Cousin Jules

The French visual effects wizard Dominique Benicheti designed technology for state-of-the-art films about astronomy and particle physics and also aided in the development of special filmmaking formats (70-millimeter, 3-D, and a Cinerama-like process called Futuroscope). But he directed just one feature film: this singular 1972 documentary about his elderly cousin, a farmer in northern France who was still living according to 19th-century customs when the movie was shot in the late 1960s. Choreographed long takes and a range of novel technical devices—including a precursor to Dolby sound that Benicheti created himself—make Jules’s experience seem otherworldly. Focusing on archaic farming rituals to the exclusion of nearly everything else, the film has virtually no dialogue, but each sight and sound is monumental, communicating an entire way of life.