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Yann Gonzalez on details, sexuality and longing in his films


Yann Gonzalez on details, sexuality and longing in his films

An interview with filmmaker and producer Yann Gonzalez, who is currently Artist-in-Residence at MuseumsQuartier.

Yann, you have once been described as "A master of homage with a killer eye for detail" – how do you approach filmmaking in general?

I always try to be true to my characters, to magnify their emotions through the cinema scale – which is immense - and sometimes details are indeed what makes the difference within a scene. The color of an outfit, a specific chord in the music, the inflection of a voice…: most of the time it’s irrational and it’s impossible to truly understand where an emotion comes from, so you have to trust your instinct – and your collaborators of course, as choosing the right crew and cast is probably the most important thing when you make a film.

You are known to blend many different genres in your films, making viewers embark on often provocative journeys into new worlds. What is the appeal for you of mixing different genre elements and different styles of cinematic expression?

This is how I grew up as a movie buff: no hierarchy between movies, and more generally between pop and classical culture… This is probably one of the most exciting things when you make a film: creating a connection between the old and the new, the noble and the obscene, a mishmash of opposite cultural references. Looking for this transgression or rupture like a challenge that leads, sometimes, to very interesting and peculiar emotions.

Porn is a rather unconventional genre to incorporate into cinema. What do you want to achieve by including elements of porn? Where do you see the potential that mainstream cinema might not have discovered yet?

I like to flirt with taboos, to convey images that you’re not used to see in a movie theatre. In the 70s and the 80s, people were watching porn in regular theatres, surrounded by strangers, it was a collective experience. But with the VHS and the internet, porn has become more and more taboo, almost shameful for the viewer – something you don’t share with anyone, unless you’re super open-minded and liberated. So bringing those porn elements or this hyper-eroticism back on screen, sometimes within a “regular” movie, is a reminder that sexuality can be a poetical, political, sometimes even dreamy, asset. This sexual radicality is at the very core of most of my favorite pieces, whether that be in literature with Jean Genet, Monique Wittig or Heather Lewis (I very recently discovered Notice which is a disturbing and nightmarish masterpiece), or in cinema with Curt McDowell, Fred Halstead, Barbara Hammer. This list could go on and on…

Your films are dealing with topics of lust, desire, longing and sex – what does longing mean to you personally?

Longing is like craving for a dream you’ll never be able to completely reach. Longing IS cinema.

How do you process longing in your films, how can films express feelings of longing?

I try to delimitate a safe space for the actors where their most frail and intimate feelings can happen. Emotions as provoked “accidents”.

For your residency at MQ you are planning to write on another feature film. How do you approach writing a new film? And how does the co-writing process with Judith Sonnet work, when you are in different places?

Each film goes with a different process. Judith is one of the most imaginative persons I’ve ever met, she’s not even 30 and she already wrote dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories… She brings a great deal of excess, monsters and over- the-top elements in the project – and I love it! On “Spook”, the screenplay we’re writing right now, we’re trying to push further this combination of love and horror that was already in Hideous or Knife+Heart. This is quite liberating and cathartic, almost a matter of resistance given the hateful and reactionary era we live in.


Yann Gonzalez © Gabrielle Desjean


The interview was held by Anna Carina Roth, VIENNA SHORTS.

Photos: © Yann Gonzalez

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