Interview by Cyril Neyrat, English version of the Daily FID, June, 25, 2005.

Can you up your film–making career ?

I did my first experiments in Super 8 mm en the 1970s when still a student in Dijon. I became an incorrigible movie fanatic and saw everything I possibly could in Dijon, then went to festivals (Cannes, Valence, Digne, etc) to see films that never came to the capital city of Burgundy. One thing led to another and I found myself in charge of the university film club, able to program a good number of avant–garde films (Arrieta ? Garrel, Mekas, Warhol) and complete works (Akerman, Duras, Godard, Schroeter) that never made it to Dijon.
In 1975, I decided to make the big jump into a career as a film maker. I enrolled in the film section at Vincennes University but very soon I was working with the Collectif Jeune Cinéma and writing so much about film (in Cinéma, Cinéma Différent, Art Press, etc) that, due to lack of time, I never attended my film classes (curiously, I did sit in on some of Gilles Deleuze’s classes).
Late in 1976 I made my first short, Marilyn, Guy Lux et les nonnes, a « ditty » as Dominique Noguez called it, then a year later I made a first experimental feature film, very much after Duchamp, that won the special jury prize at Belfort : Urgent ou à quoi bon exécuter des projets puisque le projet est en lui–même une jouissance suffisante (Urgent or what’s the point in finishing a project since the project alone gives pleasure enough). On the 7th February 1978, I embarked on a cinematographic adventure that still isn’t finished : shooting a film with no end, Cinématon, an anthology of filmed portraits of arts people. At this time, I have 2,103 Cinématons — over 150 hours ! Then I made more portrait series ( Portrait de groupe, Couple, Lire, De ma chambre d’hôtel, etc), about fifteen in all (for a total — including Cinématons — of 3,500 portraits on film) and other feature films that have been screened at festivals in Cannes, Berlin or Venice ( Je meurs de soif, j’étouffe, je ne puis crier..., Aditya, Coeur bleu, Les Aventures d’Eddie Turley and 24 Passions, screened at the FID last year). Concurrently with my other films, I’ve also been shooting, since my early cinema days, a notebook on film entitled Les Carnets Filmés (each 1–2 hour episode covers about a year).

What is a documentary film, for you ?

When I make films that could — apparently — be qualified as either « documentary », « fiction », « fiction » or « experimental film », the film–makers from these different genres don’t recognize my work as belonging in these respective areas of expression. Critics, on the other hand, often say I’m unclassifiable. In fact, all my life as a film–maker has been spent trying to break down the barriers. I’ve always thought that the most innovative and singular film–makers are those who are beyond any classification. How can you qualify Depardon, Godard, Kramer, Lehman, Mekas, Morder, Moretti, Moullet, Tornes, Van der Keuken ? Are they « documentary » film makers or directors of « fictional » screen works ? It’s just movies, that’s all.

How do you see the situation of the documentary film in France ?

If I go the non–definition I just gave, it’s an excellent situation. I don’t know of any other film national film industry that can be proud of creating so many uncommon films.

How do you see your role as member of the jury ?

The jury’s job is a team effort. It’s like a football team. If they get personal, they go all over the place and might possibly sail right past the most interesting film. If we’re really together and capable of communicating with each other, we should be able to come up with the best film. You have to try to go in with no pre–conceived ideas (esthetic, ideological, cinematographical), and no preestablished rules. A movie should produce an emotional reaction. A technically perfect movie, if it’s cold, leaves me cold too, whereas I can really get off on a small low–budget film if the emotion it produces is strong and true. I want to be surprised by what I see. In the end. I think you have to be humble before each film, and especially, never put yourself in the judge’s seat. © 2007 – 2024 Gérard Courant. Tous droits réservés.