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Les Patients (The Patients)

Saturday, May 7, 2016 - 6:45pm

Les Patients (The Patients)

Claire Simon | 
France |
 1990 | 
75 minutes



Dr. Jean-Marie Bouvier could be a character from a novel. With his thick rimmed glasses, dark suit, and undeniable charm, he is a study in competence and no-nonsense compassion, but also a lesson in how to be a good human being. Claire Simon’s first documentary came about when she began to follow Dr. Bouvier (her father’s best friend) in the last few months of his practice before retirement. Conversations between filmmaker and physician often take place in his car, as he drives to appointments. (This was the era when doctors still made house-calls.) Whether he is affectionately rapping a long-time drinker on the head, “If you keep drinking, I will throw you out and never see you again,” or flirting with elderly ladies, the relationships between the doctor and his patients are steeped in affection, humour, and a deep abiding civility. Nothing makes this clearer than an exchange over the phone with a patient who is threatening to buy a revolver and commit suicide. Dr. Bouvier carries on like they are discussing the weather or what to have for dinner, and the conversation turns to what kind of present she will buy him. This staggering exchange is so lightly offered that it is easy to read as simply comic, but there is something deeper at work. Earlier in the film, Dr. Bouvier explains his approach to his profession, stating that you must reject any preconceptions or prejudice about a person, but always be open to what they are telling you. This approach extends to Claire Simon’s filmmaking, which employs the same curiosity, kindness, and above all, openness to the intricate wonders of humanity. -DW


Claire Simon

Born in London and raised in the Var, France, Claire Simon studied ethnology as well as classical Arab and Berber. While establishing herself in the film industry as an editor, she directed short films, including the 1992 French television series “Scènes de ménage” (10 x 5 minutes) starring Miou Miou. She discovered the practice of documentary filmmaking at the Ateliers Varan workshops and directed several documentaries that were made using V8 at first, then Hi8, and then film. Her early films, “Les Patients”, “Récréations” and “Coûte que coûte”, received awards at the Cinema du Réel International Film Festival among others. Most recently, she has made two feature-length documentary films: “Le bois dont les rêves sont faits”, whose theatrical release is scheduled for early 2016, and “Le concours”, which is currently in post-production. Read more about Claire Simon here.