April 29th, 2018 / 2 Comments

Claire Denis talks Robert Pattinson and High Life with The Film Stage

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Nick Newman from The Film Stage spoke to Claire Denis and this is what she had to say about Robert and High Life:

Do you find there’s a different energy when you’re working at a faster pace?

I never had a long period. It never happened to me that I had a big budget. I would say that my budgets are always too small for what I want, and I accept it as too-tight jeans because I thought, “Maybe it will be better for my life.” You know what I mean? I think it’s giving me a sort of fierce energy to fight against all odds. If I was at ease, maybe I would stay and bed and do nothing. But this film, I’d been waiting to start shooting this film, High Life, with Robert Pattinson, and, every month, there was this thing: “No, let’s wait another three weeks.” Then four years –five years, almost — went through, and Robert was still waiting, and I felt I was going to die. It’s not the waiting — it’s the non-waiting. Then when I was offered to do this film with a small budget, I said yes — because it will wake up my senses. I was in a paralyzed situation where I was ashamed to have Robert waiting on me. Ashamed to be lied. And this offer, wow, was like pure joy.

On a more practical level, I think about the potential for exhaustion.

This time, it was terribly exhausting because I’ve been waiting so long to do High Life, and then, as soon as I finished this one, I was told, “You have to be ready on September 4,” and I knew I was not ready. The art department will not be ready. The only person ready to be ready was Robert, actually. And then I lost Patricia Arquette, and then Juliette came to me and said, “I want to replace her.” There was a lot of friendly moments where Robert told me this great thing: “You see, Claire, you thought I was too young four years ago. Maybe now you will accept me because I am older.” It’s true that, at the beginning, I told him I wanted an older guy, but I don’t know.

It was painful for me, but probably also painful because I was breathless and because I was losing my mother in the same time, and I was shooting in Germany. My mind was always occupied by the fact that I wanted to be in Paris, holding her in my arms; and, on the other hand, I didn’t want to betray the actors. So I was always split, and I don’t think it is the saddest moment of my life, because it happened only once in life, that you are losing a mother. So I never experienced that before. It’s not like a love story, you know? I knew I was losing my mother, and I was shooting in Cologne — four hours away from Paris by train — and it was an extremely strange thing. Maybe I gave to the film, maybe, a sort of sadness, but I put all my trust in Robert — as if I was telling him, “I’m here for you. Otherwise, I would be in the train already, to the hospital.” I’m almost crying.

I’m sorry.

It’s true. It’s true. Now I know what it is to lose a mother, but, at that time, I thought… losing a mother at a young age is one thing. Probably terrifying. But me, I’m the oldest child in the family, and I had got along in a sort of friendship with my mother, as though we were two friends. No more mother and daughter — I mean, a little bit, yes. But she was not immortal to me anymore. It’s strange. And then the film was very important for me, not to betray the film. I was not allowed to do that. But maybe I did betray the film. I don’t know.

And it’s partly about parenthood, right?

It’s about parenthood, yeah. It’s, in a way, parenthood like 35 Shots of Rum — father and daughter.

When Ilast talked to Olivier Assayas, he talked to me about supervising his movies’ English-language subtitles. Do you have a hand in that process?

When I did High Life, the English producer introduced me to an English writer, and, for some reason, I was curious to meet her. But, for some reason, I was afraid that there was absolutely… although I really agreed to work with her, but she was so distant. We had no connection at all, even in literature, even in music, even in casting. She kept telling me that Robert Pattinson was the worst casting ever. Then I went on doing the film, only with Andrew, who is also working with Olivier translating. I asked him to be with me. I didn’t want anyone else, because, otherwise, a supervisor is someone who is not even interested in the film. They’re only interested in a superiority of English practice, and this is fake.

I remember that there was in my script… [Puts hands over face] I’m crazy. Because I wrote the script in French first and it was translated. There was a place I called the “Love Machine,” and it was a place where people could go and have their own sexual fantasies. This writer told me, “‘Love Machine’ is stupid. It’s a song. It’s nothing.” And I said, “Yeah, but it helped me to understand the meaning of it.” And it became the Fuck Box. But without her, because I thought, “She’s right, probably.” But I need, to move from “Love Machine” to “Fuck Box,” this Tindersticks vision of what it was. Because Stuart said, “Oh, it’s the box.” And I said, “Oh, the box. Yeah. Great. Fuck Box. Suddenly, this is really helping me.”

I feel I should mention that my bag has your former collaborator, Rivette, on it. I’m a huge fan of your documentary on him, of course.

Oh, no! Beautiful. Great. During High Life, I was thinking of Romeo & Juliet, the words of the father of Juliet — some lines. And he was telling his daughter, “My little baggage.” Meaning: he’s thinking she’s mine, but she’s also baggage, heavy to carry. I thought this was so beautiful, so I told Robert, “Would you mind to add that into the dialogue,” and I thought he was going to say, “No, this is too old-fashioned. How could I speak like, ‘Oh, my little baggage.’” Finally he loved it and he did it. So I think supervising English is something that has to do with song and reading — songs and sounds and reading a feeling. Like going from “Love Machine” to “Fuck Box.” It’s the perfect example, for me, of real English.

So your English is actually very good, if you can go from “Love Machine” to “Fuck Box.”

Yeah. Thank you.

You’ve had one great film open this year, so here’s hoping for another.

I hope. Yeah, I will finish in June. I think Robert is going to do voice, post-production, at end of May or something like that, and mixing is in June. In the meantime, I hope for some special-effect add-on.

That’s interesting that the film won’t be finished until June and explains the non-Cannes involvement – which as Claire has said previously, doesn’t bother her one bit.  And if the English writer she’s alluding to is Zadie Smith – then no more me reading her novels and really – she should stick to writing and not casting.  Good on you Claire for dumping her not Rob.  Have I said how much I love Claire Denis.

Click on the link above to read the full interview.


  • Vertigo
    Posted on April 29, 2018

    Claire gives the most interesting interviews. It’s almost sad when they’re over.
    Thanks for posting.

  • sue
    Posted on April 30, 2018

    Agree @Vertigo. You never quite know what you’re about to read/hear, but it never disappoints. Four, nearly five years she waited …… we know the feeling! LOL It’ll be worth the wait, though, I’m sure.

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