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The obsessions of Yann Gonzalez

The obsessions of Yann Gonzalez

Tuesday, April 7th 2015

Obsessions; every filmmaker needs them. It is the driving force of creativity, a force greater than yourself. Yann Gonzalez is happy to be a slave to his obsessions. He is a fan of sleazy pulp movies and great music and is a self-proclaimed sex maniac. You can see, hear and feel this in all his films.

From a French director you can expect films stocked with dialogues and erotic tension, but Gonzalez presents this in a style all of his own. The driving soundtracks are often by M83, the band of his brother, for which he is also a lyricist. So we asked him, isn’t life too short for all the things you love to do?

I have such an appetite for everything, for films, for books, for music. So yeah, I think life is too short to embrace everything. I want to make as many films as possible and I think my life is too short for all the films I want to make. Especially because I am kind of lazy, I like to take my time. I wish I could live for 200 years, but I guess I just have to speed up.

Is that why you like short film, so you can speed up your production?
I think this is one of the main reasons. When you just have a strong idea, you can do a film around this idea. You don’t need to make it into something really elaborate. If you try to put too many things in a short, it doesn’t say that much. So you have to be very precise and efficient and very specific on one point, and maybe even one image, and build your short film around this vision. This is something you can’t do with a feature film. If your first image is strong enough you can do something really interesting with a short film.

What will it be like to see your films in a retrospective?
It’s quite uncomfortable, like you are looking at yourself in the mirror a few years ago. It’s awkward, but at the same time it’s really touching. I really feel something emotional, watching some of my actors being younger.

You seem to be very close to actors and other people you collaborate with.
I feel quite fragile on the set. When I am working I am always full of doubt about everything, so it is very important to have some people there that I know. It’s like building a family. We understand each other, we don’t have to talk for two hours before shooting a sequence. Especially with Kate Moran, it’s like telepathy - she really understands what I am looking for and she does it perfectly. Although I have worked with her a lot, I keep fantasizing about her in different characters, different moods, different outfits. But she’s not like a doll, she’s a muse. And working with my brother is like a blessing, because we have so much in common. We share an appetite for melancholy. We grew up with the same soul and the same tastes, like cartoon shows and science fiction. It’s just like with Kate Moran. We don’t have to talk a lot about what I want; he understands it at once and does it perfectly. I’ll also be working with the same DOP from my first feature film, and the same set designer. It’s important to have these people you can trust and who understand your vision.
You will be coaching the New Arrival Go Short Campus with young talents who are at the start of their careers. How was your entry into the film world?
I didn’t apply to any film school, because I was scared to be taught a lot of specific rules. I wanted to be free, so I went to Film University. It was great to watch a lot of films and talk about them with the teachers. The more you watch films, the more you learn about being a director. It is more efficient to watch films than to learn the techniques, because you learn these while working. My first screenplay was for a 40 minute film, but nobody wanted to finance it and I was really frustrated. Then I got fired from the job I was in, so I used the money from the settlement to finance my first short film. It was 5 minutes in just one shot, black and white, so it was kind of cheap.

From that first film to your last, kissing seems to be very important to you.
Kissing is a way to get to know somebody. Sometimes you know more about someone when you kiss him then when you talk to him, because there’s truth in a kiss. It can be a violent kiss, it can be an awkward kiss, it can be a funny kiss. It tells a lot about my characters. I try to shoot as many kisses as I can, and I want every kiss to be different. I think it’s very cinematic to shoot a kiss; it’s beautiful. I want my kisses to be powerful and meaningful. To me it’s like talking, I don’t have to think about different kinds of kisses; it’s natural.
Music seems to be another obsession of yours.
You really have to feel the music in your heart and in your soul. In We Will Never Be Alone Again, I was so in love with the first song of the film, I just wanted to share it with as many people as I could. Shooting the film, I was trying to evoke the feelings I had for this song. I wanted people to feel the same.
So could you say there’s a distinguishable Gonzalez style of films?
I am trying to do something different every time. The screenplay I am writing now is for a horror film set in the 70’s gay porn industry. It’s about a female producer who’s crazy and alcoholic and in love with her editor. All her actors are being murdered by a serial killer. It’s the first time I am working ona horror film, and it’s important for me to be faithful to the genre. I really want it to be scary, and this is the main challenge; for it to be scary and emotional at the same time.
To conclude, what’s your current obsession?
Now I am really obsessed with Grand Guignol. It’s an old theater from Paris in the 20s with stage plays full of special effects. It is very grotesque and very funny at the same time. I would really like to make a short film about one of these stage plays.
Yann Gonzalez will be present at Go Short as a special guest and will coach the participants of the New Arrivals Go Short Campus together with Gunhild Enger.

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