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Philippe Garrel • Director

Director defends Godard-inspired That Summer

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- Philippe Garrel defends his film That Summer, which met with a cold reception from the press at the 68th Venice Film Festival

Philippe Garrel • Director

There to defend That Summer [+see also:
trailer
interview: Philippe Garrel
film profile
]
, presented in competition at the 68th Venice Film Festival, French director Philippe Garrel spoke to the international press, who gave a cool reception to his 24th film, by reminding them of the principles of his cinematic approach.

Cineuropa: What was your approach for this film?
Philippe Garrel: My approach may seem academic because after all, I’ve copied Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt. But it’s no different from a very widespread approach in painting. We copy the Masters and in my view, Jean-Luc Godard is a Master. It’s his films I love and they’re also the ones I want to make. This approach draws me closer to Leos Carax for example, who also considers Godard as a master whom he regularly copies. But copying is perhaps not the right word. I pick out the core which constitutes the film’s unconscious, but all around it, the exterior changes and it becomes my film.

What is the meaning of the nude image of Monica Bellucci right at the start of the film?
This image belongs to the unconscious of a painter who is about to die. He has a vision of his wife. I try to make films which show women’s souls and to capture the soul of a model, you have to be able to paint her body. This is one of those things for which I’m criticised, whether I do them or not ,incidentally. I take consolation in the thought that Courbet was also heavily criticised for The Origin of the World and that today, the painting no longer offends anyone. When I was 14 years old, I did some charcoal drawing at the Academy and we used to paint this type of painting whilst respecting the precepts of Leonardo da Vinci’s treatise on painting. I’ve respected these rules here by filming Monica from a distance corresponding to twice the size of the model. This is part of the film’s academicism.

That Summer is once again highly personal...
I’ve dedicated the film to Frédéric Pardo, my painter friend who has the same first name as the character played by Louis in the film. The rest is fiction, but I worked with this friend for 35 years and up until his death. He painted my actors and there were constant echoes between our respective work. I wanted to immortalise a part of him in the film but without lapsing into fetishism. The paintings in the film, for example, are not by him. My father also makes his last appearance at the end of the film in a dialogue he wrote himself.

The film was partly booed at the press screening. What is your response to those critics who didn’t like the film?
The critics are entitled to think that I’m not up to standard, but they’re perhaps the same people who would have booed Pierrot Le Fou at the time, and still would today even. I make films that belong to the dialectics of cinema. I film women with a soul. There are whole parts of the script which are written by women to be acted by women and I think that among themselves, they understand each other. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the men understand too. I’m not saying you have to understand everything, but if the incomprehension is about what emerges from that feminine soul, that may give rise to half the movie theatre booing. I don’t have any problem with that. Non-conformism isn’t an attitude of mine, but my films arise out of it. Inevitably, there will be reactions.

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