Thursday, July 5, 2012

Les Documents Interdits (1989-1991)

Here you have something very interesting and the cause of some controversy even today. Les Documents Interdits (The Forbidden Files) is 12 (and later 13) pieces of film and video collected by filmmaker Jean-Teddy Filippe between 1986 and 1989, all dealing with the unexplained and the paranormal. My partner G saw some of these on Polish TV during the end of the eighties and was really scared and if you search the internet for the address 1036 Sun Ave you will still find discussions about the mystery behind the footage.

The thing is, of course, that everything is fake. A complete hoax conducted by Filippe to show what a powerful medium television is and how easy it is to plant "fact" into the viewers. This was officially declared when the 13th episode was released in 2010, if I've gotten the facts correct. So what the hell is this? This is something you should experience, preferably after the night has entered, maybe alone or with someone dear to you.

It starts with 12 episodes, both found footage and documentaries. We witness a man rise from the water and kidnap a diver, we see a man living without food on a life boat waiting for something, filming his life trying to survive. We see a man visiting a friend and going out in the desert where something makes contact. A wonderful documentary tells the story about Tibor Nagy, who with the help of a UFO, travelled the moon with his car. Cyborgs in Russia, a ghost hunt who goes wrong, live on TV. Episodes telling us about the unexplainable.

Les Documents Interdits is so well made. We're travelling all over the world, in several languages, sometimes the stories seem connected - sometimes not. The water, people who disappears into nothing and SCAR (an organization) comes back from time to time, like an outerworldly conspiracy. Sometimes it's funny and absurd, like the Russian cyborg who get stuck with his hand in a window - or touching like with the aged Tibor Nagy and his trip to the moon. The older episodes is eerie and strange, almost too intimate to look at. Personal tragedies that can't be explained.

This is without a doubt a project that's well before it's time. Sure, you had Cannibal Holocaust, Zelig and Spinal Tap - but this is very far away from these very cinematic experiences. This is the first time we see something that The Blair Witch Project later tried to do, with maybe the exception of the UK TV-movie Alternative 3. Jean-Teddy Filippe also succeeds with doing this because he never fails to let his ego win. There's not credits, not "Look what a fucking brilliant filmmaker I am!"-bullshit. This is hardcore found footage the way it should be.

I'm not saying everyone's gonna like this. It's a bit arty and very weird, especially the first episodes, very "French" if you know what I mean? The second batch of episodes seem to have a higher budget, they seems more planned and with a clear idea behind. This is both good and bad. There's masterpieces like The Madman at the Crossroads and The Ferguson Case, and less focused stuff like The Extraterrestrial. From the first episodes I would say The Witch and Ghosts stands out like stunning pieces in the found footage genre.

The 13th episode, The Examination, is out on Arte's homepage, but I haven't seen it yet. They say it's the beginning of a new season after all these years. So I'm saving it for that perfect lonely night when I need to get really fucked up before sleep.

Maybe tomorrow? Maybe next year. I don't know people, I don't know...


Hollie Trondsen said...

"very "French" if you know what I mean?" That's almost always a ringing endorsement to me!! I've never heard of this but I'd be very interested to see it! As much as people complain about "found footage" movies they usually give me the willies when done well! It will be interesting to see a pioneer of the rising genre!! Great post!

Ninja Dixon said...

Thank you Hollie! Well, this is it, this must have been the beginning of real serious fucking around with peoples head-kinda found footage (and mockumentary). Every episode is around 5-15 minutes, very easy to watch and most of them are excellent.

It's not expensive at so I recommend a purchase.

And I love found footage, so it's nice to have found such an oddity that very few talk about in the non-France world :)

Anonymous said...

"It's a bit arty and very weird, especially the first episodes, very "French" if you know what I mean?"

I think so, they dare to be different in that country...which according to me is great.

Always liked french cinema.

Never heard about this series before, thanks Ninja.


Ninja Dixon said...

It's a very interesting project Megatron, I enjoyed it a lot! And it kept a seriousness - at until that last episode with the cyborg, but it was still brilliant!