1. What books are currently on your nightstand?
I am re reading “The Power of Myth” from Joseph Campbell. Conversations between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers published in 1988. It is a book that every or almost every American intellectual interested in mythologies, whether these are aboriginals, Christians or from classic Greece have read.
I guess that it is probably because of the film about the rituals of Theyyam in Kerala in south India I am currently making.
There is so much in this book about the origins of the myths. Where these myths come from and how they happened to live in our consciousness or subconscious for thousands of years, and also how we are going to lose this important part of ourselves as humans in this age of robots.
I am also reading Chris Hedges books. I like and respect Chris Hedges very much, his writings, essays and some of his articles for the New York Times.
He is a true cold reader and writer, and no bullshit American intellectual.
I like “Unspeakable” a most recent conversation with David Talbot. It is better than “The Empire of Illusion so far. That he wrote few years back and which is so premonitory. It starts with the deconstruction of an American television show.
I only went through it quick. It reminds me of a contemporary version of “La Société du Spectacle”, from Guy Debord. A pamphlet of only 70 pages when the film series is at least 10 hours. How the time of the concept translated in a few words can take so much time in images, is perhaps something to look at. But the book is in Paris. The series is on You Tube It is a great series on Capitalism and Spectacle. The footage is beautifully black and white. Old newsreels from around the world. There is Art and Fashion, in the series, Rock and factories, protests and wars, poetry ads and discourses and women in bikinis.
2. Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
To me there is not “A favorite or best novelist of all time.” Every season of your life has its own favorite novelist and books. ’International Situationiste” for example, was one the greatest political book I have read. ..
Thank to Gilles Deleuze, Proust came in 1979..I was in Love. His script, images, words and long sentences, life long panoramic were flowing like a river of time and lineal. It conveys deep emotions based on his perceptions, senses and all resonated in me profoundly.
I had just read the philosopher Henri Bergson. On the phenomenology of the senses. I was living in the South of France after film school and before the return to Los Angeles. For bout 2 years. The light was magnificent and I studied art or rather I discover with videos and children
Proust was one of my favorites for sure. I loved to smell the flowers. his madeleines, his insights, He was very photographic if not cinematic. I like his dark rooms. They brought me farther in film introspection whether with experimental cinema, Buster Keaton’s, or Godard.
Histoire du Cinema by Jean Luc Godard , the long videos series of Godard he did 20 years ago, at least, was a long series of videos and news and art and fashion and great cinematography and faces and nature and scenes of wars in Russia,
Lawrence of Arabia. From Lawrence Book. The 7 pillars of wisdom. Big influence. I took a nap under his Rock in the desert of Wadi Rum, at the order and border of Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Books of exploration have always been in my mind when I think of literature because of the incentives to travel and explore the world and your selves.
Even if when you come back you fall into a Rabbit hole and find gold. But cannot get out.. Into a dark Room, and you are alone, besides the corteges of jeune filles en fleurs, alone in your dusty room, sick and dying like the light of the day, like Proust.
But I could tell the same thing about Fyodor Dostoevsky or Faulkner or Rimbaud. All of them contribute to a certain extent to your experience of life and if your craft is to become your life, then to the development of your craft. All Arts proceed but Cinema encompasses literature, painting and music all in the same medium. With time you can do anything. The there is death which strikes. Make it fast old witch!
Blade Runner reminds me of Ray Bradbury that I was reading under a beautiful mahogany American desk in West Los Angeles. In 1985. (University of UCLA) Orwell came back in the air in the early 80’s. Orson Died. I was downtown LA taking with a junkie. There was a sense of epidemy and death. It was the time when AIDS were not treated properly.
Every book and author is the best in its own time. I think.
James Joyce Ulysses my camera once and Kerouac too. When we were “On the road.” Too too. Like a train entering the station with blue lights.
Jean Genet was extraordinary for me in words and images by Fassbinder. Geniuses.….. I think one of my favorite book of my life maybe would be “Look Homeward Angel” from Thomas Wolfe. It would be too long to explain why. Let’s say, it was of this chapter where you are really lost and searching. I was living in a refuge in West LA, I was in a permanent quest in the beautiful Hollywood hills while still dreaming of the South.
The East had no mystery anymore; so I thought. I was wrong.
This was in 1985.
After that, I went back east but I was not interested in philosophy anymore. I had enough reading I wanted to film the world. And I did with artists.
And new beginnings. Only art books and biographies.
The last 10 years, I have liked Philip Roth very much.
He passed away a couple of weeks ago. If I was doing fiction films, I would like to do in films what Mr. Roth has done in books. I like his crude American existential stuff as far as you can see, as dark as you can be and as cold as you can feel .
Same with Look Homeward Angel now that I think of it. Blacks and White and Red in between. I saw a great documentary on Philip Roth in Paris on T.V two years ago. He was true to his craft. It is not rare but important to mention. And he did not seem as crazy as Salinger.
American Pastoral and Exit Ghost, are the 2 books I can talk about but I let others do a film on him and screenwriters adapt his stories.
Be my guest, ha ha ha ! I would love to see.
Today in France there is Michel Houellebecq. I read Soumission.
I like his crude exploration of flesh and mental submission.
Reflecting also in the politics of our times of Populism/ Fascism.
Anyway, I cannot answer your question correctly about one novelist in particular. I am sorry.
But maybe what follow will help.
3. What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I love cartoons. Bandes dessinees. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and his greedy uncle.
My father had talent for drawing faces and cartoons. Walt Disney like so he always bought me “bandes dessinees”. Like cartoons. French language mostly but American.
And he was also a pilot and likes airplanes, so St Experty’s “Le Petit Prince” existed. It is a classic anyway for French children and adults alike.
A kid who ends up with total strangers, in Arabic lands and how he learns life and falls in love with a princess of the desert. Sky is the limit.
And What a beautiful romance!
But yes, there is also Fritz the Cat. Fantastic. And all the American stoners great cartoonists of the 60’s and 70’s . Like Crumb and Friedman.
The first novel per say was: |L’Assomoir” from Emile Zola.
I was 13. I suppose. It was 1968.
It was mandatory to read this book in public schools in France, in and after 1968. (The riots. The Revolution. The Workers. The factories.)
The French teacher was bringing the class to demonstrations and we had to clash with the cops. The second one is “L’Idiot” de Dostoevsky. We had to study and discourse by writing about the book.
There was revolution in the air and the discovery of sex. And Hashish.
Opium came later with Rimbaud and ended up with Thomas De Quincey. Making teenage schemes in the dark, there was Henry Miller sexual revolution in words, colors, energies.
And later, the discovery of the Buddha.
Tropic of the Cancer. But then I was not a child anymore. I had seen death already.
4. What book, if any, contributed to your artistic development?
Nabokov!!!. Just kidding ! I love Nabokov. I love Lolita. So handsome characters.
As with novelists,. All books you like, you read, more or less contribute to your development, artistic or other.
If it is there, coming to you, falling from a tree or the sky, especially when you are young, it already means something.
Every book for me is a path to take in the journey of life. And there are so many roads. So, may avatars! But only one life: Yours. For example, William Faulkner was an extraordinary discovery when I was studying film, script and montage, in the late 70’s.
Peter Handke (The left-handed woman) in late seventies. for insightful shots.
Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler in the 80’s Los Angeles, for the colors. the dark, the atmosphere. I like atmosphere and dimmer the lights are, best it is.
I like Sam Shepard for his dialogues and was a great contributor to film and theater.
He was humble. That also contribute to your work. You find crossroads and a few drinks in between. Knocking knocking on Heaven’s Gates.
These are the books,
Bob Dylan Biography. Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
“Pylone” from Faulkner.
“The left-handed woman” from Peter Handke.
“Histoire de l’Oeil” from Geoges Bataille.
“Journey through the End of the Night”. from Celine.
“La Vagabonde” “L’autre Femme” “La Chatte” from Colette.
Anais Ninn “Henry and June””Bue Movie” and “Transfigured…”
“Tropic of Cancer “Henry Miller and “Sweet Days in Clichy”
“The Maltese Falcon”, “The Thin Man” or “Red Harvest” from Dashiell Hammett.
“The Big sleep” from Raymond Chandler and some essays.
“Fool for love” from Sam Shepard. D.H Lawrence. Lady Chatterley and the Snake God. All Books about sexuality are important for me.
The absurd of Samuel Beckett and August Wilson. In texts theater. earlier in New York 1981. Jean Genet. Querelle. And the adaptation by Fassbinder.
Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness.
and many other titles from this incredible author who still push my boundaries in films and exploration
Jack London “Call of the Wild “obviously and very soon his south pacific tales.
I am not at the end. This is only an interview.
John Krakauer. “Into the Wild”. “Into Thin Air.” All have been adapted into screenplays. There is a reason for it. I lived in the wilds of Alaska and I have seen the hidden face of Everest.
In the mid 90’s it was more Alain Robbe-Grillet books.
“Le Voyeur” has contributed in my love for black and white in Cinematography. If not photography.
Much more colors in Balzac or Flaubert. They Set the decor and the costumes like we do in story boards.
Hemingway ? I was reading Hemingway, “For whom the bells toll” when I was attending the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles. I thought this was appropriate. Grandioso!
I went to his house in Havana in 2015.. When I arrived, it was a Sunday…it was closed and there was some wind. A huge branch fell from an enormous tree, and me and the guard almost got killed….so I don’t know about Hemingway.
He is heavy prose. Words which weight a thousands pounds. Like a heavy panoramic. Heavy Camera. Long shots. Heavy drinking. Not much sex but Big ego. Big Fish. I think of him from time to time. I never like his big ego but I cared for his daughter. You are also vulnerable when you rub with fame and glory and guns and father figures.
I painted a house next to his and his 39 disgusting cats in Key West in 1991.
Thoreau and Emerson were more refined American writers. They were my “favorite ”authors when I was living in Boston (in the early 90’s) and shoplifting. They contribute a lot to my film research in Harvard at the time. Films about Nature and Native Americans. Films about India with Robert Gardner.
Nathaniel Hawthorne too. and then later Jean Malaurie about The Wilderness of the Soul.
Much later, I made “Les Grunewald du Musee de Colmar” based on the critical essay by Joris- Karl Huysman (contemporary of Beaudelaire) . There was wine and blood on the walls.. This was 15 years ago. But I am proud of this 45’ minutes piece (in French only) The text is very very hard to translate. I am not even sure it is possible or the translator would have to be a star.
Most recently, I attempted in my film “INUIT LANDS The Melting Point” (2012- 2016) to re actualize the thinking of the wild, with the writings of Jean Malaurie (“The Last Kings of Thule”. “Hummocks” and other) and the film got the Jack London Spirit Award in Glenn Ellen in California in September 2017.
So we were happy.
The Phenomenology of Maurice Merleau Ponty was very important in understanding perceptions long time ago, and that remain definitely key in my camera work.
Henry Bergson too.
And again the rhizomes of Gilles Deleuze and some Dostoevsky’s scenes and Ingmar Bergman’s writings and Godard’s. And Kurosawa’s.
I hope this answers your question.
5. If you could make any book into a film, which would it be? How do you visualize it?
“Pylone” from William Faulkner.
Hollywood did it already with Rock Hudson. (Black and white) I am happy they did. I love old American films from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s But yes I would like to do a re make of that…book.
I don’t know how I would visualize it. I still don’t know even if I wrote a script based on the book in 1978. Now I don’t do fictions. So, it is Hard to visualize. Or it takes some time for it to come to fruition. With Documentary is more immediate. It is here and now. And that’s it.
6. At what age did you develop an interest in film?
I was 20. I was coming back from a 2/ 3 years travel in the USA, Mexico and Canada.(I was guitar player in a French Rock Band based in Paris then in Montreal Canada)
But Cinema, has been in me since my childhood, thanks to my father and also my mother (later) .
She was more a theater lady but she likes French Cinema.
My father loved Westerns and John Ford and John Wayne. I like Jack Palance and Laureen Bacall.
And then I liked Maupassant and Robert Bresson. All contributed something I am sure.
Robert Bresson especially. I learnt a lot reading his Book “Le Cinematographe. A real Master for me, with J.L Godard, John Cassavetts, Wim Wenders and Francis Ford Copolla.
When I came back from the US. IN 1976/ 77 I made the choice to enter a film school.
So, I made filming my profession, it was more than just an artistic interest.
It was for real this time..
And since then, Cinema never left me and I never left it either.
And I don’t think I will ever will.