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Gags, Nonsense, Seeing, Imagination
Luc Moullet and Parpaillon’s Pataphysical Theatre

Fabien Boully

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My main aim is to make people laugh. For me, that’s very easy: lost between the rustic peasant world whose rituals I have forgotten and the chic Parisian world into which I have never really assimilated, I am a character who is out of place; everybody finds me comical. I only need to show up for people to laugh. So it’s not because I’ve got any great skills: I take full advantage of my situation. And this comedy factor goes beyond my personal self, stretching into whatever I care to imagine.
- Luc Moullet, ‘Mon Travail’

Virgo people express themselves extremely well through comedy: Keaton, Tati, McCarey, Groucho Marx, all born between 2 and 8 October: the second decan. It’s all the fault of my mother – if, instead of giving birth to me on 14 October, she had hurried it along a bit, I would have been born in the second decan, and I would have made much funnier films.
- Moullet, ‘Les Douzes façons d’être cinéaste’

Luc Moullet: French director born 1937. Excellent critic at Cahiers du cinéma. His obvious cinematic culture is not in question, but his off-hand manner perhaps makes it difficult for his films to be taken seriously.
- Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire du cinéma, Les réalisateurs


1. This is the title of an important article by Jean-Marie Samocki – ‘La Politique des chairs tristes’, Trafic, no.44 (Winter 2002), pp. 5-20 – analysing French cinema's present fascination with the representation of the sexual act, which seems to have become the new yardstick by which filmmakers tend to measure themselves. With Anatomie d’un rapport, Moullet had already showed that the representation of sexuality can only become a desirable goal on the express condition that it be incorporated into a wider questioning on the idea of difference (between sexes, desires, modes of existence) and the complexity of the relationships thus created – provided that this difference, as a number of other later films try to show, is itself only a backdrop – gives way to the evidence of bodies in euphoric fusion or, in contrast, becomes radicalised regarding the violence and destruction that sexual combat can produce.







In Luc Moullet’s filmography, so unusual, necessary and determinedly modern – we need only recall Anatomie d’un rapport (Anatomy of a Relationship, 1972), a film which, thirty years ahead of its time, had already spoken volumes on the so-called ‘politics of sad flesh’ (1) that forms the basis for debate in a good deal of French cinema today – there is a film which brings to culmination the art and tastes of a typically French kind of nonsense. The film is Parpaillon ou à la recherche de l’homme à la pompe Ursus d’après Alfred Jarry, made in 1992.

Parpaillon is the name of a mountain pass (2788 m) where a cycle rally is held every year; it is epic, baroque and extremely difficult. And Moullet’s film at first glance has no other purpose than to follow a crowd of cyclists, more or less amateurs, thrown into the adventure of the climb from the twenty-fourth session of the rally onwards. Cyclists who veer more and more towards hyperbole as the summit approaches: for them, the top of the Parpaillon becomes, in turn, the most gruelling climb in the Alps, the most gruelling in France, the most gruelling in Europe, the most gruelling in the world ...

The opening sequence expresses this clearly. Three blows are struck before the two heavy sections serving as a door to the tunnel at the top are opened: Parpaillon, both mountain pass and film, will be, above all, a pataphysical theatre, dedicated in its entirety to the ways and customs of the bicycle, which are deliriously revisited by Moullet – and not without a dose of acerbic irony. But irony here does not mean nastiness; even though Moullet clearly positions himself in the lineage of filmmakers of cruelty, he is never a bitter artist. Vélo (Bike)/Love: the anagram appears quite literally in the film and its message needs to be taken seriously. So let us not be afraid to say it: Parpaillon is without doubt the one and only true cinematic love song ever dedicated to the universe of the bicycle. Whether it be stocking up on supplies or stopping for a toilet break, drug-taking or the shortcomings of the race organisers, the newspaper slipped in between the t-shirt before braving the glacial winds of the descent or the disappointment in having to change tyres, the pride felt by cyclists for their custom-made equipment or the sudden burst of ire against their gear which they tyrannise by kicking and throwing stones – not forgetting the countless little treacheries scattered throughout any cycling race – Moullet has wished not to leave out any of the facets of this sport whose legend is enriched by the thousand and one rituals it has created.




2. Moullet, ‘Mon Travail’, Trafic, no.39 (Autumn 2001), p. 18.

  There is a very strong connection between cycling and cinema: both need two wheels to create their spinning images. Moullet practises both disciplines, both forms of art. It is not surprising then to read that there was a time when he tried to link up the two in the single creative impulse: ‘I once had this idea [for working on the development of a screenplay]. I had found the perfect cycling circuit, with the Mt Saulce pass (877 metres), the Tourettes pass (1125 m), the Fays pass (1051 m), the Roussas pass (1115 m) and the Carabes pass (an altitude of 1264 m). I kept thinking about the screenplay all along the journey, and several sequences were ready when I arrived, as long as the weather was fine ... My front wheel carried along the thread of my thoughts which developed with each change in the landscape ...’ (2) By using the cycling circuit not only as a structure which gives the screenplay its architecture, but as the very subject of the film, Parpaillon appears as the culmination of a process whereby the cinema invents itself, conjuring itself as freewheeling and out of the saddle, taking its rhythm from pedalling and changing gears, relaunching itself at every bend and at the slightest movement urged by the body.  




3. Antonioni and Cottafavi are the two ‘stars’ of Moullet’s Les Sièges de l’Alcazar (1989), a portrait of Parisian film culture in the 1950s. On opposing sides of the critical landscape, separated by an immense intellectual divide, are the pro-Antonioni and the pro-Cottafavi tribes. Which is to say, respectively, the critics from Cahiers du cinéma and Positif. It should be remembered, however, the almost legendary era when Moullet delighted in taking a line opposite to the tastes of the Parisian intelligentsia by strongly criticising Antonioni’s films. Moullet’s heart leans towards Cottafavi’s peplum movies. Do not forget that Ursus is a well-known hero of the peplum genre, sometimes mistaken for Hercules, and that Cottafavi is one of the masters of peplum.


But in this way, under cover of dealing with bicycles, Moullet finally does nothing other than speak to us about cinema. This is exactly what is suggested by the magnificent invention that makes a furtive appearance in the film: the cinema-bicycle. It is not easy to describe this prototype. Suffice to say that it is made of a bicycle, in perfect working order, which has had two reels attached to it, and the action of the pedals winds the film through these reels; the film is then transformed into a succession of images by being passed through a viewer hooked onto the handlebars. In this way, as the spectator-cyclist throws himself into the conquest of the mountain, he can at the same time watch and re-watch his favourite film by Michelangelo Antonioni or Vittorio Cottafavi. (3) The whole of Parpaillon is like this surrealist contraption: a film borne on the wings of poetico-crazy aesthetics.

Stylistically, Parpaillon at first seems to be a collection of micro-scenes strung together, one after another, without any real links; each one apparently having only a single function, which is to provide the opportunity for a gag. On this subject, Moullet develops a very extensive palette and opens wide the fan of diversity. There are situational gags, such as the inevitable falling down into ravines, or the breaking of bike chains (these are the custard pies of cycling burlesque). Cross-purpose gags, such as the one which opens the film where two contestants are discussing share prices and better returns whilst pedalling away on their bikes. Ideological gags, like (for example) the frantic sprint between a beardless Jesus and the Karl Marx spitting fire, whom he is unable to catch. Mock-politeness gags, where the hand of a cyclist groping towards the backside of a lovely lady cyclist is refused by her, but only because she does not want to accept help in her ascent to the top. Poetry gags, veritable comic haikus, such as the appearance of a competitor dressed in a tutu. Choreographic gags, featuring a very fine cyclists’ ballet, orchestrated by Moullet with wonderful grace, where competitors keep changing places in turn by going out of frame.




A list of the various gag-forms created by Moullet in Parpaillon would, in fact, be endless. But such a taxonomy, as accurate and exhaustive as it might be, would only imperfectly account for the comic impulse at the basis of such abundance and inventiveness. For here is the important point: as with all great burlesques, Moullet does nothing but redesign at his convenience the maps of the genre, proposing gags which are not in themselves innovative, but rather a new way of approaching the gag. Far from being of great quality in themselves, these gags would have everything to qualify them – outside of Moullet’s particular aesthetic universe – as being disastrous, even notably mediocre.


4. These few remarks on Parpaillon could be further developed in relation to other Moullet films. For example, a short film like Barres (1984), a sublime catalogue of the thousand and one ways to get through a metro turnstile, also proposes a variation on the gag form, although more concentrated and condensed than Parpaillon. It could even be said that Barres is more radical and abstract than Parpaillon, because the gags are only a differential repetition of a single situation. In this sense, Barres is nothing less than a film that is theoretical in character: it works out and exposes the processes of what constitutes a gag as being change in a perpetual state of recommencement. It can also be noted that the desired objective (which is to construct gags by varying one single situation) and the central element of the situation (the circular turnstile) coincide harmoniously.

5. Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie, ‘Gag’, in Dictionnaire théorique et critique du cinéma (Paris: Nathan, 2001), p. 89.

6. This expression is from André Gaudreault, Du littéraire au filmique, Système du récit (Paris: Méridiens Klincksieck, 1988). In this work (which has been taken up in America by Tom Gunning), Gaudreault shows that early films of the silent era had as their prototypes acts which came from the fair, variety shows, the music-hall, and so on – acts which are called attractions in French.

7. For a more extensive discussion on the importance of body language in the cinema, we must refer to the quite seminal book by Moullet himself on the analysis of acting performance: Politique des acteurs (Paris, Editions de l’Etoile/Cahiers du cinéma, 1993), in which he analyses the performances of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant and James Stewart. This book alone allows us to recall that, parallel to his career as a filmmaker, Moullet (who began as critic for Cahiers du cinéma) has never ceased writing and reflecting on his art, and on the place it gives to the body.

8. Cf. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), pp. 160-161.




To understand Moullet’s contribution in Parpaillon, (4) it is perhaps not pointless to ask a question at the outset that is finally quite difficult to answer: what is a gag? Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie suggest a practical definition: ‘More narrative and often more abstract than a sketch, the gag is short in form and relatively autonomous, and in itself does not necessarily belong to film (there are theatrical, and even musical or pictorial gags). In its most general form, it is characterised by the incongruous and surprising resolution of a situation that may or may not be realistic in its premises ... The gag, in most cases, is less inclined to mobilise cinematic language than body language.’ (5) The gags created by Moullet in Parpaillon seem in perfect agreement with this definition. The fragmentary nature of the film, resulting more from a narrative aesthetic than an ‘aesthetic of attractions’ – to borrow an expression devised to explain the specificity of early cinema (6) – favours self-sufficiency in the situations being shown, emphasising their intrinsic value as gags. Similarly, all the situations in Parpaillon, however realistic most of them might be at the outset, are pushed to their most incongruous extrapolations. Thus, the technique of looking for a hole in the tube by putting it into water to see where the bubbles of air are coming from, becomes in Parpaillon a practice into which the competitors throw themselves without a moment’s reflection, so that they end up being the playthings of an absurd mechanical game. Ultimately, Parpaillon gives major emphasis to the inexhaustible rhetoric of body language. (7) And cinematic language seems to often play a secondary role. Thus, if it is funny to see the cyclists pedalling at a standstill to keep warm, and picking up their provisions, it is because such a take is comic in its own right – even though we know it is necessary – before it is ever committed to film. Moullet knows only too well that it is possible to give a comic slant by filmic means, but he shoots it as a simple fixed medium shot whose effect lies in its very neutrality.

But if Moullet can be called innovative with respect to the gags in Parpaillon, it is because he radicalises their use by making them the sole and unique material of his film. No need – as in (for example) Buster Keaton for example, who places his trajectory-gags into immense spaces or a fictional framework which give them their entire meaning – to elevate the gag by the epic project into which it has been inserted. (8) Neither is there a need, as in Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967), to reinvent the world and tailor the film to describe this world, where the gags become tools in the service of a pedagogy of the gaze and of a critical discourse on the state of contemporary society. Moullet is both more and less ambitious. Less ambitious, because the gag does not need to be exceeded or subsumed by a wider context which would then show it up in relief. More ambitious, because only the gags remain, and it is something of a challenge to construct a film solely out of such material.

Consequently, it is less the strength or quality of the gags that count than the dynamics of how the gags are produced. There is no other way for the film to exist than to pile up one gag after another. So much so that there is no great necessity for the gags to be funny, effective or worthwhile in their quality as gags. What is important is that each gag should function in an essential project whose purpose is to find an endless stream of gags. What is comical is the film’s pig-headedness in searching doggedly for gags for their own sake, a quality that we can wager is the filmic expression of Moullet’s own turn of mind. This is what the subtitle of the film states more or less baldly: the search for the man with the Ursus pump, which we can take as the endless uninterrupted search for the gag, in the absence of all semantic constraints.


9. Robert Benayoun, Les Dingues du nonsense: de Lewis Caroll à Woody Allen (Paris: Balland, 1984).   Such a procedure results in some major aesthetic repercussions (critical, political, metaphysical), not the least of which would be the way the film fits into that very specific sector of comedy known as nonsense. What is nonsense? Robert Benayoun has been able to describe it with the help of a suggestive metaphor: ‘The art of willingly standing on your head – and, being thus placed, to observe the world upside-down.’ (9) Nonsense, then, ideally supposes that you put your backside above your head. Which of course must be understood as an inclination to turn ideas, situations and things upside-down so as to not only provoke laughter, but also subvert the world’s order, thus making it easier to propose a fundamentally critical reading of it. In this regard, a film such as Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983) certainly represents one of the most accomplished – and, above all, one of the purest – examples of cinematic nonsense, with the adopted point of view (that of fish in an aquarium) representing a magnificent starting point that enables the film to cheerfully turn the world order upside-down and run a caustic commentary on it.  

10. Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990). p. 83.   Moullet, however, is not interested in aligning himself with this primary form of nonsense, but in finding the essential mechanism at work behind it. In his essay, Benayoun in fact explains that nonsense is especially evident in works which exhibit it through a mechanism which is quite simple and yet impressively effective: nonsense is said to be present when ‘everything is wound up by an ultimate absence of meaning, which had been expected (by the spectator) and whose arrival seemed imminent.’ But we need to add, with Gilles Deleuze, that the power of nonsense comes from replacing the ultimate expected meaning by another meaning, which emerges from pure non-sense and which destroys forever any possibility of meaning. 'Nonsense is that which has no sense, and that which, as such and as it enacts the donation of sense, is opposed to the absence of sense. That is what we must understand by "nonsense".' (10) To try and help understand this mechanism we can again refer to The Meaning of Life. Because, in this film constructed as a series of chapters, the sixth chapter offers an exemplary episode of how nonsense functions: that of the misadventure of Perkins, the English army officer during the first war against the Zulus in 1879. In this episode, as we all know, the unfortunate Perkins wakes up one morning with one leg missing, exhibiting the usual British stiff upper lip when faced with adversity. The doctor’s diagnosis is uttered: the leg has been bitten off by a tiger. But what’s a tiger doing in Africa? We could reply: a piece of nonsense – a perfectly incongruous element. The motif of the tiger in Africa is thus emblematic of the way in which nonsense operates: it gives a meaning which is pure nonsense, opening out to an ultimate eclipse of all meaning.  







11. On this subject it can be recalled that Moullet, in a memorable interview with Cahiers du cinéma, proposed some extremely perceptive criteria to characterise modern cinema. These criteria can be used as a basis for any attempt to reflect on the complex and difficult phenomenon of cinematic modernity. For Moullet, modernity is ‘essentially characterised by three things: repetition, the holocaust and ablation.’ Repetition, because there is ‘a whole concept of modern cinema which can be defined as a living expression and justification of repetition, which permits the notion of duration to be assimilated, made concrete, and to make it carry the meaning of the work.’ The holocaust, because ‘the film offers itself as holocaust to the spectator in order to deliver the work of art. The film then only constitutes the first outline of the operation, and the success of this operation is made up of the film plus the spectator.’ And finally ablation, which is the ‘search for degree zero, often linked to the intrusion of cinema in the film. Whilst earlier we leaned towards accumulation, nowadays we try to reduce as much as possible. A constant and ever more precise purification is sought, and each time we find new elements to suppress. It could be taken much further.’ Michel Delahaye and Jean Narboni, ‘Interview with Luc Moullet’ in Cahiers du cinéma, no. 216 (October 1969), pp. 61-62. We can note Moullet’s use of a vocabulary which is deliberately provocative and disturbing (holocaust, ablation, purification), resonating perfectly with the sense of malaise expressed in quite a number of modern works.

12. Moullet, ‘Mon travail’, p. 16.

13. It is well known that, in his Poetics, Aristotle defines tragedy as ‘a representation of an action that is worth serious attention, complete in itself, and of some amplitude’; and that ‘a whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end’. Aristotle, Horace and Longinus, Classical Literary Criticism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), pp. 38-39, 41.



A similar mechanism is at work in Parpaillon. By launching the business of looking for the Ursus pump, Moullet initiates the beginning of an intrigue which not only remains unresolved but will also never make sense, because it keeps fraying away as the sequences unfold, until after a while it disappears altogether. Who then, is looking for the man with the Ursus pump on the Parpaillon pass? A cyclist (who is no longer young) learns from the mouth of another cyclist that his daughter has been seen flirting earlier in the race with a young cyclist whose distinguishing mark was that he was equipped with the aforesaid Ursus pump. So the father immediately takes off, and we see him again, intermittently, further and further in the distance, riding his bike later in the film. But as for his quest, it will never again be mentioned – unless it be an ironic close-up of the Ursus pump in question, a story which drives home to the viewer that the tale about the quest for this nonsensical Holy Grail has been nothing more than a red herring. A kind of pledge that satisfies the narration thus allowing free rein to the gags. It could be said that the story of the Ursus pump is Moullet’s MacGuffin, his Burgundy bottle filled with uranium, except that his choice is fundamentally even more radical. Neither simple narrative pretext, nor even a means of injecting madness into the narrative as with the Monty Python’s African tiger, for Moullet the Ursus pump is purely and simply a means of putting the exigencies of narration behind him – a decision which places this film squarely on the cutting edge of modernity. (11)

This is all the more the case in that Moullet conceals his modernity behind the façade of the most traditional of theatrical conventions – namely, Aristotle’s precepts. This is what he states clearly when explaining the way he works: ‘I have often told the story of how I inherited a beautiful wooden table two metres long, bought by my father, and made of three railway sleepers, which I use for eating and writing on … I spread lots of little sheets of paper out onto it (each weighing one gram) where I note down ideas I like (one idea per sheet). I take them away to set the table or to avoid the worst, when my wife opens the window to the wind. After a few days when I have lined up a hundred sheets with no further effort whatsoever (one hundred grams in total according to my letter-weighing machine, which helps me avoid having to count the sheets), I classify them so that I have a good ending (that’s the most important), a beginning and a middle, trying not to eliminate too many ideas which cannot be inserted into the logic of the film. Sometimes this results in a rather incongruous structure with disparities, but it seems natural and spontaneous (when in fact there is hardly any improvisation) and I find it very suitable.’ (12) What Moullet retains from Aristotle – the reference being very explicit in the terms of beginning, middle and end – is the immortal triad that results in a work which is a totality. (13) But we can see, from the simple explanation of the way in which he reaches this totality, that it represents nothing more than a shell emptied of its substance, a purely formal algebra. The linking of causes and effects which usually ensures that the beginning lengthens naturally into the middle, which in turn leads to the ending where it finds its resolution, has disappeared completely.

Conforming perfectly to this pattern – which could be called ‘Moullet touch’, proving how wrong are those who believe his work can be dismissed as careless and off-hand – Parpaillon is in this sense one of the director’s most accomplished films ... which does not mean that it is his most important, nor his masterpiece. There is certainly a beginning (two cyclists talking about the share market). There is clearly an ending (an unfortunate cyclist facing the camera and asking whether we know where his bike has got to). And all the rest can be seen as the middle. But nothing is connected. The film can then move from one cyclist to another. The only rhetorical device that really emerges is repetition. But that in itself still favours the gag over everything else, especially as we know that the best jokes are those which are endlessly ‘running’. So Parpaillon keeps returning several times to the woes of the cyclist who has hooked up her bike to a fir tree with an anti-theft lock, but brought the wrong key with her. From utter dejection to comically undaunted enthusiasm in trying to loosen her bike from the tree, the film repeatedly returns to give us a progress report, each time generating a crescendo in this absurdist comedy. And seeing her, as a last resort, wheeling her bike together with the uprooted tree across the frame, is a moment where the hilarity is more intense precisely because it has been largely set up in earlier scenes.




It is well known that Moullet plays a role in several of his films. In Parpaillon his role is limited to a brief appearance. Perched on a bike, dressed in a navy blue jacket, a woollen beanie stretched firmly over his head, he is in front of a young cyclist whom he soon unwittingly leaves far behind, but not without first lecturing him on the rudiments of a philosophy course, whose tenor could in many ways serve as a description of the principles which govern the work of this very filmmaker: ‘You know, there are on the one hand the things we see, and on the other hand the things we imagine. But we should not believe that the first are any more worthwhile or more real than the second. Because what we imagine is no less real just because we imagine it.’ The Cartesian character of the demonstration indicates how much (after we have laughed about it) we should here see a veritable ‘discourse on method’. Seeing and imagination: these are the twin concepts that Moullet sets up, not in competition but equal to each other. They are not in opposition but complementary, since both have been assigned the same coefficient of reality. Does the proposition seem unoriginal? Does it even seem to be among the sine qua non conditions for fiction cinema to exist? But that is because the idea in itself is worth less than when it underpins a strong artistic project. With Parpaillon, Moullet offers us a cinema where what has been seen only has value because it has been imagined, and what has been imagined only has meaning if it is seen.


14. Taken from a text by Fabrice Revault d’Allonnes presenting a Moullet retrospective.

15. We can see, for example, how pertinently Moullet reported on the industrialisation of food in 1960s French society in his first feature film, Brigitte et Brigitte (1966). This is certainly one of the most important films on powdered milk and tinned food, topics which Moullet of course exploits to his own burlesque ends. The film opens up themes that he will return to many times in his later works.

16. Revault d’Allonnes, op. cit., says much the same thing: Moullet ‘starts from a realistic documentary base, from subjects anchored in daily life, from banal experiences, which he explores with a methodical, almost scientific rigour, and then soon manages to produce supra-realistic flights of fancy, by means of snowball and landslide effects.’

17. ‘Any-space-whatever is not an abstract universal, in all times, in all places. It is a perfectly singular space, which has merely lost its homogeneity, that is, the principle of its metric relations or the connection of its own parts, so that the linkages can be made in an infinite number of ways.’ Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1986), p. 109.



Apart from some notable exceptions – fruits of an unbridled imagination – rare indeed are the elements, situations or incidents in Parpaillon which are not anchored in the reality of sometimes scrupulously detailed observations. Fabrice Revault d’Allonnes affirms quite rightly that what constitutes the heart of Moullet’s cinematic work is ‘an (aberrant) critical parody of society, as well as an (unusual) clinical x-ray of humanity.’ (14) The foundations of Moullet’s art lie in documentary; his eyes are laser-sharp. (15) But in his fictional films, this documentary foundation gains force as it is reworked, taken away and finally reinvented by the flights of an inexhaustible imagination (16). In fact, Moullet needs only the most banal of starting points (a situation, a place, an interior, a simple occasion), taking his source from reality and then subjecting it to the permutations of his imagination. The best example of this in Parpaillon can be found in Parpaillon in the way in which Moullet transforms the tunnel at the top of the mountain pass into a vast black hole, almost fancifully weird, and certainly imaginary. Far from being a simple passage, it becomes ‘any-space-whatever’, (17) where the voices of the cyclists who are swallowed up into it resonate cavernously. It becomes a veritable Bermuda triangle, where all those who enter seem to vanish quite joyfully. It also becomes the place where everything is possible – particularly the sexual, since we can guess at (rather than witness) clandestine love affairs between male and female cyclists. In short, out of the most concrete places, Moullet creates an Ali Baba’s cave where anything can be imagined because he himself has transformed it into something profoundly imaginary.

The same goes for Parpaillon as a whole. A mixture of precise observations and imaginary figures which, beyond making us laugh and smile, moves us because it is finally the whole of the human comedy, its highs and lows, which seems to file past, on its way to a ride round the pataphysical track. There are films which are greater. There are others that are funnier. But there are doubtless few films that (in a minor key) are as innovative, as funny, as intelligent, as true and as free as Parpaillon.

For Franck Marguin, to whom, one fine day, I owe the discovery of Parpaillon.




Post Script. It will have been noticed that this article contains a certain number of footnotes, sometimes quite detailed. We seem to remember (having read it in a magazine interview) that Moullet himself is firmly against the idea that a text should be deemed more serious, more worthy of being read and of enhanced value if it is accompanied by footnotes. May Moullet forgive us this crime of high treason ... whilst, at the same time, hopefully seeing it as a kind of gag.

Translated from the French by Inge Pruks.


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