This Saturday I am screening my first micro-budget feature film. In doing so, I must pay tribute to four movies that heavily influenced the writing and directing of French Story.
Swimming Pool (dir. Francois Ozon, 2003): itself inspired by the Alain Delon vehicle La Piscine (1969), Swimming Pool conveys the idea that personal memory and nostalgia can become toxic, confusing and invasive. Its uncanny atmosphere is powerful and subtle, with wonderful performances by Charlotte Rampling and her younger counterpart (now full-fledged star) Ludivine Sagnier. Ozon’s direction is understated, with an observational camera reminiscent of 1970s direct cinema.
F for Fake (dir. Orson Welles, 1973): Welles was always interested in the idea of film as a kind of visual theatre, from Citizen Kane’s emphatically long, deep-focus shots to Welles’ insertion of himself into several projects as an onscreen narrator. F for Fake extends that interest to the art of editing. Orson Welles deconstructs the very tools of visual storytelling, mixing documentary footage of real people (notably the art forger Elmyr) with fictional scenes and humorous addresses to camera that comment on, question and sometimes change the meaning of the footage that has come before. Welles delivers a film that feels like a stream of consciousness story with utmost precision, in a kind of dialectic.
Lights Out / Simon Werner A Disparu (dir. Fabrice Gobert, 2010): this low-budget French thriller focuses on the story of three high school students who go missing. Interestingly, rather than focusing on the resolution of the case, Gobert's film chooses to highlight the contradictions between the students' points of view, such as inconsistencies in their storytelling and multiple red herrings. Drawing on Gus Van Sant's Elephant (2003), Lights Out successfully captures the liminality of youth with a stellar soundtrack by Sonic Youth. It manifests teen B-movie filmmaking at its best.
Real Detective (Netflix, 2016-2017): this docudrama mixes real-life testimonies from retired and active detectives who narrate particularly difficult investigations from their career. Mixing documentary-style pieces to camera with re-enactments of their cases, Real Detective effectively channels emotional confessions to support compelling drama.