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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Le marteau avec maître : A Q&A with Alix Delaporte

An account of a Q&A with Alix Delaporte for her Le dernier coup de marteau (2014)

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

14 July

A little account of a Q&A with director Alix Delaporte for her
Le dernier coup de marteau (The Last Hammer Blow) (2014), as screened at
The Arts Picturehouse on Monday 13 July at 6.00 p.m.

When one thought of it, the story about Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, and the two (or three) hammer-blows, is oft told (one was in the screening without a grasp of the title but it proved not essential to watching the film, and one almost respects the art world for the fact that Untitled is an abiding description) : to Alix Delaporte, who did not know this work (or the composer), this story had attracted her to make a film around the work. That said, she said about Samuel Rovinski that she first needed to give the father a job / profession, so why not that of a conductor ?

Actually, we do experience Grégory Gadebois (as Samuel), seen from within the orchestra as he sits on his stool, quite well* : it is our way into who he is, as against the convincingly big, bluff, blunt man who strides around The Opera Berlioz as if he is Stourley Kracklite (from Peter Greenaway’s The Belly of an Architect (1987), played by Brian Dennehy), denying his paternity. (Just in that respect, as the generous rehearsal time that the film affords (against the time to make a recording in the 1990s) is hardly realistic for nowadays, the film reminds of our relating to Stéphane (Daniel Auteuil) through his music in Un Cœur en Hiver (1992).)

It is at that level of connection that we have an understanding of who people are : as is clear, and as Delaporte confirmed in the Q&A, she leaves these things open so that, in a way, we construct our own film (or our own understanding, at any rate, of what happened, and why, and what it means). So we do not have explained to us, as another type of film-maker might (so that it is established and fixed in our mind, as a given to work / build on as a necessity of plot-driven cinema), things such as :

* Who Miguel is and what his relation is to Victor

* What (other than geographical proximity) brought Nadia** to have a relationship with Samuel (as we gather, she is not a fellow musician)

* Likewise, what (except, patently, shortage of resources) caused her to move to this place three years or so ago to bring up her family (one is reminded of the location of Bombay Beach (2011))

* What happens, except by implication, between Victor and his father when they are off screen

We heard from Delaporte how pasty-faced young Parisian actors who auditioned for the part of Victor did not suit her conception of someone who lives where he does, and how Romain Paul’s affability made her love and want to put him on screen (confirmed by his warmth on set). She was asked about his resolution and determination (in relation to how he is filmed), and she characterized him herself as a serious boy who does not seek typical teenage rebellion against his mother (parents, now that he comes to meet his father).

In relation to the specific question about using a shallow depth of field, both (but not only) when Victor enters the auditorium, and has the orchestra behind him, and in the closing moment***, and when that had come into the conception of how the film would look, Delaporte told us that she does not work on a film in such a way : that it had not been planned beforehand at that level, or structured or themed (not her exact words) as to the choice of shots hence, as here Tweeted :


* If, though, we also know about music, we know that the players whom we see are miming (and not producing what we hear), and the orchestral sound does not quite match what we would expect, e.g. from where Victor is in the auditorium.

** Clotilde Hesme, who plays Nadia, reminds a lot of Kristin Scott Thomas, when younger, and how she might play such a role.

*** When Victor is on the top of the building, with his mother, and he is sharply foregrounded against Montpellier (which someone in the audience thought was deliberately referencing Les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows) (1959), but which Delaporte said had not been in her mind / her intention).

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

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