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Saturday, 20 June 2015

The ICA's #CatalanAvantGarde season : A brief interview with Sílvia Munt

This is a short interview with Sílvia Munt, director of El Cafè de la Marina (2014)

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

This is a brief, recollected* interview, from #CatalanAvantGarde at the ICA (@ICALondon), with Sílvia Munt, director of El Cafè de la Marina (2014), which had a screening on Tuesday 28 April 2015 at 8.50 p.m.

30 April

A very useful event, arranged for the audience, allowed one to ask director Sílvia Munt some questions before the screening (two young Catalan-speakers, one already familiar, kindly agreed to help with translating) : useful, since the exigencies of The Agent’s travel turned out to make lingering long in the Q&A itself inconvenient. So, over some Cava, one was able to establish that, as well as having a warm and welcoming presence and a willingness to engage with enquiry, Munt has directed herself in three of her eight feature films to date (though this one, as became clear (please see below), had been conceived for television).

In this case, though, Sílvia had just directed as well, that is, as having scripted the film (with Mercè Sàrrias). However, when suggested, she did agree that she is not with Woody Allen in how he is reported to direct himself, by being reportedly keen to quit at the end of the day to catch The World Series. Rather, she can fifteen takes to get what she wants from her own performance, and, when she writes, it takes her three months to develop a script. [Damn ! Could have asked her whether she also uses Allen’s method, when writing, of bashing it out on an old Olympia typewriter... (And, in like analogue vein, substituting text by stapling slips of paper in place over the old material.)]

That said, regarding how scripts develop during shooting, Munt said that hers remain malleable (because actors may find that the words do not sound right when they speak them), and then, as it were [not her words], she ‘reframes the utterances’. She went on to say that this approach fits the nature of her work, as dramatic comedy (rather than, say, permitting the cast to improvise replacement material) : therefore, she does re-writes, because any other approach would not (for her) be congruent with her material. [Another point of comparison (not made) with Allen, who tells us that, if his actors re-formulate his text on set, he can even go with that, seemingly irrespective of genre.]

As became apparent during the conversation, as it specifically turned to El Cafè de la Marina (2014), Munt has adapted what is regarded as a classic of Catalan literature : a stage-play of this name, in verse form (with lines of ten syllables), by Josep María Sagarra. Just from what she was saying, concerning difficulties of location-scouting an unspoilt shore, the film about to be watched** had to be a period piece. [As it is not a period film, though set on that coast, one had to refrain (as this was meant to be active listening [link to Wikipedia®]) from reflecting aloud on Menú degustació (Tasting Menu) (2013), from Camera Catalonia***.]

As Munt spoke, the likelihood arose (as mentioned to her, and realised in the seeing) that there would nigh inevitably be connections with the themes of actor / director Daniel Auteuil’s Marseilles-set trilogy in the making**** (but of which she said that she did not know). (The original films, apparently much loved, were derived from two stage-plays by Marcel Pagnol and then directly from his film-script, which he directed to conclude it, and later turned into a play : the first play had been directed as Marius (1931) by Alexander Korda, and then Fanny (1932) by Marc Allégret.)

As for El Cafè de la Marina itself on film, a confused account (on IMDb and elsewhere) suggests, with little detail, that one was made in 1933 (or was it in 1941 ?) : if so, contemporary with Pagnol on film. At the time of viewing Munt’s version, that had not been known, or that it had been conceived as a t.v. movie. However, when Munt was asked in the Q&A (before The Agent had to rush off) about the effect of using light indoors in the café, it appeared that there had been some issues in converting it to a DCP, and that the look that we had seen might have been different from what had been intended…

A little more (by way of a quick review) to come...


* I.e. not digitally recorded, but relying on neuronal techniques of capture...

** ‘From cold’, that is to say with no prior knowledge - on the basis that A film should speak for itself.

*** The six-film Catalan strand at Cambridge Film Festival in 2014 the third year of films at #CamFF from Catalunya, curated by Ramon Lamarca (who hosted this evening’s Q&A).

**** So far, we have had Marius (2013) and Fanny (2013) (at Cambridge Film Festival 2013 (#CamFF / @camfilmfest)), but César now seems ‘put back’ from having been, previously, noted as in pre-production on IMDb (@IMDb) :

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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