"IT'S LIKE A KID PLAYING WITH THE IMAGES, TRYING TO INVENT & EXPAND ON THEM"
Several critics at Cannes last May mentioned Brian De Palma in their reviews of Knife + Heart. Yann Gonzalez, director of that film, discusses De Palma and more in an interview with Film Inquiry's Hazem Fahmy, which posted a couple of days ago:
I know you’ve mentioned that you’ve drawn a lot of influence from Argento and Brian de Palma. Any films in particular?
Yann Gonzalez: I saw Phantom of the Paradise again two weeks ago, and this is one of the films I [showed] to the actor who plays the killer, Jonathan Genet, who was the lead in the last Żuławski film, Cosmos. There’s something so childish in Phantom of the Paradise. It’s like a kid playing with the images, and trying to invent and expand on them at every moment in the film. And I loved it, so much. [It] brings together so many atmospheres; it’s a comedy, it’s a tragedy, it’s super goofy, it’s super stupid at some points, it’s a musical, it’s a horror film. It’s so many things at the same time, and it’s dealing with everything in such a brilliant way.
Brian de Palma is my favorite director ever, and maybe it’s not my favorite film of his because I think he made stronger films. For instance, every time I see Carrie or Obsession, I cry, and cry, and cry, for half an hour at least. But with Phantom of the Paradise, you have this guy, this is maybe his third or fourth important picture– I think he made maybe five or six pictures before, but this is really one of the first important pictures he made, and he’s still so young at heart. You can feel the vibration of youth, the joy of making cinema and the artifice of cinema all the time in that [film]. That can be very exhilarating.
I’m seeing all kinds of similarities now that I think about it. From the masked monster to the relationship between creativity and violence; how a beautiful thing can have a really dark past. You mentioned the joy of filmmaking, which I think is really present in the film–
Yann Gonzalez: Thank you!
Like the way the opening sequence was unfolding, as Lois was editing and the murder was happening, I just kept thinking to myself: “God, snapping film like that must be so satisfying.”
Yann Gonzalez: This is why I mostly still watch films from the Seventies or Eighties. I think we kind of lost this naivety of cinema; just opening yourself and trying to be as free as you can, and expressing your joy [in] making a film. It’s getting more and more rare that you can feel this joy in making a film. There are too many producers, too many people involved in the filmmaking process. I think you lose this childish aspect of making a film, which I think is super important.
Is there something you do on set, or in preparing with your actors, to maintain that sense of joy in making a film?
Yann Gonzalez: It has to be contagious. Of course, it’s the job of the filmmaker, but you must choose the right people to maintain this joy. And it’s very fragile because there’s lots of tension on the set; sometimes it’s really excruciating to go through one day of shooting. There are so many issues, so many problems all the time. I think I was really lucky because, 95% of the time I was surrounded by people who were really kids at heart. And especially Vanessa Paradis, she has this real innocence, and this kindness of a kid. She’d never acted like a star, she was part of the crew, and that’s all, expressing the same joy as the crew. It was really contagious. We were like a bunch of kids doing film.