CÉLINE SCIAMMA Screen Talk with Tricia Tuttle | BFI London Film Festival 2019

CÉLINE SCIAMMA Screen Talk with Tricia Tuttle | BFI London Film Festival 2019


– I’m Tricia Tuttle, I’m Festival Director and it’s such a pleasure to be here today, to have a conversation
with Céline Sciamma. Full disclosure, Céline is
my favourite film maker, so if I go fan-girl on you guys, I know you’ll understand,
’cause I think there are probably other people
who are in the same position. Céline impossibly just
seems to be getting better and better exponentially with every film. It’s been a pleasure for the festival to screen her work, from
“Water Lilies,” “Tomboy,” “Girlhood,” “Girlhood,” as I
know half of you in the room would make your top 10, and
now she’s made another film which is part of my eternal top 10. You know, it’s really, really
wonderful to have her here. Please put your hands together
to welcome Céline Sciamma. (audience applaud) Don’t fall off the front of the stage. That would be a terrible
way for us to start, yeah. – We’ll that would be on YouTube, so. (laughing) – So we’re gonna have a chat
for about half the time, watch some clips, revisit your work, and then open to the
audience for questions. I want to go in early days for you. You studied literature. You were a big reader as a kid. At what stage did you start to think, film was gonna be for you? – Well, I decided to
put cinema at the centre of my life when I was 12/13. There’s been culture
of cinema in my family, we were watching films, we
were going to the theatre. And I had like a grandmother, I still have my grandmother, actually. She’s in the room, hey. No, she’s 95, she couldn’t make it. But she actually introduced
me to the musicals. Fred Astaire, and all the
American comedy, Cary Grant, and so the classics. So I had that culture, but at some point, I decided to put cinema
at the centre of my life, just go to the cinema,
when I was 13 years old, basically going through the
biggest crisis of our lives, you know, teenage-hood. And all my life was designed around going to the cinema, like earning
money to buy tickets, and I was going to the
cinema three times a week. I was a loner. As you can tell. Felt quite less lonely
in the theatre rooms. And I was lucky enough to
have a art house Theatre in my city, with great programations, so I was just going to see
everything they programmed. But, still at that time, I thought, I remember writing in my diaries, that you know, I really
wanted to do cinema, but I was like, “Am I gonna
have to be an actress?” You know, ’cause very few
role models at the time. And I thought, “Hmm, I don’t
think I look good enough. “And I’m not sure I
want to do this anyway, “being an actress.” So it took me time to actually
feel legitimate to make films and it actually took me to
getting to National Film School to get that legitimacy. So I studied literature for four years, began to take cinema class in university, like just one cinema class. Analytics, analysing films, and then yeah, decided to do more studies. So I studied, you know,
I could be an astronaut, but I’m a film maker. And went to National Film School, yeah. – Can I take you back to
that sort of 13 year old film goer and–
– Please don’t. (laughing) No, no, no, go, go. – So when you went to the cinema, you had an art house
cinema which is amazing. So you probably had a really wide range of films you were seeing. Can you remember a film
that really struck you to the core, as a person? – The first time actually
I felt really like, okay, this is gonna be my life, was when I saw “Blue” by Kieslowski. It was really big at the time,
and he had made this trilogy called “Blue, White and Red.” And also the protocol of that, of expecting a film from a director, that was the first time. It was very, yeah, that was
the first kind of shock. And I think that was the
first time that I actually went to the cinema by myself,
so it’s pretty linked. But you know, it’s like
that, it’s not only about the films, it’s about also the experience of going to the film, it’s
about me taking my bike, it’s raining, the cinema is in my town, but it’s like eight kilometres away. And you go into the theatre by yourself, and you pretty much, it felt
like the first time I could actually make a decision for
myself, you know, in a way. And I got out and it was raining, and I had this blue raincoat. And I remember, like the
discontagion between the film and life also, because it’s also that. You know, it’s not only
about finding shelter, or refuge in the theatre room. It’s how then definitely it’s
contagious to your own life. So that was an important
moment, and also the first time that I went into an art
house theatre in Paris, because I live 30 kilometres from Paris, which is like close. It’s really not the same. I went to Paris like two times a year to the museum, you know? And the first time that I went by myself to this you know, in the Latin quarter, in those kind of theatres
that made me dream. And I went to see David Lynch, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” I hadn’t seen the series,
so you know, it was. (laughing) But it was a good starting point, because I didn’t get much of it, because I didn’t know
her Father raped her, sorry for the spoiler. But I got out of the room and
the atmosphere had changed. And this is something
I like to talk about, because it’s not only about,
yeah, this mental place. It’s about how it’s
also a (speaks French). I don’t know how you say that in English. – Who speaks French? – (speaking French) – [Both] A way of life. – Yeah, and yep, yeah. – We’re gonna watch a
clip from “Water Lilies.” – Okay. – So could we see the clip please? (audience applaud) Have you seen that in a while? – No, and it’s really
weird, because, I mean, the film is only in
35, it’s 35 milometers, there’s no digital version, I
mean, there’s DVD and stuff, but it can’t be shown
otherwise than in 35. So I get very few occasions
of actually seeing it. I can watch it on YouTube,
but (clears throat). And it feels really weird
seeing this actually. – So the French title
is “Birth of Octopus.” – Yep. – You may not want to reflect
on your work like this, but I was just curious
about where that came from. – Well, it’s kind of the
first sign that I had a title before I had anything else, actually. And then, in the process
of making the film, and even when we were selected
in Cannes with the film, we changed the title, it was
then called, “The Octopuses.” And then I decided to be
brave and to actually, because everybody said, “That’s
a very complicated title.” It is. It came from this idea that
the first time you fall in love is also the rise of jealousy, and that it feels like
there’s octopus in your belly, just with this black ink, you know, like desire, but also like the negative, black juice, I don’t know. And, it was also more aquatic. But it was even mysterious to me, then you know, in post, (speaking French). I don’t know how,
(speaking French) you know. It refers to jealousy as an octopus, and also Violette Leduc
is this very, very bright and not famous enough French writer, who had this relationship
with Simone de Beauvoir, she refers to, I reread one of
the books like two weeks ago and she refers to jealousy
and desire as an octopus. And so this is kind of, I
mean, a common imaginary, and maybe a more feminine, female one. – And, I love this scene as well too, ’cause it’s the first time
that we can see you exploring the formative nature
of gender as well too. I mean, was that very early on, something you were fascinated
by as a screenwriter? – Yeah, it seems like it. The thing is, (clears
throat) this is really, it’s always really striking,
because I was not very, I was political already,
but I wasn’t deconstructed. So it was all kind of
an intuition, you know? And I think that’s why
the movie’s so radical. I wouldn’t do it this way today. I wouldn’t put the razor and think like, “Okay, is that what you’re
gonna tell your husband?” But at the time, I was candid enough to actually not be scared
of being so radical. I think this is the most
radical film I’ve done. And at the time, I didn’t want
to be disturbing, you know? So that’s why it’s always
fun when people ask me, “How do you do film on gays?” I’m like, you know, it’s
not like you have to scratch your head, like for hours thinking, “How am I not going to objectify women?” It’s not that difficult. (laughing) If I could do it at 26
years old, you know, just being, yeah, candid and
just wanting to say what I felt and what I felt as a girl, and you know, talk about that pressure of performing. And the movie was all about
that performance in a way, because it was about
what’s on the outside, and what is underwater,
and you see these women, you know, synchronised
swimming in the only sport that is exclusively female. And so it tells a lot. And it’s the only sport
where you have to hide that fact that you, it
has to be effortless. And you have to wear makeup and smile, and underneath it’s
such an athletic thing. When I went to a synchronised
swimming competition, and I could see girls, like
getting out of the water, being like “Hey,” and
then like throwing up next to the pool, and
where we were shooting, they couldn’t do it much. It was like, “Okay, this is
a two time thing, like max.” Because it is so athletic. And you have to hide the
fact that it’s athletic. So it’s really a sport
that tells a lot about what’s the performance
of being a woman is. – And it’s also a film, I think, I’ve read you talk about the
fact that you were responding or effecting on sort of American
teen films as well, too. Were these films you
watched as a teenager? – Well it’s all, I mean it’s, that’s part of our culture,
and in France we have a very strong culture of coming of age film, but it’s mostly about
teenagers dealing with society, with their parents, you
know, (speaking French), you know, discovering life,
that she has to put up with a fella all the time, you
know, that’s basically. Whereas the American
tradition is much more about teenage world as a world. As a bubble. And there’s also a
strong hierarchy in that, it’s not that they’re free
to do whatever they want, there’s a strong archetype
hierarchy about the you know, the cheerleader, the chubby
friend, and you know, the awkward child-like, – (mumbles)
– Yeah. So I wanted to get rid of the adults. Also, at the time, no male character. There’s a guy, but he’s not really like, we don’t know what he’s going through. We’re not sharing his experience. And so it was already pretty much settled, like the rest.
– Yeah. And this bubble, it
reoccurs lots in your work. I mean, you sort of create
these hermetically sealed in some ways, universes. What is it about those
spaces that you’re interested in as a writer? – Well, I think it’s mostly
because it’s female driven and if you want to share the
intimacy of women character, female character, you have
to share their loneliness. Otherwise, you know, they have to put up with the performance. Cinema is really I think the only art where you can share somebody’s
loneliness in space and time and there’s no, I mean,
literature you could say, but there’s often a narrator. And that’s why it’s a bubble, because otherwise, you’re not gonna share the experience as much. Yep. – Can we watch a clip from
“Tomboy” as well, too? – Of course. But I hate that film. (laughing) No, no. (audience applaud) – Such a beautiful film. You’re again, having this
almost exclusively world of young people, this time with children. How conscious, I mean, your
films also inspire this personal response, I’ve sort of
seen it happen every time we’ve screened a film, they
sort of touch deep places. What was the reaction when you showed this film to audiences? Did you get that kind of outpouring? – Yeah, a lot. I think it’s, I mean, this
is the film that has had, I think that this is my
film that is the most loved, that’s why I’m making jokes
about the fact that I don’t have to love it that much, you know? It’s just, it’s living its life, (laughing) it’s like, no, it’s like a hit you know? I think Madonna is not
gonna say “Like A Virgin” is my favourite song. She will have like this B side thing. (laughing) I’m no Madonna of course, but. (laughing) Yeah, the thing that was super
overwhelming with this film is that different generation,
and even like women you know, in their 80’s
would come and say, “This is my childhood.” And that kind of intemperal
we were looking for. And it’s the case with
all the coming of age films that I’ve made. I’m not trying to go with the documentary side of what’s youth
today, because you know, when you’re portraying youth,
it’s always a little bit about contemporary, about
today, about documenting, because also you’re
working with non-actors, so they’re gonna give you
this very present feeling. But it’s also, it’s kind of mythological. Especially with “Tomboy,” I really wanted to make it timeless. “Water Lilies” also, even
like the costume design, which I do the costume design on my film. I mean, I do the shopping. (laughing) They’re not branded, you don’t
know when it’s happening, and with “Tomboy” I really
wanted that timeless feeling, so that everybody could connect and so women with their
childhood in the ’50’s, or in the ’40’s, they were telling me, “I connect to this,
because I had no right, “I didn’t have the right to put on pants.” And then also there will
be, and people who are more gender fluid today, they
will connect to this in a different way. And I always try to make films
where there’s room for you. And that’s getting more
and more a process for me, like (speaking French) is really designed, like thinking about the fact
that there should be room for your own love stories. And “Tomboy” was designed
that there should be room for your own childhood,
and even regarding, this is also my film,
maybe that’s why it’s my biggest success, even
regarding Box Office. Because the male audience
really connected also to the film, because
well, it’s kind of a male character also, and
they would tell me about the performance of being a boy. So that was really like, the
things that I think created, the film that created
such a strong community. – And, so Zoe, who you
cast as Mickael is really, really wonderful, it’s
such a great performance, and I think she’s gone
on to do a lot more. And obviously, it was 2011,
2019 we’ve sort of moved on a lot about characters who
are non-binary, transgender. Would you cast the film
in the same way again if you were making the
film now, do you think? – I think so. I think so, I think
the film kind of opened the way and we were kind
of avant garde at the time. I think it’s still the case
with the last one I guess. – How did you find Zoe? – I found her in a very non-romantic way. Because we went into first agencies. I didn’t want that at first. I didn’t work with kids
that were in agencies, because you know, they’ve
been doing commercials, and sometimes they can
be, I don’t know, like, (laughing) weirdly professional.
– Polished. – But there was this little
girl that had no castings because she wasn’t totally, you know. They’re looking for very,
very feminine child. And so she hadn’t done much
because she was different. So, we said, “Okay, we have to see her,” and that was the first child that I met, and I said, “Okay, this
is the end of casting.” (laughing)
– Amazing. – But she had very long hair. We cut her hair. So that was like the easiest casting. You know, it’s always,
but I find this always kind of mythology around
casting a little bit disturbing. It’s always like, you have to like, you know, “We saw hundreds of children, “to find the right pearl,”
and I think this is not right. I think, you know, it’s all about the work you’re gonna have to do after. It’s not about meeting this
perfect thing coming from the you know, and it’s
mostly about the relationship you’re gonna build and so I think, yeah, I would cast it the same,
because it was about also the meeting between this kid and I. – Great, and this, after
“Tomboy” did you know you wanted to make another film at that stage, about young people,
another coming of age film? Were they conceived– – No. – They’re talked about
sometimes as a sort of trilogy, a coming of age trilogy. – No, in the retrospective look, it was also to end the process, so that it should be a trilogy. But maybe I’ll do my Phantom Menace. (laughing) But no, I never know
what I’m gonna do next when I make a film. And you know, in between
“Water Lilies” and “Tomboy” I didn’t even know if I
wanted to make another film, another feature, not
because I didn’t enjoy it, I enjoyed it really much, but I was like, you have to have the urge. You can’t plan it. And that’s also why I do
my job as a screenwriter, it’s also not to have to
make movie to make a living. And I can earn, you
know, I can earn my life in different processes. Not being cynical of course, I’m always picking the things
I wanna do really carefully, because you know, it’s also a way of life. But not having to do a film as a director, helps you actually take your
time and think it through. – So we’re stepping out of
chronology, but you’ve talked about writing, so it seems
like a really great time to talk about writing for, thank you. (laughing) So, talking, talk about,
do you approach writing in the same way if you’re
writing for yourself to direct, or you’re writing
a script for someone else? – That’s not at all the same,
and it’s super different regarding the directors
you’re working with. Like for instance when I
worked with Andre Techine, we’re really working together at the table for hours, designing the film. And then I take what we did
and I wrote the whole script. But it’s like every day
meeting and talking. For “My Life As A Courgette,” I don’t know if it’s
courgette or zucchini here. – Courgette.
– It’s courgette. You people have taste. (laughing) I had the first version of the script, and I had the book, and I just did it, by you know, not even, I met
the director once, like hi, and then, you’re gonna trust me with this, and then I did it, and
then he made the film, and then basically we
met after, I can say. So it’s really different. But the same thing is that
it’s not that I’m never forgetting that I’m a
director when I write for other directors. It’s because I have ambition
for them directing the film. I’m not like, oh it’s all
about the story for me. So, like for instance, for Andre Techine, has been part of my personal mythology. I wanted to look at him
as a young director, I looked at him as a young director, like it would be his first time. And had ambition for him like, regarding the fact that
he wanted to make a film about youth, and so you
always have that in mind. And I’m also, it’s about the
crafting of the story telling and the script, but it’s also about like, what do you want to film, you know? And he was like, “I want to
film, I really want to film “nature, of this part of France,” and I was like, “Okay, so we
have to find a way for you “now to do like structure of nature.” I mean it has to be, so I’m
also asking a lot of them about their directing ambitions, so that I can put it in the story telling. – And so, but with
Claude, with “Courgette,” you didn’t have that process with him. – Well, it’s animated film,
so it’s quite different, and I was also quite ignorant, actually. When I saw the film, like
four years after writing it, because it’s such a
long process of making, I was like, “Oh, they respect the script,” like, this is because life
is not gonna go through this, it’s not gonna be about the
process of casting and editing, it’s not at all the same. And I was scared
retrospectively, like, wow. You have such a strong
responsibility writing a script for an animated film,
because it’s gonna be like exactly.
– It’s the blueprint. – What you wrote. But you know, sometimes it
happens that you don’t have to I mean, he trusted me with this, and of course if the
script hadn’t pleased him, we would have been working a lot together. But it’s sometimes
magic happens, you know? – I wanna show the opening
scene of this film, which is so beautiful. “Courgette” please. (laughing) (audience applaud) It’s so sad and beautiful,
and I think one of the few films that you can watch with children, which actually allows them
to explore dark places. Was that one of the things
you were interested in? – Yes, of course. You can’t make a better
choice than this scene. Because it’s the opening
scene and it was the scene that took me, I mean, I
didn’t write the script before finding what was
the opening of this film, because in the book, there’s a book, he actually shot his Mother with a gun. So it’s a totally different thing. And, I really wanted to
find a way to tell about alcoholism, and this mother,
and the fact that you know, you have to make an opening sequence with a kid killing his
Mother, who’s an alcoholic, and how are you gonna,
and you’re thinking about a very young audience. Because we were thinking
it has to be, you know, we were saying eight, I
was thinking six years old. And, they came to me after “Tomboy” because you know, they felt
I was taking childhood’s character seriously, so
with their dark places, and childhood being a dark place. This is not the children of the dark side, it’s just that childhood
is like a complex, very, also dark moments in life. And so I just thought about this sequence for like days and days, and then finding this idea
of the beer can structure. And then when that was found,
I just wrote the script like in like very few days. Just like this was the starting point, and then once we had
this, we can unroll it. But I’m not answering your question. – No, no, it’s really
interesting because I think it is something where, I
watched it with my son, and he really was moved by it,
and it allowed him to explore things that are quite scary to explore. – Yeah, and the fact that
you should always take your character seriously,
and it’s children, so you should take them seriously. But also, children as an audience, you should take them very, very seriously. Because you know, I grew
up in a time where there were all the Amblin productions,
Spielberg and everything, the ’80’s, so we had a lot
of children characters. But, you know, flesh and blood. “The Goonies” blah, blah, blah. Macaulay Culkin, all
these alcohol childhood actor, you know? (laughing) But now, you know they have
like, a Panda doing kung fu, but 3D characters, you know,
no children which you can actually relate to. And of course, this is animated, but we wanted to make
characters that were yeah, we’re taking children seriously, as our characters and as an audience. – Yeah. And so moving back to work that
you’ve written and directed for yourself, can we
talk about “Girlhood,” because this feels like it’s, I mean, it’s obviously we’ve talked about it being coming of age film, but
it’s formally a huge change from your previous work. It’s very precise, very structured. Was that a very conscious
decision that you wanted to make something that was formally very different from the previous two films? – Yeah. And more wide, and more– – And with scope? – Cinema scope for the first time, and I think the last I didn’t
enjoy that much actually. And it’s really weird because
there’s this kind of feeling that if you know, if it’s
cinema scope, then it’s cinema. And people are using cinema
scope like all the time, I can’t understand why, it
is so difficult actually, because you, I wanted cinema
scope, not to have this urban, western you know,
like everybody says, this is always western cinema scope. It was really because
I had four characters, and I wanted to put them
all in the same frame. But it’s really, really
difficult when you’re looking at just one person with cinema scope. Because the close ups
are gonna be super close, and even the, you’re kind of lost in, I’m a 185 person I think. But I enjoy doing it obviously. And yeah, it was very, it
was quite a mental film, with different episodes, also
thinking about a TV series, and it’s like, it’s like
five times 26 minutes. It was, yeah, there was a
lot of intellectual structure behind the film. – Yeah. And let’s watch a clip and
then we can talk about it. So the clip we’re gonna
watch in one second is, I’m sorry, this is where I go fan girl, because I think we all
would love to see this on the big screen, it’s such
a glorious, glorious clip. But it’s also one that I
think really encapsulates what you’re exploring around
the gaze as well, too. So, let’s watch. – Okay.
– Gorgeous. (audience applaud) That is amazing. (audience applaud) That is just such a beautiful scene. – I’m kind of moved.
– Yeah. (laughing) – I haven’t seen it
since, a long time ago. – It’s so gorgeous, I mean,
I’ve watched it so many times and every time, I smile the entire time, and feel very moved as well too. But what is really,
really lovely about it, is the way that you
move the viewer through, I mean, so many things
are lovely about it. Let’s be honest, it’s gorgeous. But, I love the way that you
move us through the whole scene, so we start with lady by herself, dancing like nobody’s watching, but we are watching her as well, too. And then the other girls enter one by one. And then we see Vic, who is the viewer, and then she’s participating. And then to go to the
sound change at the end, where we’re you know,
with them in that room, it’s just so incredible
as a piece of cinema. Where did you conceive this? How did you conceive it? Was it a sort of standalone sequence that you wanted to include in the film? – Well, when it’s about
musical clips, you know, and kudos to my grandmother,
who initiated me to musical, because it’s you know,
when they start to sing in a musical, it’s always
because it’s a turning point in both things, in the story. And also, it always has to
do with history of cinema. You know. When we talk about musicals, it’s like for instance, it
was always about a technical change, like for instance,
the first time that the movie was a speaking movie. It was a singing movie. So, to talk about the fact that now, movies are not silent
anymore, you do a musical. When there was mono
sound, then stereo sound, it’s a Fred Astaire film,
and they made a song about the fact that it’s become stereo, and Fred Astaire would
sing, and then he would go, “Stereo,” and people
would discover stereo. So it always has to do also musicals, that’s why it’s not a, it’s not a genre of the old times, you know? That’s why I don’t like it when people, it’s always paying tribute
to the past of cinema. It’s always about, you should do musical if there’s a new technical thing, like there should be a 3D
musical film, you know? I mean, 3D is already old fashioned, but I don’t know, VR. It should try musical. – Will you do that next please? (laughing) – Maybe. If I ever do musicals, because there’ll be a technical change. And so, it’s about, so it’s about, it’s a turning point in
Vic’s life when she’s joining the group, getting a voice. And the fact that the scene is so long, it’s because it has to tell
much, and it’s also a scene about the field of gaze, and
how you enter your own gaze, and you belong. And that’s pretty much really linked “Portrait Of A Lady On
Fire” because it’s a shot reverse shot, something that I rarely do. “Portrait Of A Lady On
Fire” is a movie also about shot reverse shot, and how you know, in “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire”, the painter, she enters her
own gaze, and she goes into the shot of the sitter, and
understand that she’s been looked at, it’s kind of the same here. Very synthetic way. And this scene was, you
know, it’s one of the scenes you have in mind that makes
you want to do the film. It’s makes you brave enough to do a film. The Rihanna song was I
mean, was out at the time, but really like for few weeks. And I really wanted it
to be at the centre. In the end, they didn’t
want to give it to us, but we already shot the scene,
so then we had to go through a super hard negotiation,
because she never gives away her song, even if it’s for money, you know? She has ethics. But then they saw the
clip, and they said, “Okay, “we’re giving it to you for of course, “an expensive amount of money.” But that wasn’t that expensive, regarding the fact that
it’s Rihanna and such a hit. And this is a messy answer to– (laughing) – It’s beautiful and it’s also, I mean, the cinematography is incredible. For all four features, you’ve
worked with a female DOP. This is Crystel. – Yeah, Crystel Fournier. – But can you talk about,
is it important to you to have a female DOP? – Well, I don’t know what it’s
like to work with a male DOP. (laughing) It’s the thing, like, you
have like very female driven sets, and I’m like, yeah, that’s you know. I’m the boss, and I get
to choose the atmosphere I want to work with. (audience applaud) So I don’t know about the other sets, and you know, people are like, “What is it changing?” And I’m thinking, “Well, I
know how good it is for me “to work in this atmosphere
and this collaborative way.” But you know, you never ask male director, how come they want to
stay exclusively with men? They seem to enjoy each other’s company very, very much also. (laughing) It’s true! And you know, and I’m like, “I’m kind of, “I think my sets are super hybrid.” And I recommend it, but I don’t know. You know, the actors, they’re
really better at answering, the actresses, they’re
really better at answering that question, because
they know a lot of sets. I only know mine, I think they’re cool. (laughing) – Well, it’s an absolutely
gorgeous, gorgeous scene. And I think, start
talking about “Portrait,” and I know these guys
will want to ask questions as well, too. I wanted to show that scene,
’cause it’s beautiful, but it also is very, very linked to “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire.” And particularly around your
exploration of the gaze, and female pleasure,
and female-only spaces. Was that a sort of
jumping off point for you, in thinking about the things you’d enjoyed doing in “Girlhood” and
what you wanted to do next? – Yeah, it took me five years. So, I did stuff in a while. But it took me some times
to actually figure out what was worth doing, why, you know, it’s a hard job, and you
put a lot of energy into it, and it should be super meaningful. And, this time I really
wanted to have a movie with grown ups, grown
women, and to talk about a love dialogue, and really
craft this lesbian love story that I feel we were missing. – Yeah. I mean, it is a lot of firsts for you. It’s adults, it’s professional actors, it is a love story, can we talk
about the love story first? Was that the starting point for you? – Definitely, the starting
point was devoting a film to a love story with two timelines. How it is the present of a love story, and also desire, I really
wanted to film desire. Because you know, in the
convention of cinema, where people fall in
love, love at first sight, you never film desire. You never film this rise of desire. And I think this is so cool, actually. And you know, when you
remember what it was like to fall in love, you
remember the choreography. You know, you remember
the steps that led you to that kiss, of course,
you remember the kiss, but those steps, they
are unique, you know? The kisses you will hopefully have a lot of if this works out. (laughing) But this moment, that was
what I was really wanting to also film desire. And also to tell about the
memory of a love story, the dynamic of a love story through time, the politics of love,
what’s the love dialogue with equality, what’s left? What to get out also of the mythology of you know, tragic, mutual feeling, but tragic endings, that
is our tradition here in accidental culture. And also pretty much how
the male gaze has been representing lesbian stories, always with you know, tension,
conflict about, you know, are we sick, and who’s gonna die? (laughing) And you know, maybe in
straight love stories, they both die, so. Like Romeo and Juliet, they both die. In lesbian love stories, one would die, and the other one would have a good life. (laughing) Not thinking at all about
this buddy in the closet. – You film desire so beautifully, and a lot of that is, I mean,
it feels also such a technical accomplishment, the pace, and
the sort of rhythm of the film builds that desire. How carefully, I’m gonna be
technical about desire now, but it works so, so
well, but how carefully did you have to plot that out, and structure that, to create
what you wanted to create there with desire? – Well, first, it’s a
screen writing job first, which seemed weird, ’cause like, how do you write desire? It was about devoting, you know, sticking it step by step, and being really accurate
also, and honest with myself. Like, when are we gonna
feel like she desires and then it’s mutual, and then
are they gonna get surprised by the fact that, “Oh, I feel desire.” So it’s about being
pretty honest, you know? Also not saying, “Yeah, you
know, there’ll be desire.” Like, no, okay, the first time the painter actually feels desire
is when she’s gonna pose for her and she says, “Look at me,” and she looks at her, and
she’s like, boom, okay, now. So, once you’re pretty
accurate about this, then with the actress, you’re like, okay, now how are we gonna do this? And it’s just, you know,
being more and more, yeah, accurate and radical,
and it’s about the rhythm of the film, like how each
scene is processed through desire and love, being
explored and you know, felt. And it’s also a process within the scene, of finding this perfect rhythm. And I’m super accurate, I mean, like, for instance, it’s about
the steps, you know? I would say to Naomi, you have to, it’s the sixth step to her. It’s not eight, it’s not seven, it’s six. And all of my answers and my direction, I don’t like the words
I said to the actresses. I would laugh about this. This is how we’re gonna create
the melody and the rhythm. So it’s gonna be, okay,
you’re going to her, and it’s gonna be like (clicking). And then I want you also to breathe in a certain rhythm. Like if you end the
scene with an expiration or an inspiration, it’s
really not the same. For instance, for the
last scene of the film, it’s all on the shoulder of Adele, you know, I give her different steps, she has to go through different emotions, it’s a three minute long take. And I’m not sitting next to her, she’s just basically on her shoulder. But she knows that in the end, she has to finish with an inspiration. And that’s you know, she
knows what her starting point and where she has to land, and it’s being that accurate, being that concrete? No, concrete is not the word. – Precise?
– Precise, thank you. And then, they can embody it, as you know, because they’re not, it’s
not too directive in a way, because you know, so we
just had a conversation at a very high level, then they can, they know they have these
steps and they can give you know, their whole feelings to this. Well, by believing that images
that haven’t been shown, or are new, and if they’re new, then they belong to today. You know, it’s like when people tell me, “Oh, you invented that story,
why didn’t you adapt a book?” I’m like, “That book hasn’t been written.” (laughing) Tell me about a book
between lesbian love story in the 18th century. And we don’t have Sarah
Walters, you know, so. (laughing) We don’t, close to you. And so it’s about being very, I did a lot of research. I didn’t want it to wink
at the past from today, or to wink at today from the past. So the movie is not at all anachronistic. This character of the
painter is totally accurate. I work with a sociologist of the art, who is a specialist of women
painter of that period. She exists, she’s French, there’s one. (laughing) And so not we needed an
historian of the arts, sociologist, so she’s you know, we really wanted her to be
accurate to embody something that was true. And it’s about being obsessed
with the fact that the film is to be contemporary,
a contemporary form, but you know, it doesn’t have to, that’s about the film, that’s
about the (speaks French) it’s not about the story telling, or the fact that it’s, I’m
not fascinated by period film. I’m not like, “One day,
I’ll do my period film, “period piece.” So it wasn’t about that. To me it was the same job with
a higher level of decision. Like for instance, I’m
obsessed with costumes. But this time, we were
gonna create them, you know? So, and regarding the
whole reconstitution, well, cinema is always a reconstitution. But this time, it’s official. So maybe we can play it a little bit more. I’ve been filming teenage
girls, or children, in rooms in Parisian suburbs, but the sets, they were built. The colour, I choose. But you know, telling, I mean,
I’m telling it all the time. So to me, and even this time,
like the castle for instance, where we shot, I didn’t touch anything. The colour of the wall was like that. It’s untouched, we just put
a little bit of accessories in there, but it’s
mostly wood, and cotton, and we built the three
pieces of furniture, like the chevalet, the
thing where she paints, I don’t know what you call it. Or like the kitchen table,
this is built you know. So it’s, to me it was like the same job, but yeah, with a higher level of input, and more also, a little
bit more expensive. But not that much also,
we kept it quite radical, to be able to be radical. – So, just while we go
to the next question, I think that’s an interesting point. I mean, it’s a love story, but obviously, there’s so much packed
in here for you to sort of think about, in
particular, you open the film with the art class, which
is really interesting. You are trying to sort of
recover those histories that have been lost for
female artists as well. Was that part of the project for you? – Yes, it was part of the project. Especially when I discovered
that there were so many women and artists at the
time that were erased from art history. And, discovered a body of work, discovered how it has been
missing to art history, but also missing to our lives. Because you know, that
is what art is all about. It’s about giving also,
giving us our intimacies. And the fact that we are
not given these images or these books, or this
music, actually has an impact in our lives, because
it makes us more lonely. The fact that no abortion is
represented makes it super dramatic too, I mean,
it’s an every day thing. And the fact that it’s not represented, the fact that there is
no museum in the world where there is a canvas named
like, “The Abortion Lady,” actually has a lot of
impact on the way we live, on our culture. So, that’s why we need those images, that’s why it feels right to
actually put them on there. And also very exciting, because you know, it’s not about making it even. It’s about how you know, they can be despised of
feminist lecture and feminist analysis on film, or even
the fact that you know, I’m saying I’m making a feminist film. Like it should be, it could be, people are saying to me,
“It’s a lesbian love story, “it’s not restrained, like this label.” Well, it’s not a label. It’s an imaginary. You feel it’s too small,
if you think it’s small. I think it’s wide. I think it’s super wide. I think it’s a political proposal, it’s an imaginary that is dangerous. That is, I mean, emotional
and so it’s not a small label, so it’s super, so many layers. And it’s creation, it’s
invention, you know? It’s stepping out of the convention. So it’s not, yeah, it’s not small. It’s super big, actually. And because also it’s not being explored that much because we weren’t
given the opportunity. It’s also really, really
I think, good for cinema. Because it’s bringing new emotions, good for you, it’s good for us, you know? It’s not the same old same old.
(laughing) – I want to thank you,
’cause we’re talking about the abortion scene too. That was just the most
incredibly intelligent scene, that the baby is right next
to her, is just so beautiful, it acknowledges everything that, it’s such a great political
scene as well, too. – Yeah, and it’s emblematic
of how we are activists for cinema, because you know,
when you’re about to shoot a scene that hasn’t been shot much, the job is pretty much done. I mean, you’re like, “Oh, this
is gonna be a good scene.” But it’s not like that. It’s not because you’re
gonna fill in the blank, that you’re now gonna
have to invent an image. So you know, I had the
abortion scene written for a long time, and then I felt no, it’s not enough, it’s not enough. It doesn’t belong enough to this film. Because there’s pressure on you, you know? When you’re like, “Okay, an
abortion scene, maybe I will,” and then I really worked
a lot to find that image of the baby, and when there was the image of the baby, I said,
“Okay, so this is new. “This is new to a new
thing, but it should belong “to the film, it shouldn’t
be strange, it shouldn’t be.” And that’s when you say
“Okay, I’m ready to do this.” Well, the opening of the film I wanted it to set it as flashbacks, so that we could play
of both these timelines, and also wanted to start
it by being playful. Put the painter in the
position of the model. You know, and sometimes
it’s also about having fun with your own characters, and being yeah, put her in that position
where she won’t be, start the film with the power dynamic that is not what you expect. You know, the teacher being the model. And then I wanted that scene, that action scene in the beginning and also to depart from the convention of the genre because she
is gonna jump in the water, she’s jumping in the water,
so she’s not that classical, chilly woman on you know, waiting for I don’t know. She’s not waiting. And then also the film jumps in the water, because the camera then goes in the water, so it’s this pact, you know, beginning of films are mostly about us, about like, this is the pact. Jump, go with us, you know? So that’s the answer
to your first question. And then, yes of course
the movie is about love and friendship, even friendship
within the love story. And sorority, and solidarity among women. And the mother is also a
character that I wanted in that way, you know, I didn’t want, I wanted 50 year old women,
I wanted her to be young, to have project, to be
you know, full of desire. She wants to go to Milan, she
wants to have fun, you know? Not the bitter, old, grumpy
women full of resentment. You know, she knows that her
daughter’s gonna have the same crappy life, but she’s trying
to make it kind of better, you know, it’s kept silent
where she was bored, for 40 years, 30 years. And I wanted her also to
have a very horizontal relationship, like when
she talks to the painter, she’s not, you know, she’s
not bullshitting anyone, actually, she’s like, pretty honest. She embodies domination, and you know, repetition of violence,
I mean, she’s upset, she’s oppressed, and you know,
she’s a widow and she just wants to get out of here. And we did that also with the servant, with the maid character,
who is not at all the maid character, like for
instance, you never see her with the mother, and you know, you would expect her to
be there with the tray, doing the ting, ting, ting. Ans listening to the door,
and she’s not even the servant character, even regarding
the theatre at the time. You know, the main character
would be the accomplice, or you know, she would have an opinion on this love story, we don’t
even know if she knows. She’s there when she has her own project, her own goal as a character,
so that’s the kind of balance, not balance, I don’t know if
it’s balanced or unbalanced. But yeah, also to talk
about sorority and to show the dynamic of solidarity among women, which is also not often
the case, you know. You’re pretty much
raised to please the man, and also to be in rivalry,
and fiction of course, is a lot of that propaganda too you know. But it’s not true to life,
I don’t want to think. I think it’s about being
not self-indulgent at all, being like questioning your ideas, and rewriting, I think it’s
all about rewriting, rewriting. I’m not really good at that. – I think that question of are you scared to go deep and does that mean
you just push yourself further as an artist is a really interesting one. – It’s also, it’s always
the part that I’m not really good at saying, because to
me, writing is the moment where I’m the most secretive. It’s not that I don’t
want to share my things. It’s not that, it’s
just that nobody reads, I’m not talking to
anyone about my writing, why I’m writing. People sometimes, even my closest friends, don’t know that I’m writing. Nobody’s reading it, except my producer, when I’m at my third draught. She knows about the process,
she knows about the story for instance, and then she reads it, she’s super strong and right, as you can see, because
the films are good. I mean, you like them, so. And then she’s part of
the process obviously. But it’s very, I mean, I’m a cave woman, and it’s really about this back and forth between global philosophy,
and local solution. You have to have a radical
philosophy I think, that’s gonna be a compass
for the whole writing. And be really, really like, finding, very, very
strong radical solutions for each scene, and I think you should, and I try to write
chronologically for instance. Which means that if I’m
not happy with a scene, I mean, it’s a bit
masochistic, is that a word? – Yep, masochistic.
– Masochistic. And like, I’m not gonna go further. I have to find, and if I’m not happy, if I don’t have like for
instance, the abortion scene as I told you, like I’m missing something, I’m like, I’m gonna think about this, like for maybe three days. Maybe it will be three weeks like, it has to be that next step. And it relies a lot about excitement. I think you should, if
you’re not feeling excited, like super excited, because
in the process you can, you know, cinema is also
a lot of other things. It’s not like, you’re not
writing and then it’s a book, and you have to put a team, the meteorology, the
money and other monies. If you want your ideas to stand strong, they have to be super strong, and you have to be super
excited about them. So, it’s also a gut thing. It’s also like, if I’m not, and from film to film, like this film, I only shot scenes that
I really wanted to shoot. And that also create this weird rhythm, because there’s no useful scene, there’s no scene I was like, “I have to do this because otherwise, “people won’t understand,
or otherwise they will “be missing a step.” Like, you have to have a
great, great, great desire for everything you’re going to do, and if you don’t have that, then you’re not in trouble, but I mean, I need this, I need this, I need to be excited, excited. And I think it’s not
something they tell you much in writing courses and film school. I try to tell that each time, you have to be very,
very, very, very excited. You have to trust that. – Celine, can I just ask,
because this is also, we’ve referred to it here,
it’s a very strongly political piece of film making as well, too. And it was really interesting
when I was watching clips to speak to you today,
and thinking about today. Many times I witnessed you,
or Adele getting sort of micro aggressions from interviewers. We’ve all responded to the film, audiences are responding to the film, but are you also finding
resistance to the film? – Yes, of course. Because, you know, it’s a backlash. Because you have to have the culture. I mean, cinema is such a strong culture. It has such an impact. I can see that you know,
sometimes when you’re old, white and male for instance, (laughing) you don’t have the culture to redeem it. They for instance tell me,
“Ah, the film is lacking sex.” I’m like, “Oh, I tried to
make this very epidemic, “erotic film,” and people are like, “It’s not sexy film you
know, about desire and stuff. “There’s no sex scene,
you know, it’s boring.” “like, you’ve not been” and
they say, “You’re not brave “enough, you’re afraid.” Like I’m afraid. I’m afraid. (laughing) I’m afraid. I’m afraid? (laughing) Of doing a sex scene. And I’m like, “Well, there’s
a sex scene in the film, “maybe you haven’t seen
it because you know, “if it’s not about penis, or
if it’s not about this gaze, “you’re lost, you’re like,
where is the sex scene?” (laughing) Well, actually there’s an
hump, it’s a true penetration, its not simulated, because
you know, it’s that. Sex scene are always
simulated in films, you know? I wanted to do a sex scene
that wasn’t simulated. So it’s a true finger, it’s a true hump, it’s a true (speaks French). And it’s new. And it’s about, so it’s exciting. (laughing) And also it talks about
sex in a different way, like it’s lighthearted,
the scene is light, it’s full of humour, which
I think sex you know, is really should be fun. And it’s inventive, and I
think sex should be inventive. And it’s about you being
kind of lost in this image, like, “Oh, what is this? “Ooh,” and it should also
be like that, you know? (laughing) And the fact that yeah,
we’re bringing a new culture to the screen, and the fact
that some people don’t have, they can’t read the image,
which shouldn’t feel, I’m not feeling threatened by this. But you know, sometimes it’s
hard, because you’re like, you feel you’re not
understood, and mostly, I think it’s sad. And especially about sex and love stories, it tells a lot about people. So they’re giving us some news. (laughing) About them. Music in this film,
well, there’s no music. There’s like two moments, and Vivaldi’s cheaper than Rihanna. (laughing) And that was the challenge
from the scratch, I wanted to make this film without music, which seemed like a challenge, because you know, love stories,
they all have soundtracks. You know, we could play the
game of like, “Dirty Dancing,” will be “Time Of My Life,” “Titanic” will be “My Heart Will Go On.” and even the love stories in our lives, they have their soundtrack. But it wasn’t about the love story, it was about the reconstitution, and about the fact that
the film also talks about art in our life, our love
is an education to art, and now art console us from our loves. So I wanted to put you
in the same position as these characters. And they are lacking
beauty, they are missing. You know, today we can,
we are living this cool, very cool democratic moment where we can listen to music if we want, and any time we want. I wanted to yeah, put you
in that same frustration, so that when music occurs, it’s like, oh, overwhelming. And you definitely connect
to the power of music in life and also in cinema. So, yeah. Well, at first, we did
aesthetics because I didn’t know if I wanted to shoot 35
millimetre, or digital. Especially regarding the
fact that we’re gonna shoot the paintings and the
colours and the material. We were like, oh 35 will be
maybe really great for this. But I chose digital, we chose digital, because of the skin, because
of, we wanted to show desire and love and it was more dynamic. And it definitely belonged to the present. And regarding the rush of blood, and regarding the
characters, it felt better. So we went for digital. Then we began shooting by
doing all the exteriors, so we went to Brittany,
and of course I wanted Brittany and it was October. It was a year ago, it was a year ago was the first day of shooting, actually. Wow. And it was super sunny, and super warm, and not at all the grey,
romantic Emily Bronte that I wanted. And you know, it’s all
about welcoming the news as a good news, that’s cinema also. Like, okay, it’s gonna rain, it’s cool. And it’s gonna be sunny, it’s cool. It’s okay, now we are,
we did all the exteriors, so we did all the beach scenes. And we got back to the Parisian suburbs, where we were shooting the castle. And thinking, okay, we have to
compose now with that light. And when you’re shooting in a castle, which is kind of preserved and
kind of also falling apart, you can’t put any light in the rooms. So it all had to be
shot from the exterior. So we put a lot of money, and time, which is kind of the same,
especially in cinema, into crafting this light. And you know, we weren’t
thinking about contrast, because we were kind of, as
we had done all the exteriors, we wanted to clamour, almost
the DP was really trying to bring back the light from Brittany. And she was always saying that
we mustn’t forget about this and I had bought a
lighter there in Brittany, which said, “I love Quiberon,” again, I’m a big smoker. And so each time there would
be a pose, and I was waiting for the light a lot
obviously, so I was like, never forget about Quiberon. That’s how we kept reminding that we’d have to bring that light back. It was different, I mean,
we had this and then also we had the nights, and regarding
all the candlelight shit, which is like you can make
a reading of period pieces just by looking at the
choices that were made regarding the candlelight
and the inner frame, are they in the arm of somebody, are they on the big chandelier? And mostly, are they the actual
source of lighting or not? So that was a big challenge, and then there was the challenge
of showing the painting, and the colours, and we
hadn’t had any (clears throat) reference regarding, because
reframe is the painting, but we didn’t have any painting reference regarding the lighting of the film. We wanted it to be beautiful. So we ask ourself the
question of the painters, but we definitely went
with the answers of cinema. And that’s the good thing about cinema, is that you get to ask
yourself the question of other arts, so you get
to ask yourself the question of the musician, you
have to ask the question of the writer, but all
your answers are cinema. – The painter you worked
with as well, too, shall we name check her,
’cause her work is incredible. – Yep, her name is Helene Delmaire, she’s a 32 artist living in Lille. She never heard of cinema, I
mean, she goes to the cinema, she didn’t care. She never heard of me, that’s for sure. (laughing) I was like this crazy
woman knocking on her door, like hello. And I found her on Instagram. Because you know what,
Instagram is the thing that now, for instance, all portrait painting, like this that is not fashionable, that is not anything
that is gonna be selling in galleries or (mumbles) or whatever, did get their origins also from Instagram, so there’s like this new
rise of portrait, oil, and other style that came–
– On Instagram? – Yeah, on Instagram, because
they get to live there. – Celine, I wish we had more time, because I could listen
to you speak all day. Thank you so much for
these gorgeous films, thank you for being here. – Thank you. (audience applaud)

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