Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cyril Collard, French Polymath

The “Découverte d’une oeuvre” series was launched by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris in the late 1980s in an effort to make its holdings known to those who would otherwise not likely visit the museum. They chose the medium of television and proposed 5-minute audiovisual interpretations of several of its paintings, each produced by a team made up of a choreographer, a composer and a director. Among the first works was Les raboteurs (The Floor Scrapers, 1988; 7 minutes, clip at end of post) directed by Cyril Collard (1957-1993), from the painting of the same title by Gustave Caillebotte (1875, shown above). The film was a choreography about the floor scrapers, their movements and sounds amid an all-pervasive emptiness. The idea was fully rooted in what was known as video dance: the dancers danced and the camera with them, while at different moments details of the painting appeared.

Openly bisexual Collard abandoned his studies in mathematics and physics and moved to Puerto Rico, where he began to write and develop other interests such as film and video production. He was a singer, actor, director, author, composer and film maker. He formed CYR, a music group that produced a few albums, and worked as an assistant director on several of Maurice Pialat's films. Collard shot documentaries for television and produced video clips.

His second novel, the powerful “Les nuits fauves(Savage Nights, 1989), thoroughly examined his bisexuality and his defiant, unrealistic and irresponsible perception and handling of his HIV-positive status. The movie version was released in 1992 with Collard himself playing the protagonist, a hedonistic and self-important film maker with an insatiable sexual appetite who insists on living his prurient lifestyle to the absolute hilt despite his HIV status, with tragic consequences. This bleak, uncompromising piece both enraptured and enraged the French audience. Critics applauded his braveness and controversial approach to such a taboo subject. With Savage Nights, Collard became the first artist ever to be nominated for the three top categories of the French Cesar Awards – Best Film, Best Director and Best First Film. Tragically, Collard died at age 35 from AIDS, just three days before the César awards ceremony.

The painting “Les raboteurs de parquet” (1875) is typical of Gustave Caillebotte's taste for unusual perspectives and scenes from modern life, including so humble an occupation as floor scraping. The 40" x 57" oil on canvas is on permanent display at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

Here is Collard's video interpretation of the painting:

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