EURO BEAT: Non-Interviews with HOLY MOTORS Director Leos Carax, Plus the Italian Fascist Propaganda Film Archive You've Been Waiting For

Brian Clark, European Editor
Following enormous hype (and no awards) out of Cannes, Leos Carax's Holy Motors has just been released in France, marking the return of one of the most important modern French filmmakers after a thirteen year hiatus. Naturally, the French press is all over this... only Carax won't talk to them. Thus, last week found both Le Monde and Le Parisien running features about Carax with no comment from the director himself. So which paper did a better job glossing over the fact that they were basically writing a more pretentious version of Carax's Wikipedia page? Let's take a closer look!

First up is Le Parisien, whose article "Mysterious Cult Filmmaker Leos Carax" promises "everything you need to know about the director of Holy Motors." Unfortunately, the article reads more like "everything everyone already knew" about Carax, chronicling his early success with Boy Meets Girl and Mauvais Sang, his budget problems with Lovers on the Bridge, the critical and public failure of Pola X and his long hiatus which he only broke to make the "Merde" segment in Tokyo. It also mentions his collaborations with Carla Bruni in a small section about his "conquests" (which also apparently include Juliette Binoche and the late Katerina Golubeva). But the most interesting tidbit is the fact that he's working on a new English language movie called Scars which is a co-production between Russia and the UK. Rejoice!

While Le Monde misses that last factoid, they still win the Carax-less feature contest by a mile. True, part of the article is a much wordier version of all the facts that Le Parisien laid out so succinctly, but Le Monde dug deeper into his biography and also did some actual interviews for their feature, "On the Trail of a Mystery, Leos Carax." (See a pattern with these headlines?)

Among the people interviewed is former director of the Cinematheque, Serge Toubiana who asked Carax to write for Cahiers du Cinema when he was 19. Apparently Carax wrote a few articles, including a defense of Sylvester Stallone's Paradise Alley, and then promptly proposed an article that went against Cahiers. That ended the working relationship, as Toubiana found this suggestion "a bit premature." There is also a loving description by Carax's muse Denis Lavant, who says that while most label Carax as a pretentious megalomaniac, he is actually "delicate, careful, shy and embarrassed when it comes time to sell something." True or not,the quote made me happy.

Strikes and Fascist Propaganda at Cinecitta Luce in Italy

Meanwhile, in Italy, Google and Cinecitta Luce have announced plans to digitize and archive over 100,000 from Cinecitta's archives. The films date back to 1927, which means they not only include classics by masters like Vittoria De Sico, but also, yep, propaganda films celebrating Mussolini! According to The Guardian, "The core of the archive is short films made by the Istituto Luce, which was founded in 1924 and which became a propaganda tool for Mussolini, regaling cinema audiences with tales of Italian industrial prowess..." Comparing these to broadcasts from Silvio Berlusconi's state-owned media will likely provide hours of fun.

However, Cinecitta is having some problems with its modern production facilities. Currently, workers are striking following the increasing moves by the studio to outsource work like set-design and post-production to other studios. The workers claim to be using the strike more a symbolic way to get public attention rather than putting actual financial pressure on the studio.  A spokesman for the studio responded that the company doesn't plan layoffs and that their methods merely reflect the changing world of cinema.

Box Office

Ice Age: Continental Drift had it's moment in the sun last week in most of Europe, though The Amazing Spiderman will be swooping in and taking most of its grosses in the next report. Europeans were apparently not tired of talking CGI animals after Madagascar, as almost every territory put Ice Age at the top by a considerable amount, including Belgium, Denmark, France and Spain. Notably though, the Spanish romantic drama Tengo Ganas De Ti (I Want You), based on the novel by Federico Moccia has been chugging along in spite of American Blockbusters in its native country. It's total now stands at an impressive $8.2 million total. Spiderman opened early in a few territories and, predictably dominated, especially in Germany where it took in around $4 million. Finally, France may have another sleeper comedy hit on its hands with Un Bonheur N'arrive Jamais Seul, which opened to a solid $3.4 million.

In Brief

Wim Wenders is sticking with 3-D technology for his next feature, which will document a new project by architect Peter Zumthor from start to finish.

Belle and Sebastian musician Stuart Murdoch just started shooting his first film, God Help the Girl, in Glasgow. It stars Emily Browning as a girl who "uses songwriting as a crutch to combat her demons and connects with two like-minded musicians."

Awards! Martin Lund's Norwegian film The Almost Man took home the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. The film follows a man approaching middle age and fatherhood who is having trouble growing up, and is probably ripe for a Judd Apatow-produced American remake. Meanwhile, the Hungarian thriller Just the Wind won the Paris Cinema Festival, while Miguel Gomes' excellent Tabu taking home two special prizes.

Edinburgh Film Festival Artistic Director and Twitch Interviewee Chris Fujiwara has signed on to maintain his position at the festival for another three years. Check out the interview to see why this is probably good news for UK-based fans of Asian film.  
 
Around the Internet:
  • kevo42

    There is a great non-interview article about Leos Carax in this month issue of Sofilm, a new and interesting cinema magazine. A lot of people very close to Carax talk, and they explain that Golubeva commited suicide three days after the beginning of the shooting of the movie.

    The film is dedicated to her in a beautiful way, at the end.

    As for the movie itself, I'm not quite sure if I liked it or not. There's a lot of things in it : some work great, some don't work at all. It's not something from which you can say : it was okay.

  • Brian Clark

    Thanks much, Kevo -- hopefully that Sofilm is still on the shelves when I get back to Paris in a few weeks.

  • jdseventyseven

    Does anyone know how Katerina Golubeva died? I've looked all over, but haven't been able to find out how it happened.

  • Brian Clark

    Take it as you will - I've heard suicide from a lot of people, but none are really official sources. Very sad no matter what, she was young.

  • Dustin Chang

    Had a pleasure asking Carax a question at the screening of Tokyo! in NY when it came out in 2008-9. As a huge fan of the director (Les Amant du Pont-Neuf is my all time fav), I was very happy to see anything by him and asked him what his future plans were. He said he was having no luck financing any of his projects. Scars, his Russian co-production I had heard about was dead. And he had nothing on the plate back then. He seemed to be very apprehensive, shy and quite frankly, bitter...

    I really can't wait to see Holy Motors and so happy to hear Scars is on track again.

  • Brian Clark

    Yeah, I really hope Le Parisien is right about SCARS. Holy Motors won't disappoint you, though, based on the insane critical love so far, I bet some backlash is just around the corner. Rest assured though, if you've liked his previous films, you'll be floored.

  • mightyjoeyoung

    "Apparently Carax wrote a few articles, including a defense of Sylvester Stallone's Paradise Alley, and then promptly proposed an article that went against Cahiers."

    Seems to me that Carax has a sense of humor....I hope.

    Thanks for the news Mr Clark.

  • Brian Clark

    Much obliged, as always. And yeah, I think Carax makes it clear in all of his films that he has a good sense of humor too, even in POLA X.

  • mightyjoeyoung

    I haven´t seen any of his films yet....so maybe I should take a look at Pola X.

  • Brian Clark

    I'd actually recommend starting with MAUVAIS SANG or LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE first. Pola X is a really polarizing movie, and you'll probably appreciate it more if you're familiar with Carax's earlier work.

  • mightyjoeyoung

    I went out on IMDB and realized that I´ve seen Les amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) ...but many years ago. I always thought that Patrice Leconte was the director for that one....but I was wrong.

    But Mauvais Sang sounds good...thanks Mr Clark.

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