For over a decade Bertrand Bonello has been one of the top modern french directors out. His work has been a regular fixture at Cannes (winning the international critics week prize in 2001 for 'The Pornographer'). He's worked with everyone from french legends like; Jean Pierre Leaud, Aurore Clement & Michel Piccoli, to modern day french heavyweights like Mathieu Amalric & Laurant Lucas as well as future stars like Adele Haenele. His name is also commonly associated with other forward-thinking modern french directors like Gaspar Noe & Bruno Dumont as part of "The New French Extremity". So far, his body of work has touched upon everything from pornography ('The Pornographer') and the occult ('On War'), to transgender ('Tiresia') and brothel life ('The House Of Tolerance').
His latest film; 'The House Of Tolerance' wound up on many "Best Of 2011" lists (most notably mine and Cahiers Du Cinema).
His films have been written about and pretty much given praise on PINNLAND EMPIRE (a review of 'Tiresia' is scheduled at some point this year), so its pretty awesome of him to take the time out of his probably busy schedule to answer a few quick questions...
1. What are the last 3 movies you saw? (feel free to elaborate on any of them)
Bertrand Bonello: 'Violence et Passion' (Visconti) - I think the English title is 'Conversation Piece'. Burt Lancaster is genius in this film. And God, Where is the new Helmut Berger?! The film is heartbreaking and brilliant.
- 'Intouchables' - I wanted to know what interested so many French people (18 millions). The film is like "Walt Disney". Not for me, but why not … It shows anyway how much my country is feeling bad.
- 'Meek's Cutoff' - I missed it when it was released. I caught up on DVD. I like the idea that every 3 years you have a new definitive western. Maybe the film is too obviously "author" but I liked it. It says a lot about relationships with Indians.
2. Who, in your opinion, is the best active filmmaker working right now?
BB: TOUGH QUESTION! Impossible to answer, but let's play the game: Lars Von Trier, because everything from him is possible. You don't know what is going to come.
3. Alice Houri once told me that you had the cast members of 'The Pornographer' watch Bresson's 'The Devil Probably'. Why that SPECIFIC Bresson film instead of 'Lancelot Du Lac' or 'Un Femme Douce'? What was it about 'The Devil Probably' that influenced or inspired 'The Pornographer'?
BB: It was not the only direction of the cast, but it is true that 'THE PORNOGRAPHER' was influenced by this movie. Its mainly because of the way it shows youth. Not realistic, but at the same time full of truth. This mix was very important for me.
4. I know this question has been asked a million times, but with your latest film; 'The House Of Tolerance' (a movie i consider to be one of the best of last year), what drew your attention to prostitution? What sparked you interest on the subject?
BB: About House of tolerance...my first desire was to do a picture with a bunch of young women. I didn't want to show them with today's problems (find a job, a boyfriend). Then I had the image of them in a brothel in 1900. And for me, the image was strong. In fact, I was much more interested in brothel life than I was prostitution. After that, I started doing some research and I quickly became very moved by these women. Also, it appeared to me that the brothel would be a perfect place for cinema. Like a box for fantasy. Like a brain.
5. If you don't mind me asking, what specific instruments and/or music equipment did you use for the soundtrack to 'The House Of Tolerance'?
BB: It is a mix of several things. Synths, electric guitars, and Chinese violin for the main theme. Piano and classical percussion (including gongs) for the music that comes in the rooms with all the scenes with the clients.
I recorded as much stuff and as many sounds as I could in several studios, then put everything in my computer to organize the music