La Pudeur ou L’Impudeur (1991)
The man talks on the phone, he waits to have his blood taken, he rides his stationary bicycle, pedaling and pedaling, he prepares his medicine, he gets a massage, he takes a shit, he interviews his great-aunt as she reclines on a bed, he makes some notes, he does some knee bends, arms raised above his head, he bathes himself and dresses to go out, he sees his doctor, he eats some yogurt, he works at his desk, writing, he has a medical procedure then watches his playback of the procedure on a monitor, he shadowboxes and dances, he talks to an older great-aunt on her deathbed but full of resistance, he flies to an island, enjoys the sun, reads, experiments with digitalin, swims, holds on as a beloved carries him on his back home from the beach, and soon returns to Paris, working at his word processor then leaving the scene, as the machine goes on typing out what he wrote without him.
La Pudeur ou L’Impudeur [Modesty, or Immodesty] is the sole work on video of Hervé Guibert, a prolific writer and photographer. Guibert filmed himself with a Panasonic video camera between June 1990 and March 1991, his daily life in Paris and a sojourn on the island of Elba. First broadcast on 20 January 1992, at 11:15pm, on TF1 in France, less than a month after Guibert’s death on 27 December 1991, it is not clear that it has ever been shown publicly in the United States. For this screening, Modesty, or Immodesty will be newly subtitled by Christine Pichini, whose translation of Guibert’s astounding novel Crazy for Vincent will be published by Semiotext(e) this coming spring.
“I made a barbarous and delicate oeuvre,” he wrote, near the end of his life, and everything witnessed in Modesty, or Immodesty balances between those two modes. Often described as a draft for his death, the video becomes, rather, a document of his life, living with AIDS, as well as a daydream about everything continuing. A study of qualities of light and psychic weather, it courses with tender, Schuyleresque forthrightness: “My nudity in the video is of a pictorial and documentary order, not exhibitionist.” Writing in his journal on Elba, Guibert caught much of his project’s mood and his own: “Exquisite moments of the pure pleasure of life: listening to the wind in the branches, reading several lines from Memoirs of a Midget then setting the book down, musing about my works in progress, observing a lizard perched on the apple I bit into last night, taking several contemplative video shots, waiting for T. and C. who will return from the market with plenty of abundant good foods, taking a cool shower in the sun, putting on a clean shirt, appeasing one’s hunger, all is delight.” – Bruce Hainley
Film Screening and Discussion