Monday, August 1, 2016

THE CINEMA OF BERTRAND BONELLO TOLD THROUGH (MOVING) IMAGES & STILLS...


For 15 years Bertrand Bonello has been one of the most unique voices in (modern) French film. His work has been a regular fixture at Cannes (he won the international critics week prize in 2001 for The Pornographer), Cahier Du Cinema loves him, and he's worked with everyone from French legends like Jean Pierre Leaud & Aurore Clement (something we'll be getting in to later) to modern day French favorites like Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux & Laurant Lucas. His name is also commonly associated with other forward-thinking modern French directors like Gaspar Noe, Marina De Van & Bruno Dumont (all PINNLAND EMPIRE favorites) as part of the now-defunct "New French Extremity" scene. 
Content-wise, his body of work has touched on everything from pornography (The Pornographer) and the occult (On War), to the struggles & setbacks that come along with being a filmmaker (The Pornographer)
Bertrand Bonello's work has been written about quite a bit on PINNLAND EMPIRE (he was also kind enough to answer a few brief questions for the site a few years ago) so it's only right that his entire body of works gets the "Cinema Of..." treatment.
(although Bertrand Bonello did not direct Portrait Of The Artist, I'll still be including that film in this piece given Bonello is not only the star of the film, but he essentially plays a fictionalized version of himself)


Enjoy...


ART APPRECIATION
Whether it's something directed by (Saint Laurent, The Pornographer, House Of Tolerance, etc) or starring Bertrand (Portrait Of The Artist), you'd be hard-pressed to find one of his films that isn't surrounded by art. While clothing design is certainly an art in its own right, Saint Laurent (Bertrand's Yves Saint Laurent biopic) is filled with tons of sculptures and pop art. Large paintings are displayed on the walls all throughout House Of Tolerance & Tiresia, and Portrait Of The Artist is essentially about art appreciation...
Saint Laurent
Saint Laurent
Tiresia
Tiresia
Tiresia
House Of Tolerance
On War
Portrait Of The Artist
Portrait Of The Artist

with that being said...

House Of Tolerance/Rene Magritte
Tiresia/Tiresias The Blind Prophet

(POSSIBLE) INFLUENCES ON BERTRAND BONELLO...

House Of Tolerance/The Doll
On War/The Wicker Man
On War/The Entombment Of Christ
House Of Tolerance/Unknown Painting
House Of Tolerance/After The Ball
Portrait Of The Artist/Portrait Of Tonetta
Portrait Of The Artist/Diane Arbus
House Of Tolerance/The Man Who Laughs
House Of Tolerance/Eyes Wide Shut
My New Picture/Vivre Se Vie
Jean Pierre Leaud as "The Director" in The Pornographer/Irma Vep/Last Tango In Paris
Deadpan expressionism: The Pornographer/Pickpocket
more art appreciation in Portrait Of The Artist & Far From Heaven
Tiresia/Diary Of  A Country Priest
Tiresia/The Trial Of Joan Of Arc
Tiresia/Blood Of A Poet
Mathieu Amalric watching David Cronenberg's eXistenZ in On War (Almaric would eventually go on to work with Cronenberg a few years later in Cosmopolis)


BRESSON'S CONTINUED INFLUENCE...




BERGMAN'S (POSSIBLE) INFLUENCE...
On War/Wild Strawberries




HANEKE'S (POSSIBLE) INFLUENCE





(POSSIBLE) INFLUENCE ON OTHERS...
I'm a fan of Refn but nothing is this coincidental...
House Of Tolerance/The Neon Demon




TRANSFORMATION/RE-BIRTH
The idea of starting out as one person and turning in to someone else over time is probably the most important theme explored in Bertrand Bonello's work.
In Tiresia our main character starts out a transgendered woman and by the end of the film she (reluctantly) transitions back in to a man. "The Jewess" (House Of Tolerance) is one of the most in-demand women in her brothel but after being disfigured, her personality (along with her face) changes quite drastically. Bertrand's short film on Cindy Sherman shows her chameleon-like/transformative work, and, although not represented with a picture, Jean-Pierre Leaud's character in The Pornographer is trying to change and be a better father to his son...
Tiresia
House Of Tolerance
Cindy, The Doll Is Mine




THE HUMAN BODY
Bertrand doesn't shy away from exploring the (sometimes) naked human body. And it isn't always based around sex either (that's something we'll get in to shortly). Bertrand Bonello is genuinely fascinated by the curves of women (the thighs, breasts, butts, etc) just as much as he is fascinated by the abs & chests on his male actors...
Portrait Of The Artist
Tiresia
Tiresia
Saint Laurent
On War
House Of Tolerance




EROTICISM
Bertrand Bonello doesn't shy away from sex. Sometimes the sexual acts in his movies are real (in The Pornographer he used real pornographic actors & actresses). The sex in his work isn't bland or boring either. Bertrand delves in to the taboos of pornography (The Pornographer) and the freaky fetishized preferences that some humans have (House Of Tolerance shows all the weird sexual preferences that both men & women sometimes have when there's no judgment).

But there's also a darker side...

Tiresia
House Of Tolerance

In House Of Tolerance we see Johns that get off on harming prostitutes while the basic plot to Tiresia is about a sexually confused & repressed man kidnapping and torturing a Trans prostitute.

The sex and implications of sex in Antoine Barraud's Portrait Of The Artist are pretty kinky as well (in one scene we get half naked men, women & trans women on the verge of having a casual orgy while later on in the film we see the character Bertrand photographing a man in women's underwear with the implication that things could get very weird).

The Pornographer
The Pornographer
Tiresia
Tiresia
House Of Tolerance
Portrait Of The Artist
Portrait Of The Artist




A CELEBRATION OF WOMANHOOD & FEMININITY
This category really speaks for itself. I mean...just look at all the women (below) that he casts in his films. Because there is depth in all of his work and not a bunch of fluff, I feel it's completely fine to celebrate the attractive women in his movies. And while most women do fit that standard slim figured physique we've come to expect from most actresses, movies like House Of Tolerance show his appreciation for  "non-traditional" beauty as well...
On War
House Of Tolerance
House Of Tolerance
House Of Tolerance
House Of Tolerance
Nocturama
On War
The Pornographer
The Pornographer
Tiresia
Saint Laurent
My New Picture 





THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BERTRAND BONELLO
It's already been established at this point that Bertrand plays himself in Barraud's Portrait Of The Artist, but this isn't the first time we've been given a fictionalized version of the French filmmaker (it's not the second time either). The Porngrapher focuses on an aspiring arthouse filmmaker (whose father just so happens to be a pornographic filmmaker). In On War, Mathieu Amalric also plays a French filmmaker, and Bonello inserts images of himself as a child in some of his experimental shorts as well...
Bertrand Bonello as "Bertrand Bonello" in Portrait Of The Artist
a young abstracted version of Bertrand admiring film in The Pornographer
The disenfranchised filmmaker in On War
An image of a young Bertrand in Where Are You With This, Bertrand Bonello?




WARPED HISTORY, TRUE STORIES & LOOSE ADAPTATIONS...
While the majority of his filmography focuses on original/experimental subjects, he doesn't shy away from exploring the real lives of fascinating artists like Yves Saint Laurent, Cindy Sherman, and...himself...
Saint Laurent (Yves Saint Laurent)
Cindy, The Doll Is Mine (Cindy Sherman)
Portrait Of The Artist (Bertrand Bonello plays a fictionalized version of himself)




SHORT FILMS & EXPERIMENTATION
Like Hal Hartley, Charles Burnett and a small handful of other active feature filmmakers, Bertrand never shied away from short films, abstraction, surreality or non-linear storytelling after gaining notoriety. To this day he continues to make standalone non-conventional films that push limits. Some of these movies aren't even on DVD and can only be seen through bootlegs, illegal youtube rips or special arthouse retrospectives which proves he isn't always concerned about making money at the box office.
Ingrid Caven: Music & Voice
Something Organic
The Adventures Of James & David 
Where Are You With This, Bertrand Bonello?
Cindy, The Doll Is Mine




CONNECTIONS TO THE PAST...
While Bertrand Bonello will always be associated with the newer/current generation of French cinema, he doesn't try to distance himself from the (European) films, filmmakers & actors that paved the way for him. The presence of figures like Jean-Pierre Leaud, Lou Castel & Barbet Schroder serve as artifacts/gateways to the past (I mean that in a positive way), while the presence of Asia Argento, Louis Garrel & Guillaume Depardieu (all children of iconic European filmmakers & actors) shows his appreciation for the legends that came before him and the talented offspring they produced...
Jean-Pierre Leaud (The Pornographer)
Barbet Schroeder (Portrait Of The Artist)
Lou Castel (Tiresia)
The children of Gerard Depardieu & Dario Argento in On War
Louis Garrel (son of Philippe Garrel) in Saint Laurent



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