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Detailed description :Perspectives on art

Impressions of Algiers Museum

Director(s): Patrice Chagnard

Scientific advisor(s): Arlette Sérullaz

Impressions of Algiers Museum begins with some (impressionistic, of course) shots of the Algiers Museum of Fine Arts in its setting of lush greenery. Patrice Chagnard takes the viewer on a stroll through the building, but his primary interest is in gazes—those of the painted portraits, and those of the museum's visitors. His film records the impressions of both children and adults in front of a selection of paintings. In 1930, the Algiers Museum of Fine Arts was presented with a "prestigious collection of Western artworks celebrating 100 years of colonization" according to its founder, Jean Alazard. Who do the works belong to? This unresolved question arose during the Franco-Algerian war: the works had been donated by the French, who confiscated the collection and later returned it, though not in full. This is the background to Patrice Chagnard's film, which avoids these delicate areas and goes to the heart of the subject: the artworks and their public. The film comprises a series of attentive, almost tender scenes, some of which (such as the twin girls in front of a Dutch landscape by Jan Van Goyen) are particularly delightful. The filmmaker's delicate approach allows signs of cultural difference to emerge—like the young painter in front of a miniature by Mohammed Racim, who questions the ban on representations of the human body, especially the female nude.

"The works displayed here are, for the most part, a legacy of the colonial past; they hold more mystery than meaning for visitors... Here, the wind of history has never ceased to blow, but something stubbornly resists it. Perhaps the timeless quality of the works? An unconscious desire to forget the wounds of the past? No doubt a blend of all those things. Above all, our relationship to art is invariably couched in the present. In the cocooned environment of what local people call the "Maison des Merveilles," the real question is "Who is looking at whom?" Patrice Chagnard, October 2003. The film was made on the occasion of the exhibition "From Delacroix to Matisse: French Drawings from the Algiers Museum of Fine Arts" (Musée du Louvre, October 2003–January 2004), curated by Arlette Sérullaz. In the framework of "Djazaïr, a year of Algeria in France – 2003."






52 minutes


Edmée Millot, Les Films d’Ici ; Catherine Derosier-Pouchous, Musée du Louvre, avec la participation de France 5

Selections / Awards

Official selection for the Amiens International Film Festival, 2004; Jury's Award at the Mediterranean Film Festival, 2004

Commercial distribution

Les Films d’Ici

Non-commercial distribution

Heure Exquise

Images de la Culture – CNC