Ever, Rêve, Hélène Cixous films the roads to creation of a feminist legend, a 1968 activist, a famous playwright and poet who shares all the “wars of liberation” of our time.
Why do I always feel that the biographical sketches I read about Cixous fail to express who she is? … Oh, by the way, in parentheses, how do you pronounce her name? People ask me: “Does she say it ‘Cixou’ with no ‘s’ or ‘Cixoussss?’” Who cares? Do I? I don’t know… When I was filming Hélène in Berlin, she was wearing a pin: “Cixous and the Banshees.” She laughed. That’s right. Some say “Siouxsie.” Siouxsie like Siouxie Sioux (the pop singer). Once, I heard someone say: “Cixsioux.” Pronounced like that “Seeex-See-Youxxx.”
They sing her name. Different names, different accents, different bios. This is the song of “Cixous travels.”
Again. Should I go over the usual arguments? That “bios never quite do justice,” or that “bios always lie in one way or another” (should you trust the bios on this website?), that, as Cixous recalls, biographies always tell one story instead of another story… I fear the language of “bios.” But I don’t fear the music of many “Cixous” whenever her name is pronounced. She recognizes her many names. She laughs.
I remember. There was a time in the editing room when I thought that the film’s title would be “Ever, That’s Her Name: Hélène Cixous.” Ever is literature.
“Cixous” is known around the world for her legendary 1975 feminist literary manifesto The Laugh of the Medusa. She is also famous for her theatre work. She has been the “house playwright” of Ariane Mnouchkine’s Théâtre du Soleil since the seventies and their most recent play was staged at the Armory theatre in New York City in late 2017. A scholar, Cixous founded the University of Paris-8 after May 1968 alongside Deleuze and Foucault. One year earlier, she made a spectacular entrance into the literary canon with her very first book publication, Prénom de Dieu (“God’s First Name”) that won the prestigious Médicis Prize. Etc. Etc.
Would this make a good film? I never wanted to make a film of this genre, a film that would constitute a filmed ID, “a film about someone…”
Have I ever read what I often think about? That her close friendship with Derrida could be compared to that of Montaigne and La Boëtie. Or could it be Tristan and Iseult? Names... always names. How should I bring out Cixous the Algerian, Cixous the German, how about naming her (relation to?) Jewishness in these contexts, and beyond? Oran, Osnabrück, Golders Green in London, Jerusalem? Paris? Bordeaux? Montaigne? Names. What to do with her wars of liberation?
So why do I always have this strange feeling that the biographical sketches I read about Hélène Cixous fail to express who she is? Because it’s not about the bio. The film might not be “about” Cixous. It’s about singing her names. It deals with what happens when Hélène meditates with the artist Adel Abdessemed: happy artists are ones who have known horror.
Hélène is a happy artist. So am I.
She laughs. In the dark, I see her smile. The screening has already started.