Portraits from on High 1 & 2 (Portraits en Altitude I & II)
by Aline Luque
black & white, 125 min, 1991
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These 8 documentaries, in French with English subtitles, are are part of a series on life in four mountain communities in Haute-Savoie, France. In the first 4 segments, women discuss their personal histories and family relationships. In the second 4 films, various aspects of village life and broader social interactions are observed. The dialogue unfolds against the backdrop of the stunning black and white, still photographs of Jean Gaumy, Magnum; Arnaud Legrain, Viva; and Odile Pellissier.
These vignettes are ideal for the study of kinship, women, gender and family, social change and rural French culture.
Louisa Allamand (18 min): Louisa, a retired farmer, evokes the time at which she stopped dreaming. She speaks with violence about the hard realities of her solitary life in the midst of a large family. She takes refuge in books, music and nature.
Evelyne Rey (15 min): Evelyne was born in Paris where she spent her childhood. The hard life of mountain farming is a choice she doesn't regret. She is busy from dawn to dusk and sings while she works.
Mountain Women (15 min): Women speak of their condition as women and mothers, of the customs related to marriage and childbirth, and their work as women farmers.
Francois Reydet and His Sister Juliette (14 min): Francois is trying to keep up the family farm and to do so he has had to take on a second job. His sister Juliette works in the valley. She lives with him and helps on the farm. Juliette promised her mother that she would not marry as long as her brother remained single.
Meeting Places (13 min): Brewing Spirits in the still, bringing milk to the dairy, slaughtering the pig, delivering bread across the countryside, playing in the marching band, are the auspicious activities so indispensable for people to meet each other in the Haute Savoie's rural society. These encounters which are disappearing or changing afford the opportunity to observe the relations between people, and between different generations, and to see how these relationships evolve.
Robert Cartier and His Wife Martine (10 min): Robert is a farmer and by necessity a machinist. Since his poverty-stricken youth during the war, he's maintained a great respect for the land. It's the only real thing in the world, solid, able to feed you even in times of crisis or war. Martine, his wife, aspires toward modern comforts, and is angry with him because of his fear of progress.
Andre Nicodex's Family (10 min): Andre Nicodex, a small farmer in Vercaires, explains why farms are vanishing from the mountains. His own children don't want to carry on the family farm, which discourages him from investing in it or making repairs even when necessary. He picturesquely describes his vacation in Paris.
The Cotterlaz-Carrat Family (11 min): The Cotterlaz-Carrat's own the last big farm in the region near Araches-Carroz townlands. They talk about their desperate effort to continue their way of life and the difficult balance between agriculture and tourism eating up the land.