An Experimenter
Festival in Media
2017-11-30

At the opening ceremony of the 18th film festival, Golden Prometheus of Honor will be granted to a Canadian director Denis Côté. Besides, his films: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Curling and A Skin So Soft will be screened in the section "Director in Focus".

Denis Côté makes two types of films. They either follow a strictly detailed script, where every scene is meticulously planned such as "Boris without Béatrice" or are made spontaneously, with a minimum of budget and without any preliminary plan, like "Bestiaire" - its fate was decided in the editing room.

He was 20 when he established his own production company. For 20 years, he's made 12 features and 16 short films. His films were awarded at many prestigious festivals (Locarno, Berlin etc.). He says that an irony and black humor dominates his films and he's never too lazy to give some explanation about his origins: "Many people consider that if we, the Québécois talk French it means that we are from France. But we are all very different from them. We don't laugh as much as they do, for example. We are more like English. We are English who speak French."

An Englishman who Speaks French, used to watch horror movies when he was young. He grew up in a family where there weren't many books. It was not a poor family but we weren't really connecter to culture, he says. When you don't have much money, live outside Montreal and suddenly you have a VCR, what can you do? You got to sit and watch all these movies. From 11 till 17 years old, he examined European horror movie. He says that he's seen all these bloody movies about zombies and cannibals adding regretfully that he's become an encyclopedia of horror cinema.

Denis Côté studied for only two years in college. Since then, he's never gone to the film school again. He thinks that you can't become a director just studying in the college. It depends on your personality mainly. If you are a leader and have a vision that's only how you can be a director. "Today, young filmmakers make their first films in HD, thus both the sound and the visual is perfect. After the first short film they think that they're ready for the feature - that's the problem. I've made 15 short films before getting to the features. I was 30 then. That's why when I meet young director, I tell them "Hey, calm down. You're just 20." Xavier Dolan made his first feature at the age of 19, so what? Dolan is a unique case, he's another planet." He delivered a masterclass at the same topic at Karlovy Vary Film Festival. "Nowadays, one must find several alternatives to face the diktats of the industry. The ways to finance film projects are often linked to strict rules that lead us to question or even abandon our creative ideals." - He said at the meeting with students. Creativity makes a great part of his own carrier.

At first, he was a film critic. He wrote and talked about the films. Then someone offered if he would like to talk about the cinema in the radio - for 6 minute podcast. Not a big deal, he had to talk about the film synopsis and premieres. "I said yes, because it was important for me to learn to talk about the cinema." - Côté says. Working in the radio was followed with another interesting offer, - "Would you like to write about the cinema? Go bring us a diskette with the text. Then we'll see." It was 1998. He says he had never touched a computer before. He wrote his review and he was taken by surprise when they said: "we will hire, you're going to be our film editor." It means a film critic? Hired? - He asked. Finally, he was given a desk and his own computer. That's where he learnt everything that didn't turned out to be that difficult.

He always knows why he's making the film and how will the next film be like. In his first feature "Drifting States" the camera trembles for the whole movie, because he thought that the more the image trembles the more alive it is. "No, now I know that it's not true, but back then..." His next film "All That She Wants" was like a turning point in his career, where he used a static camera. But he doesn't have an answer to the question why this film is black and white. "It's true, maybe my films are not masterpieces but at least you know that I offer something new each time. I'm absolutely obsessed by form and film language. I'm not a good storyteller and I adore experiments. My first two films were talked about as: "Oh, that's an ex-critic making films." I made my third film with one million dollars; I thought I was making a big film with stars in it, and it was black and white, very slow and I was still the ex-critic making a wannabe Québécois Bela Tarr film".

The director tries to leave the audience completely confused. To take "Vic + Flo Saw a Bear", the title doesn't say what's going to happen in the movie, who the movie is about: women, men or animals. This can be a title of children animated film. He was very nervous before when he was told "We can't follow you because you always change." Now he likes having gained the name of the director full of unexpectedness.

According to Denis Côté, today cinema is divided into two directions: the one that offers, invites and throws you into that world and the one that dictates what to feel, when to be empathic to the hero and what moral to take out from the movie. He thinks that the second type of the cinema is a dominant one, so he tries to create a film where you can step into and get interested or not. It lets him to make experiments on forms, not to restrict himself and find a new inspiration.

"I have a neighbor, a Romanian man I meet almost every day. Every time I see a Romanian movie, I say to him "Hey, I saw a Romanian film yesterday: "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu"... and he responds unsatisfied, "Low-budget, isn't it?" I say, "What's the difference?" And then he touches my shoulder and says: "Denis, every day I go to work, where I clean the floor and rugs, wash the windows all day long. And got back at 6 in the evening, I don't want to see a film about the man who died in the city I once lived. I want to see a "Spiderman" or "Superman." Of course, Hollywood and the fantasy rules but I never go to movies for entertainment. For me, the entertainment is a reality, but 95% of people live in this reality and don't really find it funny. So, Art-film doesn't interest them. But "Viki + Flo Saw a Bear" was on movies for 4 weeks in Quebec, what's normal, I believe. Im a director who loves experiments. That's why Hollywood can never become my playground".

The Festival will offer a short retrospective of Denis Côté. For a week, an audience will be able to see his 3 films: "Viki + Flo saw a Bear", documentary-fiction "A Skin So Soft" and "Curling" where the action takes place on the distance from the society, in the faraway Canadian village and tells a story about the life of a father and a daughter. Also, a masterclass about the film directing will be held in Amirani (hall 3) on December 7th at 17:30.

 

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