did you start going to the movies?
I was very young indeed, I was about 6...
Did your father push you to discover cinema?
had me discover Spielberg, but I used to go at rue
des Ecoles, near the Sorbonne where there are quite
a few art houses theatres. They showed many 50s classics.
Scorsese's Mean Streets seems to be your favorite
movie... Did it trigger something in you?
No, the trigger movie, the one that got me bitten
by the bug of filmmaking, was Luc Besson's The Last
Battle. There's also George Lucas' American Graffiti,
which I would go and see every Saturday for one year
in a cinema near the Luxembourg Gardens. Once out
I used to go to what was the only McDonald's in Paris
by then. Mean Streets is my favorite movie in terms
of cinematography, in terms of how much energy a movie
can transmit. The Last Battle is the film which really
made me realize that one was not compelled to make
old-looking films, that one could make a science fiction
movie with little money.
What about Spielberg, you were quite young
when you discovered him?
was about 10. I saw Duel at the Cinémathèque
like many others. It was my father who learned me
how to read a movie. He said: "Look how it is
done, you don't see the guy, all the more he's here;
it's not a fantastic movie and yet it is..."
You knew about the fanzines?
was in several fanzines with buddies when I was 15-16
years old. One had a title inspired by a line in Coppola's
Outsiders. But I did not get along with them because
they wanted to speak only about French cinema. I wrote
some pieces of criticism, one on Gremlins for instance.
I read them lately, they are really full of shit!
When I was 12-13 I also made horror movies. Five of
them: it was gore, heavily inspired by Romero and
Argento. We found arms of mannequins, we packed them
with blood and then cut it all with an axe. It was
the great period of the fantastic cinema: late 70s
- early 80s.
Argento... these are moviemakers you were never quoted
talking about, let alone decrypting their influences
in your movies... Did they influence you ?
Wes Craven's, Romero's, all the movies of the 80s...
At the time in Paris there was the Fantastic Film
Festival and I was there every year. I saw Evil Dead,
Argento's, some Romero's. It was the great period,
even the big movies from the American studios: Fridays
the 13th, Halloween... The best Carpenter period too.
It was also the time of René Château
like Bruce Lee but I prefer more crazy Kung fu movies
like those of the Shaw Brothers, the Five Fingers
of Death to name one. The films of Bruce Lee were
a little more sophisticated. But I did prefer horror
Yep. Evil Dead when we saw it at the Paris Festival,
that was a real blow. Sam Raimi dared to do what we
never dared to, and on a professional level! It was
the same time the Last Battle was released, they all
belonged to a dash of guys making movies on a shoe-string.
knew Mad Movies when it was still a fanzine ?
I remember when it shifted from fanzine to a pro magazine,
I knew it just before that. There was L'Ecran Fantastique
too. Then came Starfix.
right from the first issue ?
did not believe too much in Starfix at the beginning.
I was very deeply into Mad Movies. Starfix organized
projections on Sunday mornings. You needed a ticket
which you could get as a subscriber. The problem was
I had no dough to subscribe. Thus I drew my own tickets
know it now ?
Nicolas Boukhrief even said to me: "You idiot,
you should have asked us". I went over there
and I looked which color was the ticket, then I went
to a stationer's to buy the same paper and I drew
it back home. It would take me two hours! Each Sunday
morning I was feeling down. Anyway we got up every
Sunday morning at 8 and we saw grand flicks.
you regard yourself as a movie-addict, like Christophe
never. But Gans is a freak, he goes way down in its
delirium. I can't stand up against him more than ten
seconds. He knows everything, he has seen everything,
he has an opinion on everything! As for me I'm not
so much of a movie enthusiast. I've seen many movies,
but I forgot the great majority of the titles and
every other director's name.
the promotion of Hate, your reference was Spielberg...
You asserted some kind of cinema...
Since the very first interview I gave, the two people
I speak about are Spielberg and Besson. It was at
a time when everyone would spit on them. I saw the
Last Battle with my father and once out he said to
me: "the guy who did that is 23". Me, I
was 17 and I thought: "This is it, that's the
thing. I can drop out of school". There's also
the French cinema of the years 30 through 50. It takes
a stop with Melville. Afterwards, it's a big vacuum.
Except for the movies of Yves Robert: The Tall Blond
Man, An Elephant Can Be Extremely Deceptive, We Will
All Meet in Paradise which are all masterpieces to
me. Afterwards, nothing occurred for years…
until Beneix, Besson.
Which is your favorite Spielberg movie?
can't like Duel more that Close Encounter of the Third
Kind and I can't like Jaws more that 1941... They
are too many.
do you think of his evolution? The Lost World for
should not worry. Spielberg did not really helm Jurassic
Park 2, he took no risks so as to sit his career and
to be quiet. The first JP was brilliant and astonishing
and Lost World is much less interesting because it
bumps in the limits of the franchise. Yet, Man lose...
When you take a look at the directors you like, their
3-4 first features are the best. It is where they
gave more energy. Scorsese, for example, made New
York, New York because he had no idea what to do.
Taxi Driver and Mean Streets are much more interesting
than Godfellas for me. It demands so much energy to
make a film that actually, generally speaking, the
first are the most powerful. That's why I prefer Mean
Streets over Taxi Driver because Mean Streets is more
typically free cinema.
Isn't Hate a French some kind of a remake
of Mean Streets?
all stole so many things from so many people that
we find it again elsewhere. Lately I've watched Spike
Lee's Do The Right Thing for the second time and I
found a great deal of stuff in it.
had the opportunity to meet these people? Spielberg
I went to his Amblin offices because they asked me
to come and see them and bring some projects. I didn't
know the rules, I came empty-handed. They asked me:
"You have a project for us to have a look?",
I had no project for them so I answered: "There's
something like an adaptation the animated series Dragon
Ball Z with Jackie Chan and Jet Lee". They stared
at me... Voilà. It is my only meeting with
Spielberg, in fact he was in the office next door.
But one day I will run into the guy and ask him: "WHY?
HOW DOES IT WORK?"
we speak about Luc Besson ?
We like the Last Battle very much and, for
some of us, his first movies; but we can't begin to
understand how Jan Kounen and you can advocate for
a movie like The Fifth Element ?
We think it sucks big time: it recycles all
the Métal Hurlant (Howling Metal, seminal SF
magazine) heritage with no follow up in the directing.
I admire Luc for what he manages to do with respect
to the public. The Fifth, he did it ! Now, you can
criticize the directing, the set decoration, the references,
whatever, the guy did succeed. Moreover, he has fun
and you can't reproach him that. He makes movies without
pretence and I find it great. I saw him working on
the set and I find that he is a very honest director.
You never studied cinema...
studies in general?
I am hopeless at studies. I found it better to stop
at 17. Just after my first year in High School, I
found a training course.
it really your father who had the bug bit you?
since I was very young I went on location. My father
was not a renowned director, he did mostly television.
In the 30 year span of his career he only made two
feature films which did not do well. He has just finished
his third with Robin Williams...
And with you too...
Yeah, with me... mostly with Robin Williams (laughs)...
As I was on location, I gained interest in cameras
very soon. At 17 I worked as a trainee during summer
and then get back to school. Then came the winter
and the production contacted me for a new training
period. I told my parents I would accept, I would
take care of myself. I became a second assistant on
a feature by Paul Boujenah with Michel Boujenah and
Zabou called Moitié moitié. Great movie!
(laughs). Then a first assistant for industrial movies,
but I was so useless I decided to move on.
Your first short: Fierrot le Pou...
Yes, with the little money I had put aside, that is
20,000 francs (~$2,500). My father told me to make
do with what I had, that is: no mike, a camera lend
by the neighbor who became my DP afterwards. The camera
was a Bolex, spring driven so the shots could last
no longer than 30 sec. My goal was to shoot it. Make
a rough cut to find a real editing station…
Then came Lazennec...
I had a rough cut on video: I shot the screen of my
Stenbeck with a camcorder and I went from place to
place to show it to people. All the sound had to be
worked out, all the editing reworked. Since I was
working on video clips quite a lot, people told me
: "We'll add music on it and make it a clip".
Of course I refused. Then one day I ended up at Lazennec.
I already knew them because at 17 I had writ Cauchemar
Blanc (Blank Nightmare) and show it to them. But by
then Christophe Rossignon was not there and they only
did shorts. So we couldn't make it that time. Not
until they produced Love Without Pity did I came back.
It was the first time I met Christophe Rossignon.
He had just started a week before and he was mending
the Xerox machine. I was one of his first "clients",
he backed me to finish Fierrot le Pou and we get along
Fierrot le Pou was quite a technical achievement
I'm quite proud of Fierrot le Pou because it's technically
straight. The breakdown of the scenes is rather fluid.
It's the short I'm the most satisfied with.
Was it story-boarded?
Yes, of course. Everything was planned. There's a
shot just before I smash the ball and transform myself.
It's a contra-zoom shot with a change of frame speed
to end on a slow motion. On the Bolex we were three
of us clutching buttons no bigger than cufflinks...
While filming you discover tricks. I, for one, I didn't
know you could change the frame speed halfway through
What was the rest of the equipment besides
There was a Dolly western (a platform with big wheels),
which cost us 300 francs ($40) for the week, and one
head. That's it.
Nobody was paid?
No. We just paid the Paris municipality to rent the
What was the point with Fierrot le Pou ?
Do a short with very little money... In a short you
can't have a first act, a second act and a final act.
You've got a beginning and an end.. Usually it's OK
when there are gags or very simple things. By the
time I was playing basket a lot and a lot of my black
friends played much better. It was annoying.
What did Fierrot le Pou change for you ? Did
it make Cauchemar Blanc easier to set up ?
Fierrot le Pou was not much appraised. It is not the
kind of short that goes to festivals. Actually I had
sent about ten projects to the C.N.C. [Centre National
de la Cinématographie] and they refused to
grant any of them. There was a spoof of The Last Battle
called The Last Base Toll.
For Cauchemar Blanc, did you buy the rights
No, he gave them. He's very cool!
Adapting a comic: did it mean compulsory shots?
Actually I am not very pleased with the short. It
was very difficult to shoot, with wind blowing at
60 mph. For instance we couldn't put the projectors
on stand, they were all on the soil. The phone booth
would always fell. Nothing went right. I also messed
up with the breakdown of the scenes. But it was nice
to adapt a comic because you see right away what mood
you'll put on film.
What did Moebius think of the short?
He said it was super because he is nice. Now I don't
There was a hell of a cast...
Yeah...Daroussin, Attal, just out from Rochant's Love
Without Pity... there were positive energies on this
There's also the nice sequence shot in the
I did achieve exactly what I wanted. It took me four
hours and then I had no time to do the rest as I wanted.
Well I learned a lot on this short.
After Cauchemar Blanc, you wanted to make
Café au Lait (Métisse)?
Yes, but I wanted to play in Métisse so Christophe
and I we thought it was better to do another short
before. Thus we made Assassins which allowed us to
test the crew I would use on Métisse and see
how I could manage a more structured movie, taking
place 'in camera', without a real story. A stylistic
composition in fact.
This short already shocked a lot of people
Yes, he got a NC-17 rating. I received a letter from
the Ministry of Culture saying it was a call for murder.
The Minister Jack Lang signed it. When Hate became
a sensation, I received a letter from the same guy:
"I am Jack Lang, I find this very good..."
It went to some festivals but it was not the mood
of the time.
There's a kind of trademark with your work:
True I used that a lot. I think that among the simplest
effects those using mirrors are the most beautiful.
It's true with The Marx Brothers [Duck Soup] or in
the uncut version of Terminator, when Schwarzenegger
mends himself his eye.
Jan Kounen told us he didn't like the shorts
people, that they were a bunch of upstarts. Did you
feel the same way ?
I did not really mix with these people, I went to
2 or 3 festivals where the movies were not well received.
That said it feels the same with features. If the
shorts people are upstarts, the feature people are
hyper-upstarts. The real nuisance are the C.N.C. guys,
those who will decide who has the grants. It's hyper-upstart
and it's all stranded, one should always do the same
kind of movie.