Leos Carax Bemoans Digital-Era Image Overload: “If I Were A Dictator, I Would Limit People To Sharing 24 Images A Year” – Qumra

French filmmaker Leos Carax discussed the sacred nature of the image and the challenge of retaining its power on the big screen in the digital age in an on-stage conversation at the Doha Film Institute’s Qumra event on Monday.

The filmmaker said he had transitioned to shooting in digital in his segment of the 2008 feature Tokyo!, one of his first works after the death of his beloved cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier, who died age 52 in 2003.

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Carax revealed this move had changed his filmmaking process as he took the decision to stop watching the dailies from then on, which resulted in him ditching his habit of doing multiple retakes.

The director admitted that 15 years on, he is not a huge fan of shooting in digital.

“I don’t come from there. I still feel It’s a bad thing, even for the eyes… it’s become such a problem with digital that we have too many images,” he said. “Some people love it, some people are sick of it, but you could say we’re all sick from it.”

“If I was a dictator, a nice dictator, says a king or queen, or sheikh or an emir, or whatever, I would not allow people to share more than 24 images a year,” he quipped. “Images in religion, in Muslim religion, were sacred. We went from that, to too many images.”

Later in the conversation, Carax commented on the challenge of renewing the moving image to engage new audiences.

“It’s the only art for which a machine had to be invented for it to exist,” he said of cinema “It’s very young, only a century old, but it’s also very old.

“You have to reinvent it every generation… It goes back to what we were saying before about sacred images, you have to reinvent the power of the silent films. The people who watched the first film, this train coming into a train station  [L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat], they were afraid. If you showed this film to a three-year-old today, he would be bored. You have to reinvent this power, this amazement, that’s the ambition and the hardship of making films.”

The 2008 portmanteau movie Tokyo! – which also featured segments by Michel Gondry and Bong Joon Ho – was Carax’s first major big screen work after 1999 box office flop Pola X, which in turn followed the difficult, over-budget, three-year shoot of his cult 1991 film Les Amants du Pont-Neuf.

Long-time collaborator Denis Lavant stars as a deadly, subterranean creature called Merde who emerges from the sewers to wreak havoc on the streets of the Japanese capital.

Carax described Lavant and Escoffier, who both worked on his first three features – Boy Meets Girl, The Night Is Young (Mauvais Sang) and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf – as key figures in his early filmmaking life, saying that without them he probably would not have become a full-blown film director.

“When I met him, I was 20 and he was 30,” Carax said of Escoffier. “He had made documentaries before and was starting out as a cinematographer. We became like brothers and for 10 years, we saw each other every day.”

Carax recounted how he had cast Lavant on a hunch while looking for someone to play the male protagonist in Boy Meets Girl, opposite his then girlfriend Mireille Perrier.

“I had the girl, but I didn’t have the boy. I had to delay shooting. I couldn’t find this boy. I was looking on the streets, looking at young actors, young musicians… then I saw a photo of this boy who was my age and my size with this strange face,” he recounted.

“I wasn’t sure he was a good actor, or good for the part, but I thought I have no choice, at least he is different. He was a performer already, coming from the circus, theatre and mime but he had no interest in cinema.”

Lavant has since appeared in four of Carax’s six feature films and will soon be seen in the director’s upcoming 40-minute work It’s Not Me.

Carax said the new film had been sparked by a request by a Paris museum to make a self-portrait.

“It was supposed to be a 10 to 15-minute film. It was the first time that I edited anything myself without Nellie [his long-time editor Nelly Quettier]. Although I didn’t do the exhibit, I ended up making this film… it’s about 40-minutes. It’s so interesting to work alone” he said.

“We did shoot for a good week with Denis but the rest of it is images from my archive and from other people and me with my I-phone,” he added.

Carax is among six top film professionals attending the DFI’s Qumra project and talent development incubator event this week as one of its Qumra Masters, alongside Toni Collette, Jim Sheridan, Claire Denis, Martin Hernández and Atom Egoyan.

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