FEDERICO FRANCIONI CROSSES EUROPE TO INTERVIEW EUGENE GREEN

Francioni is studying film direction at the CSC of L’Aquila.

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Welcome to the blog of Artdigiland!

We are happy to begin by writing our activities. Today we are publishing an interview with Federico Francioni, who is a young filmmaker and student of the Experimental Centre of Cinematography of Aquila (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia), with him we just decided to develop together a new multimedia and multi-lingual edition.

Some time ago Federico Francioni told us about his intention to conduct interviews with movie directors that are as good as invisible and neglected by the media.

The initiative taken by Francioni matched perfectly with our project. After a brief consultations the idea took form (became incarnate) around the figure of Eugene Green. With great determination Federico has organized a trip to Paris to carry out the video-interview providing the basis of subsequent publications on video, printed book and ebook.

I thought it would be interesting to talk with Fred to know something more specific about his motives, considering that this new production launches Artdigiland CONTENT LAB.

 

Outline from the beginning the outcome of the interview with Eugene Green?
Yes, it all started because I knew the work of Green.


Where did your interest in Green begin from ? How you spotted him ... known him as an auteur?
I've stumbled upon Green by chance, because I love "Fado" and the Portuguese music. Looking for a track of Aldine Duarte I saw that she was also present in the Green’s film  La Religieuse Portuguaise. Meanwhile, as a parallel coincidence, I discovered a very interesting baroque ensemble , Le Poeme Harmonique , published by a beautiful French label Alpha (who makes wonderful editions of ancient music). When I've got all the movies of Green, after seeing the fragment of fado de La Religieuse Portugaise, I noticed that in the firsts films (the first in particular, Toutes les nuits), he actually uses this ensemble for the soundtrack, and in the film Le Pont des Arts as part of the story. I also discovered his commitment working with the ensemble for the rediscovery of ancient and baroque heritage, and that he performed with them as a reader for a couple of records, (because before filmmaking he has done theater for many years). Everything was very interesting for me because the sensation was that Europe was like  a large network, with its own identities that however are in constant dialogue with each other, and that always lead to new breakthroughs and new "mestizo" .... This is the way I found Green.


Where did you find his movies?
I found the movies on my own. In France the DVDs has been published. He also wrote a very interesting book, a sort of manifesto - in French - which is called Poetique du Cinématographe, which has become a reference for some young people coming out now from film schools.


How long has it been since you seen it?
More or less in December 2012. I saw his movie, I read the book ... Then I started thinking it would have been nice to meet him. Finally, in preparation for the interview I saw all his movies. A year ago I didn't know them and now I know them almost by heart!


How Green reacted to the proposal of the interview?
After the meeting with Silvia I contacted the production house (La Sarraz) it has been quite simple. He was very happy with the idea of book and an interview. He was pleased and then he was very helpful and welcoming. We have brought him the book on Scialom as a gift, and he said he was honored to be published in the same series.


And what was the motivation for the interview? 
Well, I think he is an emblematic figure of the contemporary European auteur cinema. Often we find ourselves reflecting on events far off in time, and we forget that cinema is a living organism that always takes new directions. I think a figure like Green is important for this reason. He is a special witness, and a bearer of a personal vision of the world: the basis of auteur cinema.
 

If you had to give a reason why in your opinion is worth to know the work of Green which would be this reason?
I think his cinema is a seemingly difficult cinema, but it can give a lot to the viewer. It’s not an intellectual film, but focuses on a spirituality that is increasingly rare in cinema. It has its own poetic and has a unique way of telling stories, mixing spiritual elements with a great sense of humor . If you follow it until the end, and you abandon yourself to the film, you can discover an incredible beauty ... and I would say this is no small feat! And he does it not pretending to do so, but by the desire to spontaneously offer the viewer a glimpse on the world. There is a great humanity, despite the apparent "coldness"!


What are the aesthetics of Green’s films?
His aesthetic is very demanding. His films, visually, they can be combined in part to the films of Robert Bresson. There is often a "pictorial fixity”. Then, being a self-taught and having arrived to the cinema late in his life, at the age of 50, there are some recurring rethorical figures that completely distort the "best practices" of today’s cinema. An example of this are the constant shot/reverse shots on every line of dialogue : frontal and symmetrical. Or often there are shots of the feet, shots from the floor; and often the characters leave the picture free. Eugene often speak of "real presence" in his films. Namely the ability to capture, through the film, the energy of light itself, which has a specific energy. He is a perfectionist of the image: he leaves out everything he is not interested in. The most amazing thing is the way he tells the city. In his films Paris seems deserted, and reduced to the essential. In the Pont des Arts the bridge has a very important role, and is taken completely empty, with the two protagonists only. At the moment the bridge, however, I believe it is packed with tourists and padlocks. He is interested in telling what is hidden in reality. So the "truth" - or God - referring to the Jansenist philosophy of the Baroque period, so dear to him.
 

What I am not quite understanding is why you were personally interested in doing this interview. Deciding to go to Paris for an interview to a semi-unknown author means that for you there is something very compelling in the films of this director.
As a spectator, and as an aspiring filmmaker, I feel a little a "dowser" digging every where to find something and I happened to find Green, who is an author virtually unknown in Italy. The Turin Film Festival has dedicated a retrospective to him a few years ago, but other than that it is really an invisible. Instead I think he is one of the most emblematic figures of contemporary European cinema: he is an American who has rejected its origins to embrace the history and culture of another continent, to the point of build another identity. My idea was to make a documentary about him, a bit like an episode of "Cineastes de notre temps". Until a few years ago European cinema was a community of people  where exchanges were taking place, and where it happened that the young filmmakers wanted to document the work of older authors. I do not want to make comparisons, however, as an example the Young Turks of the Cahiers (Truffaut and Rivette, in that case), in the 60s they did a documentary on Renoir, and so on ... I feel the need to give voice to the authors of our time, a time that seems so elusive and lacking of any meaningful reference. And for me the cinema of Eugene is very compelling for the issues addressed and the language he uses. It's a cinema that makes no compromises, but at the same time stands at par of the beholder. It seemed to me all very interesting to justify the making of a portrait.
I was also struck by the fact that he is an American (he calls America "la Barbarie"), but has spent all his life to go against (compared to America, compared to France '68) ... represents a minority, which in my opinion should be protected.


Can you tell me briefly how it materialize the possibility of making the interview?
Yes, I met Silvia in L'Aquila, for the presentation of the book interview with/about Luca Bigazzi. ...Although I previously met her when she presented his book about Marc Scialom. During a chat about Scialom, I told her that there were several other hidden authors who deserved to be brought to light. And from there it all started. I had the desire to meet Green, but having the ability to make a book, or anyway an editorial project then the thing became much more real-tangible.


How many of you went to Paris?
Four us went there, 3 mates of the Centro Sperimentale accompanied me. Since it was around the 1st of May was also an opportunity for a holiday (otherwise they wouldn’t have come). The first meeting with Green we did it at his house and we were just two of the crew.
 

How many cameras did you use to film the interview and how long was the interview? We shot with two cameras, and the interview lasted about two hours. Then we filmed a few other encounters in the following days. In total I think I've collected three or four hours of material, a lot. Also because, as I said before, my initial idea was to make a documentary about him, a portrait. So this material could be very valuable as a starting base.
 

Can you tell me how it was structured?
We have addressed several issues, from his biography to his poetics, to talk about the state of contemporary cinema. We also did a final interview session with him and another guy who is going to do his first film soon, it was interesting to open the discussion to another point of view.  Because Eugene has put me in touch with some young filmmakers who had known during some  workshops (at the Femis, or in other Parisian schools). I had a chat with a couple of them about European cinema.
 

Did Silvia gave you dispositions and references on how to do the interview?
Silvia has not given me any disposition on how to approach to Green but she gave me some general advice, and I had the Bigazzi’s book as a model. Silvia told me that according to your experience in creating books interview the underlying problem is to reconcile the natural chronological order of discourse with the considerations of a more general nature. It is necessary to be able to go from one order to another and at the same time to follow a structure. So she advised me to do some work preparing the macrostructure of the interview to avoid to get there and do not be able to handle the interview sessions.


Was it carried out in French?
Yes, we have always talked in French. Now I am transcribing it and then we will prepare the video subtitles translated in Italian.
 

Has Silvia ever told you anything about the Artdigiland’s Content Lab?
No. ...At least not in these terms... What do you mean with Content Lab?


It is the opportunity to propose projects  and participate in the production of Artdigiland’s publishing projects. Such new editions can start spontaneously by those who want to realize them through publicly shared online digital board. So I think I can say that you are the first "artdigilander" to have developed an editorial project following the Content Lab philosophy, although in its pre-beta version, let's say...  
Well! I'm pleased. It seems to me a very good philosophy.


Inside the Content Lab there will be a public board where you can see the ongoing projects, propose new project and / or contribute to other’s projects. It is a way to turn "social" the cultural communication, expanding the possibilities of exchange, collaborations and production.
So  inside the Content Lab you are selecting and evaluating the proposals for new editorial projects ?
 

Yes, that's right, we select and coordinate the board. The participants will propose projects, we assist them in the development of the work and searching for potential collaborations with academics, artists, editors, graphics that could be interested in getting involved on specific projects. When the coordinates of the project become clearer then the contractual aspects are also defined. How would you like the edition from this video-interview to be?
I cannot answer to this  question at the moment, it is a boundless prairie too... But I think that the model used for the Scialom’s book worked well. The idea of having the critical notes, an interview, and the appendix it make sense to me. In this case I thought there would be the possibility of having some notes by these young directors I've known, their vision of the character might enrich the book and provide some more perspectives, especially for young authors anywhere they are. I do not know if I have answered your question... In addition Silvia has proposed to include in the appendix the cinema’s manifesto that Green has written, the document will be translated in Italian and published for the first time in this Italian edition of the book providing readers with an important document.


Interviewer: Gian Tapinassi, Artdigiland; Interviewed: Federico Francioni; Edited by Letizia Rossi; The interview took place during a text chat on May 13, 2014