legendary “Le chemin” collection directed by Georges Lambrichs at Gallimard. Prieur was then in his thirties, he had already published Sleepless nights (Gallimard, 1980), a collection of texts on cinema, before falling in love with Etienne-Gaspard Robertson, a strange scientist and authentic romantic hero, both artist and aeronaut, who invented at the end of the 18th centurye century the “phantasmagoria”, a mode of projection announcing the cinematograph.

A mixture of mischief and almost gluttony

When you ask Jérôme Prieur, in the calm of his Parisian office lined with books, what he experienced when he went back to a text written thirty-five years ago, it is his very clear eye that smiles. first, with a mixture of mischief and almost gluttony: “A strange feeling, as if it were both someone else’s book and a text of which I am intimately constituted. This story is still there for me, in the present. Robertson even became the invisible character in a movie I made in 2011, Roll on the cinema, where I had fun making him recount his posthumous memories, up to Lumière and Méliès, a century after his death! The archaeological project of this book then led me towards something archaic that I often needed to explore… ”

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