1. im posting two q&as from the playlist, both are worth it.
2. Some questions have minor plot spoils, but it is the last question of the 1st article that has a big spoiler (I think), even the q itself seems like one, I stopped reading the answer midway through.
Gaspar Noé Talks The Similarities Between 'Enter The Void,' & Avatar,' Crying Over James Cameron's Film & Working With 1/2 Of Daft Punk
Provocative French filmmaker and enfante terrible, Gaspar Noé has been terrorizing audiences with his controversial brand of cinema since 1998 when the savage and brutalizing "I Stand Alone" hit screens. The beautiful, yet excruciating "Irreversible" -- which featured one of the most notorious rape scenes in film ever -- followed, and his third feature-film, "Enter The Void," is a nightmarish and psychedelic experience that hits theaters this weekend in limited NY/L.A. release. While there's plenty of eroticism and relentless single-takes -- cinematic Noe staples -- is utterly unconventional, with the entirety of the film shot from the protagonists' point of view.
For those unfamiliar with this ambitious DMT drug-trip it follows young dealer Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), recently reunited with sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta, 'famous' for being naked in "Limits of Control") in Tokyo. After being killed in a night club bathroom, director Gaspar Noe ("Irreversible," "I Stand Alone") explores the past relationship between brother and sister, the tragic fate of their parents and subsequent separation, and a dream/drug-like alternate reality via the spirit of recently deceased Oscar.
Brilliantly inventive or an impossible headache? Two reviews from our men on the field were mixed on it, with our TIFF reviewer calling it a "trainwreck of a trainwreck" and our SXSW reporter stating that it's "absolutely mesmerizing trip that will burn itself into your psyche unlike anything else." While it's true that some elements just plain don't work, it's without a doubt an immersive visual experience, mostly exhilarating though admittedly quite juvenile at times. We sat down with the auteur recently -- after delayed interview where the director probably flaked on us to hang out with Benicio Del Toro -- and he was kind enough to give an extensive interview to not only talk about his film, but to also delve into Hollywood, his lack of Tinseltown ambitions and, in particular,James Cameron.
The Playlist: What drove you to making this film or coming up with the story?
Gaspar Noe: I wanted to do my own "2001 A Space Odyssey," like James Cameron did "The Abyss." There are lots of movies -- Wwat's the name of this other guy who did the movie "Sunshine"... the director who did "Trainspotting?" I think "2001 A Space Odyssey" influenced so many directors. In my case, I'd say when I was 7 years old it was like, my first drug trip ever. I remember coming out from the movie and I felt I was stoned for the first time in my life. That's also the movie that drove me to study cinema many years later, and when I started studying cinema, I was 17 and I was like most teenagers, smoking joints, trying a trip of LSD or mushrooms, and when you do those things you notice that all the movies that will present altered states of consciousness were quite bad or not accurate when it comes to the creation of those sensations, thoughts and visions you had when you were there. At that time I was watching movies like "Eraserhead" and Ken Russel's "Altered States," and I thought that it would be good to do, one day, a movie, a scene from the eyes of the main character, a POV, that would follow the main character through his hallucination.
Then you use that idea to explore a sort of afterlife or drug-induced limbo.
Yes, I was reading this book about life after death or also that you become above the death that tells you the trip of the souls, and afterlife, until you get reincarnated, all of that. and then I made a mix of all of those ideas, and I started developing a script. In the beginning it was a short film then it became a medium length movie then it became a feature a film, and I did rewriting over the years. In the mean time I was in other movies, but this was the project that I had in mind since I was 17. So I said, let's make a movie out of all these different ideas, death, reincarnation, drugs, the science of death, tunnels, and it took me a long time to write it, it took me a long time to find the money for it, it took me a long time to find the right people to do this sort of thing [ed. note, it was almost eight years between "Irreversible" and "Enter The Void"].
Were you trying to challenge audiences with the unusual structure?
(Laughs) The audience, they are much more playful than years ago, because when you see "The Matrix," the natural structure is really complex, when you see "21 Grams," the natural structure is very complex, when you see "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," . it's complex. There's more and more movies where -- even "Inception," for my taste has too much talk, but all these movies have very complex structures, even "Memento" had an [strange] structure, very complex. I just wanted to play with the audience like when the directors playing with my brain when I'd see a movie, like when I saw "Videodrome" I was so puzzled because I couldn't tell when the guy turned really crazy and there was another reality than the reality that the main character was going through. But the idea is not to challenge someone else, but to create a world that you haven't seen before or that is a mixed of different worlds that you have seen before but have never seen in one particular way, and then set the story inside that world.
You mentioned "Inception." What did you think of that?
I liked the structure of the movie, I would just say that many moments -- this is also something that I think about my own movies in many moments -- you have too much dialogue. Compared to my movies, they don't have as many dialogues as "Inception," but most dreams are silence, they're not talkative, and I would say too much dialogue killed the dream effect of the movie. But I liked the different layers, the different levels of reality, I would say I'm more into structures like the one of "Videodrome," that are synched-up but at the same time, they are treated in the way that you don't see one shift from one dimension to the other one.
I noticed there was two different cuts of the movie, the director's cut and the theatrical cut.
There was the original cut that was release all over Europe, and then because I had signed a contract saying that the movie could be, that it had to do with different cuts, the movie went over 2 hours and 20 minutes, just for England and the United States, I managed to re-edit the negative reels, in a way that you could pull out the reel #7 out of 9 and show it, and you don't notice that anything is missing. But I guess on DVD they're gonna put both, or maybe... for example, in England, they'll be showing both. Most of the time, they'll be showing the shorter version but during the weekend they'll be playing the longer version.
What's missing in the shorter version?
The 17 minutes that are missing, that reel doesn't contain anything violent or too sexual or controversial. It's mainly a reel in which the main character dreams that he wakes up in the morning and he's like a zombie, and after awhile he understands that he's just dreaming that he's waking up and that he's just dead. I recognize both versions, but I'd say maybe it's going to be easier to start with the shorter one in the States. But I think that also the movie is so trippy, because I added so many effects, like out of focus effects, etc. that for some people the movie's already too experimental.
In "Irreversible" you had a character from your previous in film, does that happen in "Enter The Void"? What drove you to connect these movies?
No, at a point I was willing to put Philippe Nahon (The Butcher from "I Stand Alone" and "Irreversible") in this movie but I couldn't find how to put him in, but I wrote in at one point to put a poster of Monica Bellucci -- a perfume poster with Monica Bellucci on a board in front of the apartment at the beginning of the movie and then I said it was like, a private joke. You can still see the small "Irreversible" poster inside his room, but there's no real connection.
Have you had any bizarre Hollywood offers?
I had a few, but it was as I was working on "Enter the Void," but I didn't consider them seriously. The problem that I have is that, for example, coming from France and the way of working is quite different. The guilds are not as powerful, and also after having shot in Japan where people work 14 hours a day and 6 days a week, many people to me, they'd never get used to it. I'm used to, personally, working 14 hours a day.
You have no Hollywood ambitions, no major thing you would want to do in the system?
You can do a Hollywood movie shot elsewhere, better. I would say, it's not a dream to do Hollywood movies, maybe there are some cases you need to go through Hollywood to do big budget movies, but I would see myself doing more of a career-like Lars Von Trier, if possible, where he can control his movies, work in his own countries, whether they're English with American actors or not. I don't know, it all depends on what is offered to me. If one day I get a script that really talks to me, maybe I'll say yes. For the moment, all I know is that I want to do an erotic movie that will please myself.
How did you get involved with Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk?
At the time, when I was doing "Irreversible," I needed some pre-existing music for a party scene, so I met Thomas. To get the rights for Daft Punk was going to be very expensive, we were not able to pay what they asked, because the rights belong to the record company. But he had some other music that he had done personally on his own label, so we used that music. Once I was editing "Irreversible" I proposed him to do the music of the film. In the case of ("Enter the Void") I proposed him to do the music but he could not do it because he was already working on the music for "Tron Legacy," the one that's coming out soon. He said," I will not do the music, but if you want, I can do lots of sound effects for you," and then you mix and match what you want. So what happened, is that he would work for a few days creating sounds, and then he gave the sounds to me and I mixed it in with pre-existing experimental music from other people, I also added some music that we bought from different bands. But he did not technically do the soundtrack, although he did a great job and now we have all these strange sounds that appear in the movie. And besides being a great musician and a great person, he's also a great director, I don't know if you've seen his movie "Electroma."
Why did the film take place in Tokyo rather than a different city?
Because I had been there many times, and it's a very very pretty city. The first time you get there, even if you're sober, you feel that you're stoned because the people don't speak your language they barely speak English, for example. The whole culture is so different, blinking lights all over, it's very colorful, it's very speedy. So then the point was to convince the French financiers and producers that we could shoot in Tokyo and that it was not risky. Which actually was false, it was risky to shoot in Tokyo. And also, sometimes the neon lights in Tokyo, for example the main character in the movie smokes DMT, and DMT creates hallucinations that are made of very bright lights on a black background, a little bit like the paintings that the Mexican painters who do peyote do. So I was collecting images as references for what I wanted the movie to look like, and many of these references were coming from photos from Las Vegas or Hong Kong or Tokyo with just neon lights.
What did you think of "Avatar"?
I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it a lot. I cried twice or three times during the movie. Some moments were really trippy, when they get into that kind of forest with glow on the trees and I think the first time I had a 3D experience that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed it even more watching it in France in a regular theater with the glasses than I enjoyed it in New York on the bigger screen. The glasses were not made by Dolby and they were not as perfect.
Do you feel any connection to that movie, maybe similarities with "Enter The Void" and "Avatar"?
Yes, both movies tried to recreate a joint world, I don't know,you can also put it in the same basket like "Wizard of Oz" or so many other movies -- but they came out almost at the same time and I know that many people were complaining they were full of visual effects, both one and the other, but I would say mine is more for not a major audience but more for an audience for 18-25 and maybe "Avatar" is for younger audiences. But he did a great job. Cameron is really ambitious, he wants to make movies bigger and bigger every time.
Before the screening in New York at the Walter Reade in August, you told the audience to pay particular attention to the woman last scene. Are you nervous that audiences will miss your intentions?
Yes, because you see the face of the mother and not the face of the sister. That means that he's not reincarnating inside of his sister, but he's just either getting back into the loop and he's going to start his life again or that he's just dreaming of his only birth. In the shot you can not tell if it's the mother or the sister, but I thought if I had put the sister at the end then I was promoting the concept of reincarnation, and by putting the face of the mother out of focus you can have a talk about that but at the same time, the dream is a dream and when the dream is over the dream is over.
Gaspar Noé Talks Digital Filmmaking, Stanley Kubrick, Wanting To Work With Kristen Stewart & The "Sentimental, Erotic" Film He Wants To Make Next
When we said we had an extensive interview with film-maker Gaspar Noe, we weren't pulling your chain. Here is part two of our conversation with the director (part one here) in which the provocateur goes more in-depth on the influences and pre-production for "Enter the Void," as well as his thoughts on digital film-making and his admiration for "Twilight" actress Kristin Stewart. For those still on the fence or in the dark, check out the epileptic and titillating trailer here.
Can you talk more about how Kubrick inspires you and how that affects the way you direct movies?
I'm not so obsessed in his way of doing movies. I think I'm more of a party guy, drinking every night. But he was a very serious man, very focused on his work, very focused on his family. For me, the fact that he could've done "2001: A Space Odyssey" at that time, as perfect as it is, is one of the wonders of the universe. I wish I could have his talent, I know that I don't have it, but still as I direct I try to follow his path. I'm only obsessed with that particular movie, then besides "2001 A Space Odyssey" my other references for ["Enter The Void"] were more... "The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" by Kenneth Anger, or "Videodrome" by David Cronenberg. I'm not so obsessed with directors, personally, I'm more obsessed with movies, particular movies that I can watch over and over. Like I love Buñuel, I read about his life but mostly what I like is watching "Un Chien Andalou" over and over. It's like asking a mother to reread the same story every night.
Was there any reason you centered "Enter The Void" loosely around the Tibetan Book of the Dead? What drew you to that?
I don't know who recommended me to read the "Tibetan Book of Death", I read first another book that had a whole chapter, 30 pages, it would sum up what the "Tibetan Book of Death" was, and I said, "Oh great, this seems like a good structure for my new project." Then I read the real one, it's very practical, but very abstract... I think I've read it maybe twice in my life, but I took notes last time I read, and managed to pull the structure from that book. But I don't believe in reincarnation myself.
Do you think you would ever do something this grand again, or are you strictly going smaller?
I don't know, the thing is the more money you get to do the movie, the more pressure you have to make it commercially successful and help the people who financed your movie to get it back. So I guess to do a good movie most people would need time and the freedom. It's not so much about money, but there are big movies that you can only do with lots of money, with big crews with big techniques, and this movie needed that. For the next project, I want to go for something small because also, the bigger the movie is, the more it takes for you to start it, to shoot it, and to complete it, and I don't see myself into another 4 years working on the same project every day. Not right now.
We heard your next film is small scale, about the joys of relationships and sex. Can you talk more about that?
At the moment I cannot say what my next movie's gonna be and when I'm gonna start it. But I've been carrying for many years a very sentimental, erotic movie that I want to do, so if everything happens as I wish, I will start with that one next.
How do you feel about 3D?
Now there's so many TV channels that are going to start showing 3D that I was told that if I were to make it in 3D, it was be easier to finance it. But, I haven't tested the 3D cameras yet, there's a new Panasonic that is very simple to use but also you cannot make real close ups or you cannot see things from far without losing the 3D effects, so maybe these cameras have some secondary effects that will change how you write the movie. For example, if you make a movie with lots of nudity and the people you are using are not too much used to be filmed especially naked, you'd rather have a very small crew and the problem with 3D camera is maybe, to have proper 3D, you need 2-3 camera systems on the set.
Why was this film specifically in English rather than French?
Because English is a universal language and since the beginning I knew that the movie had to be seen through the eyes of the main character or through his mind, so if it's in English you can have a wider audience that can see the movie without subtitles. Unfortunately, for example, in France, they've only released it English with French subtitles and the subtitles kill the dream mood of the movie. Hopefully on the DVD we're gonna have the French dub version, for example in Germany they're releasing it with dubbing to German. I'm happy that people see it without subtitles, because all of the best films that are better in English, the subtitles kill the movie.
Was the film, for you, ever too overwhelming, given the scope?
I was surrounded by the right people. When we started this movie, it was like pushing a mountain. But there was no accidents, I had a great producer in Japan, I had a great financier from France, I had a great producer from France, I had the best person I could dream of to do all the sets and also co-produce the movie. The movie was potentially very risky, if we had any problems, maybe the insurance wouldn't cover it maybe the movie would've been unfinished forever. I guess from the moment I went into the editing room with all the material, I felt like the film was all ready. But then I spent a year and a half, two years doing the post production, visual effects, the soundtrack, etc. A very long process. Time consuming, but also energy consuming because you spend 4 years working every day on the same movie and not taking holidays at the end just knowing that you hate the movie but you just want to get somewhere else.
Could you talk a little bit about the casting process for this film?
I found Paz (Paz de la Huerta) before I found the other actors, I really liked her since the first day I saw her. But for me, the thing was to find a brother that could have some resemblance to her who could be a good actor and also who would not be a professional actor who would have narcissistic issues with the movie that would be induced by that you never see the main character's face and that the all the scenes are shot from the back of his neck. So to avoid having problems with a professional actor for the part of Oscar, I decided to have someone who was not an actor at all, who would be confident in front of the camera, although we mostly hear his voice and see his shoulders, and I met Nathan (Nathaniel Brown) and I thought he was perfect for the movie and he was really happy to be in the movie. I never had any kind of problem with him. When it comes to the other characters in the movie, most of them, besides the kid who plays Victor (Olly Alexander) and the woman who plays his mother, all the other characters are people who have never acted or were just working as critics or in the same industry as directors, or the guy who played Alex (Cyril Roy) was just a bartender who lost his job and was living in Tokyo. I like taking people for what they are, but it all depends on what is in the script. If you have scenes with a character screaming, crying, etc. you'd better get a professional actor like Paz who can do that on demand. But for characters like the one of Alex, it was maybe even easier to pick up someone who was not an actor, because he needs to run, to make jokes, etc. etc. I needed someone with karma rather than with skills.
How close did you stick to the script?
The script was very long. When we shot "Irreversible," the script was three pages long. In the case of this one, it was like 120 pages and contained over 200 scenes. You couldn't edit most scenes out because then you cannot understand story, which means it was overwritten. It's easier if you start the shooting of a feature with a shorter script because then you can add or improvise additional scenes that make sense. We improvised dialogue, all the written dialogue in the script, I would always tell Paz or Cyril or Nathan to use their own words to change whatever they felt like changing.
How do you feel about the advent of digital film making?
In some ways it's good that you see the footage immediately, as it makes you feel safer on set. For the moment, I prefer the colors and the grain of negative film stock, but I'm sure in one year, two year, three years, the HD cameras will be able to get exactly the grain and the contrast of the negative film stock. Movies shot with the Canon photo camera MK2, and I saw documentaries that were amazing. So I'm gonna buy one, I don't know what I'm going to use it for but I'm going to buy one of those digital photo cameras that you can use to shoot a feature.
Have you seen "Che?" That was shot HD, with the Red camera.
Yes, I liked it. But Red is kind of a big camera. If I were to shoot on HD, I would rather go for a smaller camera because I do the camera work myself, and I like having a light camera. Like, for example, this movie was shot on Super 16 and the cameras were kind of light.
How do you feel about the ability to watch movies on a cell phone, on an Ipod?
From time to time I like watching movies on my portable computer, but I'd never watch a whole feature on cell phone. When you're taking a train or taking a plane, it's great to have a small computer so you can decide which movie you watch. Cell phones are maybe too small. I like the regular TV sets that remind me of my own childhood.
I couldn't help but notice Benicio del Toro at the screening in New York at the Walter Reade. Do you see him as a potential collaborator?
He liked my first feature very much, "I Stand Alone," we met, he was dating a French actress at the time that I knew so she said "Oh if you want to meet him..." so I met him and we always hang out if we're here in New York, Cannes, or elsewhere.. I hope one day we'll do something together.
Do you have any American actors you'd want to work with?
I guess just the ones who are my friends. The last one I saw was really pretty... what was her name... Kristen Stewart, the one who was in "Twilight." She has such an expressive face.
hey P, i bet you loved his answer about kubrick, and stefen hates the very last one.