Thursday, June 13, 2024

Sodankylä morning discussion 2024: Leos Carax

Leos Carax

Leos Carax, Satu Kyösola, Timo Malmi. The morning discussion at the School, 13 June 2024. Photo: Juho Liukkonen / Midnight Sun Film Festival. Please do click on the photos to expand them. The blogger's silhouette is to the left in the front row of the audience.

Hosted by Timo Malmi and Satu Kyösola. In English. 120 min
The School, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 13 June 2024

Lauri Timonen (MSFF Catalog 2024): " One of the last true representatives of the European auteur tradition, director-writer Leos Carax (Alex Christophe Dupont) was born in Suresnes, a western suburb of Paris, to two journalists – a French father and an American mother. Carax, who also carved himself a career as a critic – his stage name is an anagram of the words “Alex” and “Oscar” – made his first short film, Strangulation Blues, in 1980, and his debut feature Boy Meets Girl (1984), shot in black and white, made well-deserved waves four years later. Interpreted by his future trusted actor Denis Lavant and Mireille Perrier, this melancholy love story contains, alongside homages towards Godard and Truffaut, many of the essential hallmarks of Carax’s art: the beauty of gestures, romantic chaos, intuitive imaginative physicality, melancholic wanderings on the nocturnal shores and bridges of the Seine that grow into the director’s soul-scape, jerky lyricism marked by adrenaline rushes, unexpectedness that breaks the conventions of form, and hallucinatory imagery that leans on surrealism… "

" Borrowing its name from a poem by Rimbaud, Bad Blood (1986) marked his definitive breakthrough, growing into an autopoietic, brutally romantic genre collage characteristic of Carax. Equally sensitively fierce, unconditional, and headstrong is The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), which expands into a cruel adult fairy tale. It promptly received an inordinate amount of flak for, among other things, its budget, which the French press raised to mythical proportions and deemed to be Ciminolian. Associated together with Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beineix as a representative of the ’80s Cinéma du look movement, Carax’s influences range from Robert Bresson’s Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971), set on the very same bridge, all the way to Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante (1934). Nor is it likely a coincidence that Jack and Rose (in a direct reproduction of the final scene) pose in the bow of Titanic (1997), or that Uma Thurman’s tracksuit in Kill Bill (2003-2004) is bright yellow, reminiscent of Juliette Binoche’s character as signs of the opposite cultural exchange. "

" The next directional work by this artist known for his long breaks, Pola X (1999), a rough adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel Pierre: or, The Ambiguities (1852), acts as a kind of private cleansing ritual – a cyberpunk hybrid of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945) and Jacques Rivette’s urban board games. The exploding cemeteries in the first shots seem to pose the unspoken question – can the dead be killed again? – and on a meta level, the sense of a ghost story is deepened by the early demise of both main actors. "

" Carax took his time again, directed short films and Godardian postcards like Sans titre (1997), music videos for Carla Bruni (2002-2003) and New Order (2005), and a guerrilla-style episode of the portmanteau film Tokyo! (2008). The latter introduces us to Denis Lavant’s incredible acrobatic-anarchist creation belonging to the series of “sacred beasts,” the metropolis-terrorising Monsieur Merde. Dressed in a green suit and living in the sewers, the dark side of Chaplin’s Tramp is a brilliant combination of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, the sadistic but lusty Opale from The Testament of Dr. Cordelier (1959), the persecuted Godzilla, the hedonistic King Ubu, and the tormented Jesus Christ. The character also makes a comeback in Holy Motors (2012), one of the masterpieces of the 21st century by any measure. "

" Carax’s first English-language film Annette (2021), a lively collaboration realised with the cult band Sparks combining musical and rock opera genres, once again opens unknown doors while cleverly tapping into the universes of his earlier works. His latest directorial effort, the 41-minute It’s Not Me (2024), premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this spring. "

" Leos Carax is a visionary who never explains his signals and the greatest French cinematic artist of his generation, who has refused to ever forget that the camera-pen was invented for poetry. When the chain-smoking maestro with already two nicotine patches stuck to his throat (according to legend) lights his next cigarette, not only does its fiery tip begin to glow, but so do the projector lamps, the cosmic screens, and the audience’s imagination! " Lauri Timonen (MSFF Catalog 2024)

MSFF 13 June 2024: " Torstain aamukeskustelussa kuultiin elokuvaohjaaja Leos Caraxia, joka on pitkien elokuvien lisäksi ohjannut myös lyhytelokuvia ja musiikkivideoita. Yhdysvaltalaiselle äidille ja ranskalaiselle isälle Pariisin esikaupunkialueella vuonna 1960 syntynyt Carax, oikealta nimeltään Alex Christophe Dupond, tunnetaan erityisesti tarinoista kaoottisesta rakkaudesta. "

" Carax kertoi täydelle salille Kitisenrannan koululla, että löysi elokuvien maailman teini-ikäisenä. Ensimmäistä elokuvakokemustaan ohjaaja ei muistanut, mutta kuvaili yhdysvaltalaisnyrkkeilijä Muhammad Alin mestauusottelun olleen hänelle merkittävä kokemus, vaikka ohjaaja ei pidäkään itseään urheilufanina. Hieman myöhemmin elokuvakriitikkona työskennellessään Carax matkusti useille elokuvafestivaaleille, jolloin hän pääsi keskustelemaan elokuvista kiinnostuneiden ihmisten kanssa. "

" Sodankylän elokuvajuhlien avajaisnäytöksenäkin nähdyssä Pont-Neufin rakastavaisissa (1991) esiintyvät ohjaajan useissa elokuvissa nähdyt näyttelijät Denis Lavant ja Juliette Binoche. Carax korostaa, ettei hän olisi ikinä tehnyt elokuviaan ellei olisi tavannut oikeita ihmisiä. Ohjaaja sanoo, ettei osaa kuvitella elokuviensa kohtauksia ilman luottonäyttelijöitään. "

" Caraxin ohjasi ensimmäisen täyspitkän elokuvansa Boy Meets Girl (1984) vain 24-vuotiaana. Elokuvan tarinaa Carax kuvailee omakseen. Lavantin roolihahmon nimi on Caraxin elokuvissa usein Alex, joka on myös Caraxin oikea etunimi. Ohjaajan taitelijanimikin on anagrammi nimistä Alex ja Oscar. "

" Ohjaajan elokuvissa toistuvat rakkauden teemojen lisäksi leikkisyys ja liike. Carax kuvailee elokuvan maailman näyttäytyvän hänelle saarena, jolla ei ole rajoja. ”Se on kaunis saari, mutta siellä on myös hautausmaa, missä on kuolleita ihmisiä” Carax kiteyttää, viitaten elokuvahistorian edesmenneisiin pioneereihin ja mestareihin. "

" Ohjaajauransa alussa Carax kertoo olleensa epävarma ja pelänneensä värien käyttämistä. Hän kuvasi ensimmäiset elokuvansa mustavalkoisina ja pääosin öisin, jotta katsoja keskittyisi vain hallittuihin yksityiskohtiin. Myöhemmissä töissään ohjaaja käyttää värejä mitä leikkisimmin ja innovatiivisin tavoin. "

" Keskustelussa nousi esille useasti myös elokuvien painotus liikkeeseen, sillä ohjaajan elokuvissa juostaan huomattavan paljon. Carax kertoo olleensa koulussa aina kaikista pienin ja tunteneensa, ettei hän osaa juosta. Hän päätyi käsittelemään asiaa elokuviensa kautta ja laittoi elokuvien Alexin juoksemaan puolestaan. "

" Aamukeskustelujen klassikkokysymykseen autiolle saarelle elokuvasta Carax ei suostunut vastaamaan, sillä hän sanoo jo olevansa jumissa autiolla saarella. " (MSFF 13 June 2024)

MSFF 13 June 2024: " Thursday morning’s discussion spotlit Leos Carax, whose filmography includes short films and music videos in addition to feature films. Born in 1960 to an American mother and French father in suburban Paris, Carax (born as Alex Christophe Dupond) is best known for his stories about chaotic love. "

" Carax shared with the full venue at the School that he started to get more into films as a teenager. The director could not remember his first cinematic experience, but described how impactful the championship game of American boxer Muhammad Ali was to him even if he does not consider himself as a sports fan. Later Carax worked as a film critic and travellet to many film festivals where he had a chance to discuss films with other movie-lovers. "

" The opening film of the Midnight Sun Film Festival  The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) stars the director’s frequent collaborators Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche. Carax emphasises that he would have never made his films without meeting the right people. The director says that he could not imagine the scenes of his films without his trusted actors.  "

" Carax directed his first feature film Boy Meets Girl (1984) when he was just 24 years old. He describes the story of the film as his own. Lavant’s characters are often called Alex, which is Carax’s official first name too. His alias on the other hand is an anagram of the names Alex and Oscar. "

" Alongside the recurring theme of love, Carax’s filmography is infused with playfulness and movement. Carax explains that he sees the world of cinema as an island without borders. “The world of cinema has changed a lot, but it’s always been an island. It is a beautiful island but with a cemetery also, with dead people”, he remarks referring to the bygone pioneers and masters of film history. "

" Carax says that in the beginning of his career as a director, he was insecure and afraid of using colour. He shot his first films in black and white and mostly by night so that the audience would only concentrate on controlled details. In his later work he has used colour in an innovative, playful manner. "

" Another topic that was often brought up was the emphasis on movement as Carax’s films notably have a lot of running in them. Carax says that in school he was always the smallest, and he felt like he was not able to run. He ended up approaching these memories through film and making the character of Alex run in his place. " 

" When asked the festival’s classic question of which film he would take with him to a desert island, he said he is already stuck on the island." (MSFF 13 June 2024)

AA: Added notes:

Q: FIRST FILM. A: I don't remember. I did not see films as a child. Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali on tv. Bresson: Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne on tv: for the first time I became aware of the presence of a director. Passion for Muhammad Ali as an actor, as a dancer. Cinema is a country where you can live in. I was a film critic for six months. I could travel to festivals, met Martin Duras and Robert Kramer, I was 18. Made Strangulation Blues (1980). With a big Mitchell camera. The only time with a big camera.

BOY MEETS GIRL. I was afraid of colour. The hard work is to meet people. I have never seen my films as French. Nouvelle vague was 20 years old. 

DENIS LAVANT was a strange boy - circus - poetry - street theatre - dancer - also sculpture.
CLIP: Boy Meets Girl (1984), two guys on the bank of the Seine. 
The first three films were love stories. 
The masters - Hitchcock, Bresson - they know what they are doing.
If you are not a storyteller, it's the usual chaos.
For each production, you need 2-3 key images, 2-3 key feelings.
In Paris, I mostly shoot by night.

SO MUCH MOVEMENT. At school, I was the youngest and the smallest. I did not know how to run. Porthos in The Three Musketeers: he forgot to tell his legs to run.

CLIP: Mauvais sang (1986). Juliette Binoche: in tears. Denis Lavant: magic tricks. Extreme close-up.
The muse. Actors look at you. We look at each other. At the time, there were very few women directors. 
Big cameras give a feeling of heaviness, gravity.
When the camera moved - it was God watching.
The lighter it gets, the more you need to reinforce the sense of God watching.

Magic tricks: it is all about trying to escape gravity.
I felt very old when young.
Légéreté. Tintin. I saw Juliette Binoche as Tintin. The playfulness.
The two marginals.
Cinema comes from the circus. Chaplin, the Marx Brothers.

PARIS. At 17 I came to Paris. I can't say I like Paris. It is more and more for the rich people.

CLIP: Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991). The marginalized, the extinguished, the maimed. The night shelter. 
A REAL SHELTER FOR THE POOR. I could not do this today. They should agree to be filmed. 
The film took three years to make.
The night shelter was shot on Super 16.
The producer said that the film cannot be released if it is in there.
The film was very expensive. We built a 1:1 replica of the Pont-Neuf in Montpellier.


SECOND CLIP FROM: Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991). A chase in the subway tunnels. Binoche in anti-glamour mode. The cellist in the tunnel. A gunshot into the peephole. Kodaly cello piece. 

REALITY AND IMAGINATION. That's where art comes in. Without it there would be no art.

SILENTS. When I came to Paris I visited the old Cinémathèque française. It was special to see silents with many people. There was no music at the time. It was really silent. I felt at home.

MUSICALS. I don't think much about genre. Guru Dutt. My fourth film I made with an original music score.

CLIP: Holy Motors (2012). Denis Lavant and Kylie Minogue. Expressionless. Singing in an empty department store. Pieces of mannequin dolls. Kylie Minogue sings "Who Were We?"
A: Samaritaine was the department store, now a luxury hotel.
Sanctuary for lost love.
Story of capitalism.
True in every big city.
THE FIRST THREE FILMS WERE OF YOUTH. Then, old age. We have all ages all the time. 

GODARD. Very important. When I started, he was the only person from the old guard alive - and still only half-way in his career. 
NB. Godard influence: C'est pas moi (2024).

INFLUENCES. I don't see many films. There are too many references. Fassbinder. Made 32 films, died at 36.


The discussion was in English. It would have been even better in French.

No comments: