The Virgin of Pessac ’68 and ’79
Director: Jean Eustache Run Time: 132 min. Format: DCP Release Year: 1968 Language: French with English subtitles
As political and social tumult rocked France in 1968, Jean Eustache used his first documentary to focus on a centuries-old ceremony in his hometown of Pessac. Each year Pessac’s civic leaders choose a young woman they consider an exemplar of moral virtue, with a day-long celebration commemorating the changing of the guard from the previous year’s ‘virgin’ to the present one. Eustache observes the exacting selection process, the fostering of communal bonds, and a bold implication by Pessac’s presiding priest connecting the ritual to the upheaval of the day.
Eleven years after the first, Eustache filmed another instance of his hometown’s annual ritual. The differences between the two are subtle yet telling: the selection process is slightly more fraught in 1979, while local leaders are more concerned with the current economic depression than with social change.
In accordance with Eustache’s preference, THE VIRGIN OF PESSAC ’79 will screen first.