France 2002, 105 min.
Because the real film is not only what we see – Mimi visiting places, remembering episodes from the past, talking to people and to the filmmaker – it’s also the imagery of those words, the words produced by the pictures in our minds.
Mimi is a good storyteller and Claire a good listener – she listens with her camera. Claire Simon doesn’t just illustrate Mimi’s words by showing explanatory pictures of the things or places Mimi talks about, she let’s the camera evade, sometimes capturing details that have nothing to do with what Mimi is saying. A little like when you talk or listen to someone and your eyes come to rest on a button on the person’s shirt or you notice something in the background and look without seeing, because you are busy talking or listening. The director never lets the images take over or drown Mimi’s discourse. Simon films at a tranquil pace, allowing us, the spectators, to absorb the words and create our parallel ‘image-track’ to illustrate Mimi’s story. And it works wonderfully. It’s a discreet, respectful way of filming someone who in return fills the film with her personal story.
Mimi recalls certain situations from her childhood and her youth: how she discovered her feelings for other women and came to understand her sexuality, about her first love….
And the camera repays with tenderness, sensuality almost, caressing the words of Mimi as it caresses her face – lingering on her cheek or a lock of hair or pausing at her laughter lines, passing on her emotion to the viewer. It’s a filmic journey into someone’s life and a small voyage in itself as a film starting by the sea and ending in the mountains.
Mimi visits places and remembers how her father brought back donkey meat to eat during the war, how she met a woman in the street and later turned down a marriage proposal. Mimi hasn’t led an extraordinary life, but she and her life have become interesting and touching through the eyes of the filmmaker. Emotion is conveyed through sensitivity and intuitive attention to details and moods. Like in the earlier film of Claire Simon, 800 km of Difference, Mimi is an intimate film. Not intimacy as a means of exposing someone, but intimacy as a personal approach to filming another person without betraying this person’s dignity.