Interviews with filmmakers

CANNES 2016 – a truly exciting line-up

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Maren ADE (Germany) TONI ERDMANN. Pedro ALMODÓVAR (Spain) JULIETA. Andrea ARNOLD (United-Kingdom) AMERICAN HONEY.  Olivier ASSAYAS (France) PERSONAL SHOPPER. Jean-Pierre DARDENNE, Luc DARDENNE (Belgium) LA FILLE INCONNUE. Xavier DOLAN (Canada) JUSTE LA FIN DU MONDE (IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD). Bruno DUMONT (France) MA LOUTE (SLACK BAY). Nicole GARCIA (France) MAL DE PIERRES. Alain GUIRAUDIE (France) RESTER VERTICAL.  Jim JARMUSCH (USA) PATERSON. Kleber FILHO MENDONÇA (Brazil) AQUARIUS. Ken LOACH (United-Kingdom) I, DANIEL BLAKE. Brillante MENDOZA (Philippines) MA’ ROSA. Cristian MUNGIU (Romania) BACALAUREAT. Jeff NICHOLS (USA) LOVING. PARK Chan-Wook (South Korea) AGASSI (THE HANDMAIDEN). Sean PENN (USA) THE LAST FACE. Cristi PUIU (Romania) SIERANEVADA. Paul VERHOEVEN (Netherlands) ELLE. Nicolas WINDING REFN (Denmark) THE NEON DEMON

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My planned Cannes 2016 coverage so far (work in progress) includes:

-an interview with Jim JARMUSCH for Dazed & Confused.  The “enfant terrible”, or better said, “vraiment indépendent” of American independent cinema participates with 2 films, Paterson, in the Official Competition and Gimme Danger in the Midnight section;

-a story around Chloë Sevigny’s first (short) film as a director, Kittythat is screening during the closing night of Critics Week – for Dazed & Confused

-a full report on the state of VR technology, immersive storytelling and the latest VR projects to be presented in Cannes – for Dazed & Confused

-an article on Romanian cinema based on Cristi Puiu‘s SIERANEVADA and Cristian Mungiu‘s BACALAUREAT for Little White Lies

-several festival dispatches for VICE Romania with my favourite films at Cannes 2016

 

Bon festival à tous!

Video Artist Omer Fast’s REMAINDER is Playing at New Directors New Films NYC Today

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If the attributes cold, callous and conceited might not conjure up the image of the most watchable of film heroes, Tom Sturridge’s nameless character in video artist Omer Fast’s feature debut Remainder might strike some as a slight surprise.

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Adapted from Tom McCarthy’s cult novel of the same title, Remainder is an intriguing drama of identity and memory with enough thriller elements to keep you wanting to watch more even when the events portrayed become part of a seemingly never-ending repetitive loop. Reminiscent in its basic premise of Nolan’s Memento, and in its reality-fantasy blurring strategy of Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, the film follows a 30-something London professional who receives an exorbitant amount of money in compensation after becoming the victim of an arcane accident that leaves him emotionally shattered and mentally tabula rasa.

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With £10 million in the bank and a completely clear conscience as a result of his traumatic memory loss, what does our hero set out to do? Book a flight to an exotic island and live a life of utter indulgence in a state of blissful oblivion, the kind of oblivion that alcohol, sex and drugs, our culture’s panacea, will never be able to induce? No, what kind of film would that be? Instead, in philosophically appropriate fashion, our hero responds to a most powerful inner urge that compels him to find out who he is, an action echoing the ancient adage nosce the ipsum that posits the source of all happiness as lying, irrevocably, in self-knowledge. Using his new wealth and one feeble, fragmentary memory he still detains, that of a small boy at the top of the stairs in an old house reaching out his hand to an old lady on the floor below, the hero goes about his trauma in the most extravagant fashion: he acquires an entire block of apartments and populates it with actors, cats and other such props in order to physically restage the scene again and again and hopefully trigger a more substantial memory that will “cure” his identity loss.

But as every cinema-literate person knows, it’s not about what a character does, but what his actions mean. And the character’s actions in Remainder can mean a lot of things, the film being conceptually very rich. Conceptual without being dry though: the film tackles trauma, mediation, repetition, re-enactment, the unreal nature of reality, even issues of gentrification, with much humour and irony. Visually, it is a real feast: the director’s artful sense of framing, ironic mise-en-scène and the ephemeral beauty of the shallow focus alluding to a character who completely fails to see the bigger picture, make for a very polished, very accomplished first feature.

Remainder is playing today, March 22nd, at New Directors New Films in New York.

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Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. In NYC

NYC, March 3-13

The Film Society of Lincoln Center is hosting the 21st edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, the celebrated annual showcase of the best in contemporary French film.

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The Opening Night film is Valley of Love, Guillaume Nicloux’s film starring Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert who play real-life versions of themselves in a completely fictive scenario: as famous French actors Gérard and Isabelle, a long-divorced couple whose son Michael has committed suicide six months before in Death Valley. In an enigmatic letter sent to them some time after Michael’s death, he asks them to visit a series of sites in the area and claims he will appear before them at the end of the tour. Mixing mysticism and skepticism in equal degree, the film intrigues by asking some probing questions about the ultimate nature of reality and delights, in true, open-ended French fashion, by answering none.

For an introduction to the film, read my interview with Guillaume Nicloux taken at Cannes Film Festival 2015.

The exciting programme contains a number of other Cannes 2015-premiered films, including the Palme d’Or winner Dheepan, directed by Jacques Audiard.

My King / Mon roi
Maïwenn, France, 2015, DCP, 128m

Disorder
Alice Winocour, France/Belgium, 2015, DCP, 101m

Two Friends / Deux amis
Louis Garrel, France, 2015, DCP, 102m

Winter Song / Chant d’hiver
Otar Iosseliani, France, 2015, DCP, 117m

21 Nights with Pattie / 21 nuits avec Pattie
Jean-Marie & Arnaud Larrieu, France, 2015, DCP, 115m

The Apaches / Des Apaches
Nassim Amaouche, France, 2015, DCP, 97m

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)
Eva Husson, France, 2016, DCP, 98m

Dark Inclusion / Diamant noir 
Arthur Harari, France/Belgium, 2016, DCP, 115m

A Decent Man / Je ne suis pas un salaud
Emmanuel Finkiel, France, 2015, DCP, 111m

Fatima
Philippe Faucon, France, 2015, DCP, 79m

The Great Game / Le Grand jeu
Nicolas Pariser, France, 2015, DCP, 100m

Lolo
Julie Delpy, France, 2015, DCP, 99m

Much Loved
Nabil Ayouch, France/Morocco, 2015, DCP, 104m

The New Kid / Le Nouveau
Rudi Rosenberg, France, 2015, DCP, 81m

Parisienne / Peur de rien
Danielle Arbid, France, 2015, DCP, 120m

Standing Tall / La Tête haute
Emmanuelle Bercot, France, 2015, DCP, 119m

Story of Judas / Histoire de Judas
Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, France, 2015, DCP, 99m

Summertime / La Belle saison
Catherine Corsini, France/Belgium, 2015, DCP, 105m

Three Sisters / Les Trois soeurs
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, France, 2015, DCP, 110m

“Actors don’t interest me, I don’t make a film with an actor, it’s always the people that interest me.” An interview with Guillaume Nicloux at CANNES 2015

Guillaume Nicloux talks about his new film VALLEY OF LOVE that premiered in competition at CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2015

Knight: The last time we spoke was last year at Berlinale where you presented The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, one of my favourite films of 2014. Valley of Love is a completely different film, both in terms of subject matter and tone. If anything, it brings up some themes you drew on in La religieuse. I was wondering what attracted you to this story and how do you decide on the story you want to tell in general?

Nicloux: It’s a bit strange because I have the impression that I’m not choosing at all, I have the impression that it is being decided for me. Then I am free to accept what this triggers in me or not.  The sure thing is that my first visit to the Valley of Death had an enormous impact on me because I experienced something very powerful and very personal there, I saw my dead father appear in front of my eyes. This inspired me to write this story when I got back. And the events in my personal life influenced my conception of cinema. Starting with La religieuse I tried to achieve a more sincere intimacy by getting rid of some formats, […] certain “pretexts”: the conventions of the genre film, the intrigues of the film noir, of the political film, the black comedy – a very diverse universe but always filtered through an unconscious veil of censorship that prevented me from going straight to what I felt in my guts or in my heart that I should do. But I refuse to intellectualise my desires. This is what I do with my students at La Fémis, the film school where I’m teaching. I want to help them get access to a form of “cinema-writing” that is more automatic, less cerebral, in which we allow the moment to guide us towards something more profound that we cannot rationalise but that confronts us with something more violent or more intriguing because we don’t decide these moments. And this is what ends up in the film usually, things that are more profound and more intimate. With this film I tried to respond to this desire and change that I felt in me.

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Knight: I suppose on the level of form this translates into a desire to free yourself from the conventions of cinema and create a more liberated form of writing. 

Nicloux: It’s more about trying to have access to a form of intimacy that is more honest and perhaps more direct by getting rid of conventions that sometimes force me to lock my films in a kind of coldness or distance. In cinema I try to lie the best way I can, because this is what cinema is, telling the most sincere lies.

Knight: The theme of your new film is spirituality. Obviously the couple’s relationship takes centre stage but I had the impression that the subject you really wanted to tackle was spirituality.

Nicloux: Yes my experiences in Death Valley triggered a sort of meditation on spirituality. And also my film La Religieuse deals with the same subject but in a broader way, in a pantheistic way in which faith is not dependent on a monotheistic God. Faith is more about being connected with what is around us, a form of giving up control that allows us access to more profound things. These resonances can give birth to things that can touch us in a more powerful way. We accept to be more open if the timing is good or if we find ourselves in a place that facilitates this process. A desert is an ideal place in this sense. Also if you find yourself in the company of people whom you trust and who allow you to be yourself and be true to the story you’re telling, then you’re in for a beautiful and enriching experience.

Knight: You like mixing reality and fiction in your films. In The Kidnapping, you used the real -life persona of Michel Houellebecq and here you’re drawing on the he real-life personas  of Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu.

Nicloux:Yes, it’s in the same spirit of being more honest. The actors don’t interest me, I don’t make a film with an actor, it is the people that interest me. I made a film with Gérard Depardieu as man and Isabelle Huppert as woman. It is them that interest me. The characters belong to the script, they know their characters and internalised them. But when I shoot I’m interested in my actors as people. Making a film is about this troubling balance, this very fine and slippery boundary with a lot of interaction that creates an interesting experience where the viewer asks himself if what he is watching is the real life of the actors of whether it is the story they are acting out.  And how the actors are dealing with the intimacy they experienced 35 years ago.

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Knight: Does this mean that you “negotiated” the script with them?

Nicloux: Not at all, I’m not someone who likes to talk a lot. What I’m looking for is this silent communication where you don’t have to explain things, where you just trust your feelings. The moment you start explaining things you lose the spontaneity of interaction, you lose something magic. And the magic is exactly what you’re looking for when you make a film, you want to be surprised, maybe a little troubled by something that happens, situations that you couldn’t predict, to let yourself be carried away by chance events that maybe shake you a little bit.

Knight: In casting Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu, was your intention to reunite them on the big screen? The last time they appeared together was 35 years ago in Pialat’s film Loulou.

Nicloux:Not really because when I first thought of the film I thought of Ryan O’Neal for the lead role, he is a mythical figure among cinephiles. But gradually my heart opened more and I felt the need to have a stronger connection with the father of the film. And when I met Gérard, the choice was obvious, he became the very essence of the film, this connection that I needed to establish with Mosaic Canyon, with what happened in Death Valley, with my own father.

Knight: Isabelle Huppert has been in hundreds of films, 20 of which were actually presented here in Cannes. Why do you think she is the most popular French actress? And can you imagine this film without her?

Nicloux: She is the most popular actress of this generation. That’s because she is the most accomplished actress, she did a lot of theatre and she worked internationally. She has a very broad range, she can do comedy in France and drama in Argentina. She has this curiosity, this openness, this “bulimia” for discoveries. I’m incapable of imagining another film with someone else. The film is a thing of the past now, I’m already somewhere else. The only regret I have is to have met Gérard so late in life. For me meeting him was very important and I’ll do my best to work again with him in the future.

Translated from French by Dana Knight.

BERLINALE 2016.Trending:refugee docs/migration dramas;Going down:almost everything else!

With Europe facing the greatest migration challenge since World War 2, it is probably no wonder that this was the hottest point of debate at Berlinale this year. No sooner had the festival started that at the press conference for Hail, Caesar!the very first of the festival, a journalist bluntly interpellated George Clooney on his reasons for not having already joined in the humanitarian effort of solving Europe’s greatest migration crisis. What’s keeping him? !

The question was so out of context and came so out of left field (the irony of language in this case!) that it left George a bit baffled. However, after a few seconds of silence, his retort came down like thunder: Could the journalist kindly explain what concrete efforts she had made in solving said crisis?! And the ensuing dispute mixing art, film and politics to an extremely confusing effect went on for a while and set the tone for the entire 10 days: Berlinale 2016 – a very politically-charged festival. (Coincidentally, Clooney did have a meeting arranged with Angela Merkel the following day to discuss the refugee crisis, reports The Guardian).

Which is not to insinuate that this year’s Golden Bear winner, Gianfranco Rosi’s Lampedusa-set Fuocoammare was not a completely deserved win. Focusing more on the Forum and Panorama titles,  I only managed to see the film at the festival’s Closing Ceremony and was taken in by the precocious wisdom and vital charm of the central protagonist and the exceptional skill he shows at continually adapting to a conflicted world.  Although a documentary, the film plays very much like a drama and will undoubtedly seduce with the understated urgency of its political message .

BERLINALE 2016 highlights and interviews:

From COMPETITION:

L’AVENIR

1. Interview with Isabelle Huppert

2. Interview with Mia Hansen-Love

BORIS SANS BEATRICE

3. Interview with Denis Côté

24 WEEKS

4. Interview with Anne Zohra Berrached

From PANORAMA

5. Remainder – Omer Fast Interview

6. Starve Your Dog – Hicham Lasri Interview

7. I, Olga Hepnarova – Tomas Weinreb Interview

From PANORAMA DOCUMENTS

8. Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures – Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey Interview  in Dazed & Confused

9. HOTEL DALLAS – Livia Ungur & Sherng-Lee Huang Interview – DoR magazine

From FORUM

10. YARD – Måns Månsson Interview

111. KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE – Robert Greene & Kate Lyn Sheil Interview

12. P.S.JERUSALEM – Danae Elon Interview

13. WE ARE NEVER ALONE  Petr Vaclav Interview

14. ILLEGITIMATE – Adrian Sitaru Interview – VICE Romania

15. TA’ANG – Wang Bing Interview

16. FANTASTIC – Offer Egozy Interview

GENERATION

17. MELLOW MUD – Renārs Vimba Interview

Perspektive Deutsches Kino

18. LIEBMANN – Jules Herrmann Interview (best Berlinale 2016 film discovery!)