Online catalogue / Bernhard Braunstein :

AT / FR / LI / 2017
72 min.

Somebody is asked what is a cliché. The response follows, "A subway stop on the U-13 line." ATELIER DE CONVERSATION opens with a mistaking of "cliché" for Paris´ Place de Clichy that is as unintentional as it is precise. This situational pun encapsulates much of what this lovely documentary film is driving at. It is about conversational situations in which stereotypes coincide with concrete perspectives. This however does not occur in an orderly comparison to real life, but rather in a cascade of discreet linguistic leaps and shifts characteristic of conversation, especially when it takes place in a circle of fleeting acquaintances who are speaking a language not quite their own.

The "Atelier de Conversation" (=Conversation Studio) is a weekly round table hosted by one of Paris´ largest libraries. Here people who have landed in the city for the most various of reasons can practice their French. Bernhard Braunstein observes these encounters mostly employing static, medium close-up shots. The moderation of the conversation raises big topics – perceptions of otherness, love, homesickness, gender equality. Braunstein does not play up the resulting discussions as a pleasant utopia of being able to talk about everything under the sun. Rather he records the conversational bandwidth and dynamics with discrete precision: shifts from politeness to empathy or anger and back again; moments of understanding as well as imbalance. Conversation runs along isolated parallel tracks between the dire need for basic supplies expressed by an Afghani asylum seeker and how to resolve the recession according to a business school formula. At one point the blinds behind the people seated at the roundtable are raised, affording a view of the periodical return to everyday life in the library. The small chamber of the studio does not constitute an alternative reality. But it does provide a form of collective social maintenance not often found in the well-ordered outside world. (Joachim Schätz)

Translation: Eve Heller

A dozen red chairs, an equal number of mutually disparate life stories. Just a room and a common language, however, become a means toward understanding… Foreigners from all corners of the world meet each week at the Centre Pompidou in Paris for free lessons to hone their French. War refugees, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, and students sit side-by-side, immersing themselves in both lighthearted and weighty conversations, in which cultural differences sometimes result in peaceful confrontations. The dangers of multicultural life, at times easily overcome with the help of a shared language, manifest themselves in drastic altercations, as well as in cheerfully awkward monologues, fleeting gestures, and subtle facial expressions. Minimalist in form – but all the more so due to the filmmaker’s choices – this thoroughgoing documentary captures those elusive moments in which grammatical fumblings and the painstaking search for the right word inadvertently reveal a window into the human soul. (Martin Horyna. Karlovy Vary Int. Film Festival 2017)

A film by:
- Bernhard Braunstein

- Documentary

original language:
- french

Available Prints:
- DCP 2K


rental conditions

more on Austrian Independent Film & Video Database:
- Credits
- Festival placements
- Texte und Bilder
- Biographie: Bernhard Braunstein