Letter to Manon de Boer
by Sven Augustijnen, 2008

Brussels, 2 June 2008

Dear Manon,

Please accept my apologies. When we came back from London by train, you radiated like never before, both vigilant and relaxed like a black panther, that looks at us with grey-green eyes like pearls out of the Indian Ocean!

Nevertheless, at some point I realized my gaze was dropping… down to your skirt, which opened up to reveal your upper thighs. I couldn’t help myself. In order to resist temptation, I refocused on my peanuts, thinking about these wonderful women who open up and give themselves in your films, and you, illuminating them in such a way that these intimate confessions become universal stories, hinting at the history of cinema along the way with the lightest of hearts. And so elegantly! Excuse me for barely touching on the reason why I love your work - this page is just too short! But as time was passing in the train and my gaze crossed the beautiful whiteness of your thighs once again, the idea came to me that, if I’d manage one day to forget all about my fixed ideas about history with a capital H, and then those about Belgium (what a joke!), so, if we crossbred, I imagine that the fruit of our love would come close to Une sale histoire by Jean Eustache.

Without any doubt observing the female sex through a peephole at the bottom of a toilet door in a Paris dive is to be classified as a male voyeuristic distraction. Nevertheless, I think you’ll recognize yourself in the way the characters are filmed: how the camera brushes those faces from left to right, of the man telling, with great flair and composure, about his vile obsession and of those women, listening to him with great attention and dismay…

The way this magical environment is created by the succession of two versions of the same story… The way Eustache transforms this sale histoire into a philosophical meditation about sexuality, liberation and taboos, or pretends to, at least… You tell me! At any rate I identify completely with the way Eustache linked the documentary version to the fictional version of this story, without saying anything to his protagonists… Jean-Noël Picq, a friend of the filmmaker, tells his true story before a gathering of four women and Michael Lonsdale, the actor, recites the same lines before extras. This manipulation left Jean-Noël Picq with mixed feelings: "On the one side, Eustache conjured a strike of genius as he manages to seduce, particularly those women, with this vile story. On the other, with regards to the art of Lonsdale, it makes me look like the acting psychopath."

Without any doubt, there are a thousand other things to be said about this film, and about the way it is exemplary of the crossbreeding between our two universes… But I suggest we watch it first before we continue this conversation, if you can forgive me my little sin, of course. Once again, I’m sorry.