Holding Family Close: Our Review of ‘The Super 8 Years’

Posted in Theatrical by - January 12, 2023
Holding Family Close: Our Review of ‘The Super 8 Years’

Found footage anything can make film viewers skeptical. That’s especially true with found footage documentaries, and, more specifically, with Annie Ernaux and David Ernaux-Britot’s The Super 8 Years. The Nobel Laureate and her filmmaker son team up to assemble the footage that Ernaux’s then husband Philippe filmed during the 1970s. Back then, the family moved around France to follow him and his job. They also had many vacations they took in Africa, Chile and Europe. The skepticism comes with whether or not the images can stand by themselves. In this case, Ernaux’s narration does the heavy lifting. Many will never fully love this film because of that imbalance, but the narration provides insight to images and footage deeper than they seem.

Annie Ernaux, at 82, can return to the places that her husband captures on film, but reliving those ephemeral moments seem more futile. Again, her words bring life to footage like a lake view in Annecy, or fading footage of verdant valleys in Charente. Inhabiting those natural landscapes are people whom the camera sometimes shy away from. But they do pop in and have their own share of screen time. Those people include their extended family. Whether or not those family members are there, Ernaux narrates about performing her own family’s version of complex patriarchy. That complexity is more subconscious. The younger Ernaux are more left leaning, but she talks about discovering fellow rebels on both sides of the family like treasure.

Annie Ernaux’s narration, for the most part, has the detached and introspective quality of a wise person looking back at her past. But she laces this appearance of subjectivity with thin layers of emotion. First, it’s interesting that she calls her ex ‘Philippe Ernaux’ instead of just calling him ‘her ex’ or ‘Philippe’. She then goes on about his fascination of filming objects that he transported. al over France. This remark feels insulting yet she’s also looking to empathize with a man she has complex emotions about. Emotions she may be holding back both out of politeness and respect for the past and the passed. Or maybe because her son is right there and she doesn’t wanna be awkward.

The Erneax’ documentary covers nine years of their lives and as I mentioned above, the family got to go to three different continents during a volatile time. I have many opinions about her opinions of those countries. Opinions that might, if I wasn’t lazy, be enough material for a whole other piece. I’ll just make room for one and say that yes, I am the furthest thing from right wing. Still, it’s interesting that she had little qualms about visiting Eastern European countries during dictatorships. And yet, she waited for Franco’s overthrow to visit Spain. The film’s politics are rich and can produce its own documentary. But she ties each place to what happens to her family there and you know what, their priorities are better.

Watch The Super 8 Years at the Hot Docs Cinema.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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