News  ·  08 | 08 | 2020

Tanner of Love

Charles, Dead or Alive, the masterpiece that put New Swiss Cinema on the map in 1969, was chosen by Raphaël Dubach and Mateo Ybarra for A Journey in the Festival History

A veritable milestone of Swiss cinema, Charles, Dead or Alive is the film that put a new generation of directors on the map in 1969, with Alain Tanner as one of the more talented names. He is particularly notable for his observation of the surrounding reality, with the scathing eye of a critical spirit. This was already evident when he won the Pardo d’oro in Locarno in 1969, serving as the opening salvo for all the outsider characters who would go on to populate New Swiss Cinema, alongside the faded worlds the stagnate in as part of a symbiotic relationship. As is the case in Charles, Dead or Alive, where we witness a single protest, in the shape of renouncement, as opposed to a 1968-induced rebellion. This happens to the owner of a Geneva watchmaking factory, who all of a sudden, much like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, does his version of “I would prefer not to”. It’s the refusal of a life that revolves around family and middle-class order, which François Simon, in his first film role, portrays with intimate realism, both in the existential drama and his attempt at borderline redemption. And while the film heads towards a sad ending, it still finds a tone that showcases unexpressed neuroses with humorous interjections. It’s a tone that Tanner uses like a can opener, to take the lid off all the social hypocrisies hiding under the rug of conformity.

Lorenzo Buccella

Support the festival now with a donation