Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sodankylä morning discussion: Olivier Assayas with Peter von Bagh and Olaf Möller

Olivier Assayas, 14 June 2014. Photo: Annina Mannila.
The discussion was conducted in English. The School, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival, 14 June 2016. 

The résumé at the Midnight Sun Film Festival site:

"“I don’t remember what exactly was the first film I saw, but the film that made the strongest impression on me was maybe Ben-Hur or some Disney film”, said French director Olivier Assayas when asked about his early experiences with cinema. Assayas’ parents worked in the film business and cinema was always present at his home. The family was visited by great names of French cinema from René Clair to Abel Gance. Still, cinema was never discussed seriously in the family."

"Assayas began his career in his twenties by working as a secretary for his screenwriter father and later as a substitute writer for television. During this period he also worked as an assistant director on a number of trashy films. He was also an assistant on Richard Donner’s Superman (1980). However, at the end he was more interested in making films of his own. ”I realized that I have to forget everything I had learned from my father and during my time as an assistant. I had to break free.”"

"After directing his first short films, Assayas worked as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma, specializing on Asian films. “We discovered a whole new area in the world of cinema. That does not happen often”, he marveled. Writing André Téchiné’s Rendez-vous (1985) made it possible for Assayas to direct his debut feature Désorde (1986). The crew was made up of young filmmakers who were willing to experiment, instead of old and experienced professionals: “We were like kids that the parents have forgotten in the car”, the director described."

"Assayas said that he makes his scripts as simple as possible, so that they can develop freely during the filming. “The purpose is to discover something completely new and authentic, just like the directors of silent films did during their time”, he said, referring to Victor Sjöström’s The Outlaw and His Wife (1918) that he saw at the festival the previous night. The aspiration for freedom is also evident on Assayas’ films soundtracks, on which he uses individual songs instead of composed music."

"As to digital technology, Assayas said that he likes the way it makes editing easier, but he is still going to keep filming on 35mm as long as possible. The director also talked about how he developed an ability to work in international projects. The key point in this development was the film Irma Vep (1996) and meeting the actress Maggie Cheung. The last question of the interview concerned the influence of Europe’s wild year 1968 on Assayas’ career: “People who have never seen a glimpse of a different kind of society are not able to understand the idea of a more liberated world”, he stated."

"Asked about his desert island film, Assayas picked Visconti’s The Leopard (1963) after a short deliberation." (The résumé at The Midnight Sun Film Festival site).

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