May 24th, 2005 §
After party on the Donau in Das Boot Saturday 14 May.
The Das Boot After Party was exactly that. An after party. The party started at eight am and went all day and into the night. When I left at 12:30, there was no end in sight.
Lis with Yukon. Yukon was distracted by dogs on the other bank. Unlike landscapes and architecture, dogs (and people) move and in unpredictable ways.
Some dogs seem to have almost human characters. Yukon is one of them. And he has one blue eye with normal whites, the one you see, which looks just like a man’s blue eye. He was happy to get away from the music. What a lot of people who take their dogs out to music events forget, is that while the dogs love the company, the volume of music that people enjoy is much, much louder to dogs. Like the loudest heavy metal concert you’ve ever been to or heard of.
Pascal and Stefan relaxing in the sunset before a full-night of dancing.
May 9th, 2005 §
The following is a partial transcript of the IMZ Workshop on Grand Rights at the Golden Prague International Television Festival on 9 May 2005. It is largely of interest to dance and opera arts television production producers.
Music Rights, Grand Rights and Music Publishers: IMZ primer for Dance and Opera Arts Producers Continues »
May 7th, 2005 §
After a short introduction to her work in German from the moderator, Claire Denis came in and gave a lovely introduction to the the film to come in English. She told us about how she had carte blanche after Beau Travail from Arte Television and decided to take full advantage of it to make a visual poem she had been working on for four years. That film was L’Intrus. Her collaborator on the adventure was the French film producer Humbert Balsan.
He committed suicide shockingly enough just before the film was released. Claire Denis visibly moved said she felt that somehow Humbert’s spirit was captured in this film. Somewhat chaotic but very beautiful. So far so good.
L’Intrus (The Outsider) is a relatively long film at just over two hours.
A wonderfully visual film with a magnificent sequences on the Pacific ocean, looking up through Palm trees in Polynesia and Pine trees in Switzerland, Korean shipyards, sled dogs, blood in the snow, cityscapes, babies faces.
The story is somewhat difficult to follow. A puzzled but enriched audience.
We are just after eleven pm now.
Claire Denis returns with the moderator who admonishes us that the session will be conducted in English. Although Claire Denis stumbled a little through the introduction it was charming enough. When I saw her speak at the Toronto Film Festival, she was magnificent – charismatic, illuminating and fluent. At TIFF in 2002, she spoke in French with the moderator providing some translation to English.
L’Intrus would be a difficult enough film for a native speaker to discuss in English. Hopeless for a French film director in English. Moreover Claire Denis conceded that she’d had a bit too much to drink in Vienna. Normal, it is well after the supper hour. No doubt she was just coming in after dinner.
She started with a long monologue how the film was originally planned as a two part film with Claire Denis directing one half and another director the other half, mirroring the before and after a heart operation. In the end, her choice for second director did not take up the offer, feeling that it would not come enough from him. So Claire Denis decided to direct both halves herself which became one whole, as the divide of the operation in the end felt somewhat artificial. But there remain two stories. One of which is the Northern Hemisphere before the operation and the other which is the Southern Hemisphere after the operation.
Originally the shipyards were supposed to be Chinese but Claire Denis had such good contacts with the Koreans when she went there for a couple of film festivals that she decided that she preferred Korean shipyards. And in general, the Koreans were wonderful to work with – full of energy, enthusiasm and passion.
A few interesting questions and answer:
How much freedom the Agnès Godard have with the camera and the actors to improvise? [Indeed, much of the camera was handheld and moving so it did look quite freehand.]
Answer. None at all. L’Intrus is the most tightly choreographed films that I have ever made. It was the first time Agnès and I were working on Super 35mm for blowup to wide angle so we spent hours deciding on every lens, every shot in advance. Moreover, we were working on a television film budget and had no money or time to spare shooting things which were not going to go straight into the film.
How much of the film was reality and how much was dream sequence – was Gregoire Colin really murdered for his heart?
All of the film was reality and all of the film was dream sequence. For me to know and you to find out.
Apparently the film was reedited since the version presented at Cannes? How did the reedit go?
There was never a reedit. The distributor asked me to cut the film shorter. Reediting a film is a very, very expensive process and we had no money for a remix of the sound. So we just cut out two sequences. We cut about four minutes. One part was with the girl in the snow pursued by the hunters which we shortened. There was also a sequence of Gregoire Colin’s dead body floating across the Pacific ocean, washing up to the shore.
In general I don’t like reediting films. They are enough trouble to make in the first place that the time to get it right is the first time.
But quickly enough Claire Denis tired of speaking in English (it is very fatiguing trying to speak in a foreign language when you are tired). The answers stopped making a lot of sense. There were long pauses. The Q & A went on for nearly an hour. Austrian audiences are concentrated and patient, but people began to leave the auditorium.
Afterwards I managed to speak with her briefly in French and Claire Denis was her usual insightful and charming self.
We talked about dream and reality.
When filming L’Intrus I had a script in my hand which did have the story. We used it for the team readings. I had a story. Agnès Godard, the cinematographer wanted to film the dream sequences in a special way. I insisted that dream and reality be shot in exactly the same way. [poetic, imagistic but real]
In my opinion, this obsession with narrative story in cinema – fundamentally a visual medium like painting – came about because of television. Before television, directors had much more freedom to express an artistic vision of a story.
She likened her work to William Faulkner’s Absolom, Absalom, James Joyce’s Ulysses and Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Does Proust really see the girls going by in their summer dresses, or does he just remember that day. It is never exactly clear.
Claire Denis claims that liberty for herself. She is tired of the conventions.
Lessons for the organisation of Film Q & A.
Be careful with late night Q & A sessions.
Discourage the film maker from having any alcohol with dinner.
For heaven’s sake, let the film maker speak in his or her native language and have translation handy.
Lesson from other Q & A sessions in Toronto – be damn sure that the translators are fluent, accomplished and charming. They better be good.
In defense of the Film Museum moderator, he did have several good questions prepared to attempt to keep the Q & A on track and stimulate the film maker.
Claire Denis will be doing a long dedicated session at 21.30 with Michael Omasta and Isabella Reicher who have just finished the first book on her work in German.
I had regretted missing that session on account of my own trip to Prague tomorrow for The Golden Prague International Television Festival where Lapinthrope is in competition.
As the session will be in English, no doubt, tant pis. But if you are in Vienna tomorrow night, don’t miss it.
The Claire Denis retrospective carries on until May 19th at the Vienna Film Museum.
May 7th, 2005 §
The world’s best cinemathèque – although not the biggest – is found here in the Vienna Film Museum. The variety and quality of its programming is unparalleled. Their recent extended program of Film Noir was incredible mixing Orson Welle’s The Touch of Evil with François Truffaut’s Tirez sur le pianiste and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.
The physical premises are ideally located on the lower floor of the Albertina Museum with street level access, just across from the Staatsoper at the heart of Vienna at the end of Kärntner Strassse. The screen is large and new – neither too reflective or too matte. The seating goes up in a stark vertical saving you the backs of people’s heads from most rows. The seats are comfortable if not ideal. The decor is charcoal with nothing to distract from the screen when the lights go down. The sound is adequate if not earth-shaking (probably intentional).
Unlike other cinemathèque programmers, Alexander Horwoth the director of the Film Museum in Vienna does not wear out his themes. He sees film in a broader perspective and is capable of putting two totally different yet entirely complementary films on the same program. Vintage French cinema like Jean Renoir’s La Bête Humaine with David Lynch’s Mulhulland Drive for example or Blade Runner in the second Noir program for example. In contrast, I am thinking of the dogmatic Godard retrospective at the Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto. Jean-Luc Godard’s films are mostly bad. Badly shot, poorly acted, lousy scripts, terrible production values.
No matter, you say, it is Godard. No, not really. Undergoing a month of incoherent scripts shot in a dark bathroom is very painful. On the other hand, some of his films – Le Petit Soldat, for example or Le Mépris are magnificent – not to mention the classic Breathless. But it goes downhill quickly from there passing by Prénom Carmen. A retrospective of Godard’s better films together with films heavily influenced by his work would have been much more interesting, Toronto.
As in Vienna, where we are granted a Claire Denis retrospective with her full oeuvre, with the odd Jean-Luc Godard film appropriately introduced into the program (in this case Le Petit Soldat, as it serves as introduction to Beau Travail, and to the actor Michel Sabor who is so important in Claire Denis’s Beau Travail and later her L’Intrus). Claire Denis herself was allowed to choose a certain number of films which had a strong influence on her own work, giving us the chance to see her further into her creative process.
Not only do we get the retrospective from May 2 to May 19, we get Claire Denis herself for about four or five days.
Some of Claire Denis’s films have been seminal. Beau Travail, although I saw it for the first time here. For me, Vendredi Soir, perhaps one of the most ethereal and loving portraits of interaction between a man and a woman. Vendredi Soir is a portrait of the city as well, Paris.
The emotionally-charged and intimate visuals Vendredi Soir has a strong influence on the camerawork in Lapinthrope, particularly the night sequence.
I had tried to see more of Claire Denis’s work afterwords but her films are visual poems which should be seen at the cinema on a large screen. In particular, I was never able to digest Trouble Every Day which I have on DVD.
Seeing a block of her oeuvre together, her rare talent defines itself – and also reveals its limits.
Her fundamental view of the world is stark. J’ai pas sommeil takes us through the underworld of Paris and into the lives of the human flotsam who smash up against the rock of a city which demands too much (money and energy) and gives too little to too many (tiny apartments, debts, terrible jobs). Ostensibly the story of a serial killer (the Granny Killer), J’ai pas sommeil makes the everyday dreadful through the lives of its ensemble cast of about ten.
Beau Travail is the story of a seargent in the French Foreign Legion who loves his work and loves his men, but out of envy sets up one of his soldiers to die in the desert. Afterwards, Galoup’s crime is revealed and he is sent back to France and returned to a civilian life for which he is not ready and without a pension. A life ruined.
Trouble Every Day is a bloodbath. I can’t watch it all the way through as Beatrice Dalle rolling in buckets of human blood next to Vincent Gallo is too brutal a shock for me after the exquisite opening love scene of 37 degrès le matin. In her rendition of Betty, a lifelong love for a certain France was created. In any case, Trouble Every Day is as dark as films come.
L’Intrus which showed tonight follows a man (Michel Subor) on the cusp of a heart transplant, arranged in Geneva. He has a lot of money which he keeps for himself, while his young son (Gregoire Colin) struggles with two children. He goes on to abandon his two dogs. Apparently his heart comes from refugees murdered along the Swiss border. The donar is arranged by a mysterious Russian woman (Katerina Golubeva). Subsequently, Louis Trebor leaves for Polynesia via South Korea, where he orders a ship for his second son. Unable to find his second son in Polynesia, his replacement heart starts to fail him and Trebor’s world collapses into visions of Golubeva haunting him, drunk Korean riff-raff and worst of all Gregoire Colin’s corpse with a gash all the way down the chest. Golubeva apparently offered him his own son’s heart for the money.
The short Keep it for Yourself was as close to uplifting as any of her work. A French girl comes to New York where she is abandoned by her boyfriend. She copes well with the situation in an empty apartment, eventually meeting another guy who is fleeing the police when he stumbles into her apartment. A fresh love is born while the American army rolls into Iraq (Gulf War 1, 1982).
All in all, perhaps the blackest body of work by a major director. I would never have thought so having seen only Vendredi Soir and encountering the lovely Claire Denis there at the Toronto premier.
But a riveting visual oeuvre. L’Intrus in particular – despite or perhaps because of its nonsensical plot. Just fabulous image after fabulous image. But much the same could be said of J’ai pas sommeil and certainly Beau Travail.
Claire Denis’s worldview is too dark to buy into – but her eyes are wonderful eyes to see through, even for a few hours.
Thank you, Alexander Horwath. Thank you, Claire Denis. Thank you, Agnès Godard and Nelly Quettier (camera and editor respectively for all of the above).
May 6th, 2005 §
Nationmaster: Countries by Crime: Prisoners – Per capita.:
A wonderful website for comparing countries. I don’t have much time to do an extended comparison now but some numbers just jumped out at me.
First – the number of prisoners in each country. Austria – 8,114. The United States – 2,078,570.
Fine, you say. The United States has thirty times the population. So what?
Break it down per capita. The United States has 715 prisoners per capita. Austria has 100.
For that matter Finland has 71.
Moral of the story – treat people decently, provide basic social services and health care – and not too many of them break the law/need to be imprisoned.
I would defend the above on human grounds. But for the utilitarian/capitalism enthusiasts out there, that’s a big prison bill saved. Court bills saved, judges salaries saved.
Another interesting statistic – 33% of the incarcerated population in Austria is foreign. It is even higher in Switzerland – 70.8%. In the United States it is only .5%.
Some might want to call out xenophobe. I think differently. Foreigners don’t have the same training in abiding laws as the native population in these countries and thus often make the mistake of breaking them.
When crime is low, the police are remarkably efficient at finding criminals.