‘I wouldn’t say my films are in the style of the New Wave. It is increasingly difficult to raise money for independent films in France. So we’re in the same situation as the New Wave films made in the 1960s. We can either wait two or three years to get all the money we need or you film fast, with actors you like, in the street. You make films the way you write a love letter. There is a return to ‘Frenchness’ in French films – something I don’t like. It’s a very bourgeois, very formulaic. I want to put the sheer joy of filmmaking at the heart of my films. I am a grandchild of the New Wave, so I can afford to be more arrogant, light-hearted and playful with the legacy.’ — Christophe Honore
‘Of all the relatively young European directors of the last few years, Christophe Honoré is probably the one with the most ambivalent, divisive and sadly underseen filmography. The peculiarity of this filmmaker is that the reaction to his movies, mostly positive in France and rather indifferent in the rest of the world, is often reduced to critics comparing him with old French cinema, some whining about the persistence of such passé filmmaking and some others lauding Honoré’s modern vision of the nouvelle vague. In short, Honoré is a young director who is divisive not because of controversial cinematic choices, but rather because he’s too enamored with the past and tries to bring it back at all costs. So what to make of this kid who wants to be an enfant terrible by looking at enfants terribles from fifty years ago? The answer lies perhaps in the way one looks at his movies. Too fond of their own bond with the past? No. Too explicit in the way that bond is formed? Sure. Manneristic in the most absurdly obvious way possible? Absolutely. But is all Mannerism bad? Not at all. It’s very difficult to call stale or repetitive – as some critics have done – this research of the glorious past of French filmmaking that, in Honoré, has the same erratic flavor that the original nouvelle vague had. There’s something lively, exciting, with a fluid quality, in the way the stylistic and emotional reality of nouvelle vague is brought back to life in the works of this strange auteur. He is, probably, the only director of the last twenty years who has managed to truly capture the fleeting quality of nouvelle vague, a quality that is both visual – the swift camera movements, the beautiful and ballet-like way the characters move – and thematic, in the way feelings, relationships and the primary concepts of life and death are explored.’ — International Cinephile Society
Christophe Honore discusses ‘Homme au Bain’
Transversales Christophe Honoré episode 1
Louis Garrel invité d’honneur du festival Paris Cinema 2010
Christophe Honoré à propos de “Le Rayon vert” d’Eric Rohmer
Interview: Christophe Honoré & Louis Garrel
You said in a previous interview that French cinema has lost its sense of adolescence. What did you mean?
Christophe Honoré: I get irritated by the lesson-giving aspect of some French cinema, where you feel like it wants to teach the audience something—usually clichés and platitudes. What I like best about the Nouvelle Vague films are their roughness, their teenage arrogance. They’d go from one thing to another without getting bothered by too much formality. I like that sense of something being unfinished, of films that search for themselves as they go along.
But your own movies are formally sophisticated.
CH: I admire directors who make internally consistent films. A Bresson movie impresses me, and at the same time I’m completely unable to work that way. If I stage a sequence I’m pleased with, the next day I’ll take a completely different approach.
I hear ‘Love Songs’ happened really quickly.
CH: Yeah, it was done quickly and on the cheap, which can make things complicated when you shoot in Paris. It made us a little anxious. The very first day, we had a permit to shoot on a particular sidewalk, and I decided to shoot on the opposite one. The police arrived within five minutes. We had to argue with them for an hour, and we were only on the other side of the street!
Louis Garrel: Plus, locals don’t really like film shoots in Paris. They are perceived as something done by privileged people, some show-business thing. People don’t welcome filmmaking, as if it wasn’t made for them. It’s perceived as something aggressive.
You had originally written Ismaël as being in his forties. How would that have impacted his relationship with the character played by Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, who’s in high school?
CH: It would have been more transgressive. What’s funny now is that the teenager picks Ismaël, who falls for it like an idiot. [Laughs] I like that character a lot. Normally in a French or American movie, there would be something about his coming out: You introduce a young gay guy, so he has to make a statement, whereas what I like about the way it is in the movie is that he doesn’t care—he’s already moved beyond that. All the characters have some kind of sexual freedom. It may be a little utopian. I hope it’s not too harmonious—I’m always wary of harmony in sexuality, like, people at ease in their bodies are a little boring.
Another connection with the New Wave is that you shoot fast: You just made three films in a year and a half.
CH: Godard used to say, “I don’t understand why you’d entrust a movie to a director who hasn’t done anything in five years. It’s as if you gave a plane to a pilot who hasn’t flown in five years.” It’s true: Filmmaking is about experience. You need to make a lot of mistakes to understand how it works.
Louis, is it the same for actors?
LG: I have this theory about acting: I try to apply in my work what I like in others’. I don’t enjoy seeing actors too often—when I see them in too many movies, it’s difficult to go along with their screen stories. So that makes it complicated for me, because I don’t want to be omnipresent.
CH: It’s important to be rare. On the other hand, it was really interesting when Depardieu would work with Bertolucci and [Marco] Ferreri at the same time. If you’re working with very different directors, it’s fine. What’s a pain is to see Isabelle Carré 20 times in the same movie. That’s terminally boring.
LG: When you make a movie, you put everything that happened to you in it: your memories, your thoughts, your gestures. If all you do is make movies, you recycle things you did on other shoots. It becomes a mirror reflecting a mirror reflecting a mirror. Life isn’t the main inspiration anymore.
12 of Christophe Honore’s 16 films
Seventeen Times Cecile Cassard (2002)
‘A visually impressive study of a woman, Cécile Cassard, who attempts to reclaim her life from grief after her husband’s death in a car crash. Kieslowski’s Blue is a narrative cousin, with Binoche’s muteness and unpredictable behaviour echoed in Dalle’s ascetic performance. However, with Cécile’s child still alive but effectively abandoned after her mother’s revivifying flight to the city, the film moves into its own territory, clear of that initial reference. Indeed, in its framing and deployment of space, The Red Desert, Antonioni’s compelling take on female alienation, seems a more telling influence. Sombre, fragmented scenes offer stations on the journey through a world that is effectively shot to appear by turns hostile and mysterious in its workings on the damaged individual.’ — Time Out (NYC)
Ma mere (2003)
‘Broadly speaking, films fall into two categories: those you watch for pleasure and those you watch to broaden your horizons. Ma mère is a film that assuredly doesn’t fall into the first category (except for those who have some very weird ideas as to what constitutes entertainment), but probably does belong to the second. It certainly pushes the boundaries as far as explicit sexual content is concerned. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, with images of a deeply disturbing nature, Ma mere is a film that is almost too shocking to watch – not because it is necessarily, from an artistic point of view, a bad film, but because the themes it deals with are at the very limit of acceptability. If the thought of a teenager wanking over his mother’s corpse is likely to offend, you’d be advised to give this film a very wide berth.’ — filmsdefrance
Dans Paris (2006)
‘Dans Paris is writer-director Honoré’s fourth feature, following the sex-and-death Georges Bataille adaptation, Ma mère. With its tricky tonal shifts, Honoré is clearly onto something with his pacing; he allows time for the important scenes, but creates room for odd interludes—the father dragging a Christmas tree along a sidewalk, or Paul listening to an old Kim Wilde 45 as he lolls on his bed. It should feel distended, but the overall flow is right. One of the gifts of the New Wave was the idea that movies could convey the delight of making films, watching them, thinking about them. Since then, filmmakers outside Hollywood have become more skeptical about the use and power of cinema (as Godard was already in the early Sixties, but the fizz was still there). With Dans Paris, Honoré circles back to those pleasures. Dans Paris is an attempt to estimate joy.’ — Film Society of Lincoln Center
Excerpt (w/ Spanish subtitles)
Les chansons d’amour (2007)
‘As Louis Garrel effortlessly walks along the streets of Paris as a new Jean-Pierre Léaud (the resemblance is quite impressive), both careless and pensive at the same time, owning the world and yet fearful of being part of it, Les chansons d’amour tells a story that is almost irritating in its simplicity and captivating in its fluidity. Love, and by that I don’t necessarily mean romantic love, is taken for granted and then put at risk; it’s ridiculed and then elevated to something lyrical; it is lost forever and then found again unexpectedly. And it has the infinite and burlesque joy of nouvelle vague as three French kids walk around in the rain calling each other names at the sound of music; it has the deliciously spicy and sensual boldness of nouvelle vague as a ménage-a-trois is the starting point from which everything else takes form; it has the sorrowful passion of nouvelle vague as a woman remembers her dead sister and mourns her in song; it has the levity of nouvelle vague as a new love starts shaping up to a song that is sung through cellphones and accompanied by a graceful ballet that just happens, unplanned and gone in a moment.’ — icsfilms.com
La Belle Personne (2008)
‘Léa Seydoux is blessed with the sort of face that appears to convey a thousand different emotions without ever having to move a muscle. Her smile is beautiful but it almost feels like an intrusion, breaking the exquisite mystery of her passive, brooding expressions. Much has been written about her resemblance to Godard’s muse, Anna Karina, which perhaps inspired New Wave successor Christophe Honoré to direct her in this evocative drama. La belle personne (a.k.a. “The Beautiful Person”) could’ve easily been made in the ’60s. Within the walls of its claustrophobic school, hormonal urges and repressed desires materialize in the form of pointed glances and scribbled notes as opposed to Facebook posts. Gossip is spread the old fashioned way, without the assistance of a Twitter feed. Body language emerges as the primary tool of communication. When a tight embrace is mistaken for a kiss, it can lead to devastating consequences.’ — Hollywoodchicago
Non Ma Fille, Tu N’iras pas Danser (2009)
‘The beguiling and deft new drama from acclaimed writer-director Christophe Honoré (“Inside Paris”, “Love Songs”) portrays a brave single mother struggling against her family of do-gooders. Léna (Chiara Mastroianni, in the performance of her career) is a young, unemployed mother of two who has left her partner and valiantly soldiers through life as best as she can. But she is as confused by her needs and desires while her family and friends seem certain of theirs. When she heads from Paris to her parents’ bucolic home in Brittany for the holidays, she’s thrown to the mercy of her supportive but oppressive family, who one by one begin to dish out unsolicited advice. Neither comedy nor tragedy, Honoré’s latest is a slow-burning, handsome saga, held together by the wonderfully drawn female characters, and marks the biggest success so far for the gifted filmmaker.’ — Cinema of the Worlds
Homme au Bain (2010)
‘Christophe Honoré has made a series of critical favorites over the last few years, garnering enough praise to place him among the giants of contemporary French cinema. Popularity often gives artists room to play around, a freedom reflected in the relative smallness of his latest feature, Man at Bath (“Homme Au Bain”). Filmed with a shaky cam style and predominantly built around a series of sexual encounters, Man at Bath constantly shifts between Emmanuel’s aimless, philandering lifestyle in the Parisian suburb Gennevilliers and Omar’s trip to New York, which is seen exclusively through the lens of his camcorder. Although both men invest their energies in forgetting about the other, and neither gets a monologue to explain their feelings, leaving much of their turmoil up for interpretation. They express more through sexuality than dialogue.’ — indiewire
Les Bien-aimés (2011)
‘Christophe Honoré — director of bittersweet, entertaining pictures like Love Songs and Dans Paris — makes films that seem very, very French when you’re watching them in New York, but merely enjoyably normal when you see them in France. Les Bien-Aimés (Beloved), is a family epic — as well as a musical and a romance — that lasts nearly two-and-a-half hours. And in the Honoré tradition, it’s not afraid of overstating its emotions — like Love Songs, it blends musical numbers into the narrative a la The Umbrellas of Cherbourg — which isn’t the sort of thing that too many American directors would even attempt these days. That’s the way it is with Honoré: No matter where you watch his movies, he always gives you a little bit of l’amour fou to take home with you.’ — Movieline
Christophe Honore interviewed about ‘Les Bien-aimés’
‘Christophe Honore boldly takes Ovid’s classic narrative poem of the Roman gods and brings it into the modern world in a heady blend of lush cinematography, alluring erotica and dreamy violence. This new take on Metamorphoses follows young student Europa (Amira Akili) as she plays truant and meets the devilishly charming Jupiter (Sebastien Hirel), and embarks on a journey as she encounters timeless tales of gods and mortals and acquaints herself with Bacchus (Damien Chapelle) and Orpheus (George Babluani), going on her own voyage of transformation as she grows wiser from the lessons learnt from these cautionary and tragic tales. Honore has done an incredible job of bringing Metamorphoses to life, pulsating with an artistic energy that infuses the film with a synaesthesia struggling to break its way past the screen, as the audience feels every thrust, every tiny death, every pang of guilt that courses through its characters. One can almost feel their insides transforming into something quite different upon accepting the sheer force of unrelenting fate in the hands of the gods, and by the time the film ends, there’s a kind of numbing melancholy only the very best arthouse films instil in viewers. Christophe Honore has created a Metamorphoses for the times, at times quietly reflective, at others whimsically mischievous, but always delivering tragically exquisite scene after heartbreaking scene.’ — bakchormeeboy
Les malheurs de Sophie (2016)
‘Sophie, a turbulent and imaginative girl, lives in a large castle with her mother, the sweet and loving Madame de Réan. Above all, Sophie loves having fun, especially with her cousin Paul, whom she adores and tyrannizes a bit. It was then that Madame de Réan learned that the family was going to leave France for America. The fate of little Sophie will definitely change: her mother disappears at sea. A year later, Sophie is back in France, flanked by an odious stepmother, Madame Fichini. A touching adaptation of the Comtesse de Ségur, served by the young actress Caroline Grant – revelation – of an exceptional temperament.’ — telerama
Sorry Angel (2018)
‘The specter of AIDS looms through “Sorry Angel,” the new drama from French filmmaker Christophe Honore, but to dismiss it merely as just another drama about the disease would do it a disservice. Instead, it is merely one component in this often engrossing drama about the relationship that develops between two men who come together when both are at very different points in their respective lives. Both sprawling and intimate, it tells a story dealing with life, love, friendship, mortality and, yes, AIDS, in a manner that is relentlessly and deliberately unsentimental in tone but which nevertheless proves to be quite affecting.’ — Peter Sobczynski
Chambre 212 (2019)
‘Ultimately, On a Magical Night (Chambre 212) is a fable about reconciling with your emotional baggage. It raises pertinent questions about love. With an impeccable production design (courtesy of Stéphane Taillasson) and charms galore, Christophe Honoré unofficially reimagines Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol as a French sex comedy starring a Chiara Mastroianni at the top of her game.’ — dmovies
p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hey, hey! My mother was a very complicated person. One of the complications was that she was very into mysticism, the paranormal, etc. When I was a kid she had me do a ‘past lives regression’ ceremony. Basically, she had me stand in a bathroom with the lights off and a lit candle by the sink then stare into the mirror for as long as I could while blinking as infrequently as possible. She said if I did that, I would see myself transform into the people I had been in my previous lives. And, yeah, I did see myself turn into a pirate and an Egyptian somebody and other things, but it was obviously just the candle light and my eyes hallucinating. So I think that’s my most memorable mirror association. I don’t avoid outer space films, but when there are scenes with spacewalks or astronauts stranded outside their capsule or whatever, I get very tense and stressed out and sometimes can’t watch. Yeah, it’s sad that Richey’s continued existence is so far fetched, but … yeah. I never was into Mickey Mouse for some reason. I liked Goofy though, I don’t know why. Ha ha, even playing Imagine Dragons once is grounds for murder. Love transforming itself into your favorite book, G. ** David Ehrenstein, Nice Cocteau quote. I’ve never heard of that James Whale film. He’s a goodie. ** David S. Estornell, Hi, D. I’m alright, thanks. Whoa, you’re rewriting a novel! That’s extremely good news. And you’re rewriting, which is my favorite part. I wish you ultra-great fun and luck getting it finished. If a quarantine isn’t announced this week I will be very surprised, ugh. Hugs back.** G, Hi. What happened to your mirror collection? What an interesting thing to collect. I’ve never known anyone else who did that. Good one. Huh, that’s strange about the Vimeo thing. It’s supposed to be available to watch everywhere but in the US. I’ll see if I can find out what the problem is. (Our producers set that up, not us.) You can buy the DVD. It’s a US import. but it has some cool extras on it. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. I actually checked to see if there was a gif featuring that Cerith Wyn Evans piece, but nope. ** Bzzt, Hey there, Quinn! Good to see you! I’m doing alright. Paris has an annoying 6 pm curfew, but it’s otherwise doable at the moment. Wow, yeah, that qualifies as a tornado of a time at the very least. What is up with what seems like it’s been a ridiculously long time of rough stuff in your life lately, Jesus? I’m so sorry to hear about all of that. I’m glad Ed and Michael are being a comfort. Honesty its a tricky thing. It should be the ultimately least tricky thing, but I guess it’s such a non-negotiable source and force that it ends things as often as it begins them. I guess the thing is figuring out how best to phrase one’s honesty? I don’t know. I’m so sorry, man. Maybe, hopefully you’ve hit that point where there’s nothing else to do but pirouette out of the wreckage. I like winter, I’m weird. I hate summer, heat, excessive sun (except in the desert). I think it’s because I’m from LA, and cold/gray still seems novel and exciting or something. I always recommend LA. Great place. Really, I hope things start looking up for you as soon as this very instant, and I hope to see you again soon. ** Jack Skelley, Jack the Wack! I … think that is Victor Mature’s eyes, yes! Now that’s strange: I was thinking about Robert Peters yesterday afternoon, and it’s not like I ever think much about him. I was remembering those kind of cool but also kind of really embarrassing readings he used to give at BB where he dressed up in that cheap costume and wig and performed poems in the persona of King Ludwig. What a character that guy was. My art trip got delayed until today, so Scharf is still in my near distance. Big up, bud. ** Sypha, You have a problem with mirrors, Mr. Champagne? Uh, maybe it was the Jung one. Sure, if you want to do that post, great. I don’t think I saw those writing tips on Facebook. I think that might have been during my general FB avoidance phase around the election-related outpouring shit. ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian. I try rather hard not look in mirrors. Or at a photographs at myself. I’ve never liked looking at myself. I don’t want to think about what I look like when I talk or move or whatever. Seems weird. Ah, yes, obviously, that’s a really great book, that Jackson. ‘Opening Night’ is good, but it’s the earlier Cassavetes films that are the great ones, particularly the films from the late 50s up through ‘Minnie and Moskowitz’ in ’71. In my opinion, obviously. No, one of the lingering post-covid issues Zac is dealing with is bad headaches, and he got whomped with one yesterday, so we’re tentative doing the art trip today instead. Hopefully your Wednesday and mine will be like physically distanced identical twins on acid. ** Okay. I’m presenting a Day about French filmmaker Christophe Honore today. Full disclosure: my single ever acting experience was in one of his films, and he was one of the producers of Zac’s and my first film ‘Like Cattle Towards Glow’. But he’s a fine, fine director and cool guy irregardless. Give his work your attention, please, and thank you. See you tomorrow.