Scen.: Paul Meyer. F.: Freddy Rents. M.: Paul Meyer, Rose Tuytschaver, Roland de Salency. Mus.: Arsène Souffriau. Int.: Domenico Mescolini (Domenico), Valentino Gentili (Valentino), Luigi Favotto (Luigi), Attilio Sanna (Attilio), Dolorès Oscari (Dolorès), Giuseppe Cerqua (Giuseppe), Louis Vander Spieghel. Prod.: Paul Meyer, Maurice Taszman per Les Films de l’Eglantine. DCP. Bn.
Buñuel meets Rossellini in the landscape of the Borinage, blackened by the dust of the carbonnages, the coalmines, and of the terrils, the hills created by the waste of the mines.
The best movie ever made on the cruelty of emigration, the timeless lie of ‘social integration’, the pains of displacement and the shameless depths of human exploitation is shot by a filmmaker who could and should have become the best Belgian filmmaker of his generation, had the system allowed him to keep producing films. But Paul Meyer made the mistake of telling the truth. First, he had told the terrible story of a worker forced to sleep with her boss in the twenty relentless minutes of Klinkaart (savagely attacked in Catholic Belgium). With Déjà s’envole la fleur maigre he dares to unveil the truth behind the Italo-Belgian Treaty that would send Italian workers to Belgium in exchange for much needed coal to feed the industrialization of Italy. Although Déjà s’envole la fleur maigre earned awards in Italy (the Porretta festival, the anti-Venice father of Il Cinema Ritrovato) and was lauded in Cannes by both the “Cahiers du cinéma” and “Positif” as the work of the great new talent of a Belgian cinema otherwise largely dormant, Paul Meyer was ostracized and basically forced out of Belgian film production. This restoration is intended to do him justice.
Engraved with the deep black of the coal dust and the oppressive grey of the Belgian sky, Déjà s’envole la fleur maigre uses the bodies, the accents and the faces of non-professional actors to bring us the lives (as true and real as only fiction can do) of a group of kids, sons and daughters of Italian immigrants. Today, when we rediscover the faces of the kids filmed by Paul Meyer, we cannot but be reminded that not so long ago, we were the refugees and the migrants.
Although over the years the film gained the status of a mythical work, only one 35mm print of Déjà s’envole la fleure maigre survived. The restoration project (which includes the restoration of the body of Paul Meyer’s work) was based on the original camera negative, deeply scarred by the mistreatment typical of a very low budget production.