“It is not easy to give an account of Christian Mesnil’s work, which is disconcertingly varied, as much in the subjects he tackles as in the styles in which they are produced. His dominant trait seems to me to be courage and the obvious honesty of his subject. “(Henri Storck on the occasion of the retrospective of the films of Christian Mesnil in October 1991).
Christian Mesnil’s work can be classified into five major fields of investigation.
The first is fiction, which begins with the short film Vivent les pénitences and which highlights a cinematographic trend that he particularly likes, neo-realism. Then comes L’Amoureuse, a film co-produced by Henri Storck, which deals with madness and is a satire of the bourgeois world of the time. We should also mention Les Gardiens, based on a short story by Jean Ray, which is a fantasy.
The second covers urban and architectural approaches to large cities, through the construction, demolition, and restoration of buildings or entire districts. Horta and Art Nouveau will take an important place in this part of his work.
The third pays tribute to authors, composers and interpreters of French song. The third part pays tribute to authors, composers and performers of French song, such as La Saga de la chanson française, which presents the portrait of eight singers of the great era, including the film Brel, un cri, the feature film with which he received a Sept d’or in 1986 in France.
The fourth film highlights his passion for ethnology, cultural heritage and folklore with a series of films in Wallonia and on traditions in Romania. There was Le Bal des débutantes and what was his last documentary, Femmes en marche.
The fifth film deals with social issues, Belgian or international, which concerned him and his contemporaries of the time. Let’s mention La Question royale and Du Zaïre au Congo, two feature films that “shook” the audiovisual landscape when they were released.