|HUMBERT BALSAN: REBEL PRODUCER
(Humbert Balsan, producteur rebelle)
Humbert Balsan may not be a recognizable name to Americans in the same
way that say, Jerry Bruckheimer might be, but Balsan was one of the driving
forces in French and European cinema from around 1979 until his death in 2005.
The scion of a wealthy family, Balsan actually got his start in film as an actor,
portraying Gauvin in Robert Bresson's LANCELOT DU LAC (1974). A
strikingly handsome youth of about 19, he might have pursued a career in front
of the camera, but he seemed less interested in chasing after roles than in
working behind the scenes. Even so, he continued to make appearances in
small parts in movies, including several Merchant Ivory productions.
Director Anne Andreu has assembled a pleasant enough tribute to the producer
with HUMBERT BALSAN, PRODUCTEUR REBELLE, which was originally
made for French television. It is clearly an "authorized" biography given that
Balsan's siblings and widow clearly have cooperated with the filming -- and also
appear on camera in interviews. The movie traces his path from actor to
producer and spends time interviewing some of the directors whose work
Balsan championed, like Egyptian master Youssef Chahine and Palestinian
director Elia Suleiman.
As such, the documentary does serve as a primer for those unfamiliar with his
oeuvre, but the film does touch on some unaddressed issues regarding his
suicide. There are vague references to his desire for privacy and his monetary
problems but nothing is really made clear. Balsan is portrayed by various
interviewees as something of a man of big dreams and one who thrived in a
chaotic atmosphere. Film audiences can appreciate the cinematic legacy he left
but others may leave this film wondering about what actually drove the man and
what led him to hang himself in February 2005.
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.