The Presence of Barbet Schroeder at the 13th FICMBy: Gabriel Andrade Espinosa, reportero (@gabolonio)
The 13th FICM is pleased to have the presence of acclaimed director and great friend of the festival, Barbet Schroeder, who was a guest of honor at the first edition in 2003. On this occasion, he presents his latest film Amnesia (2015) and his debut film More (1969), with music by Pink Floyd.
Born in Teheran to a Swiss father and German mother, he spent his childhood between Colombia, Africa and France. He began his film career at the age of 22 and since then has made more than a dozen films that, like his nationality, are difficult to classify, since as Nick Roddick in the 13th FICM catalog says, “Schroeder doesn’t like to be categorized, even as an auteur, he sees that as ‘a trap,’ preventing him from starting afresh with each new movie.”
Screening of Amnesia (2015)
Barbet Schroeder began his activities in Morelia presenting his latest film, Amnesia. It takes place, just like More, in Ibiza, and deals with what Schroeder defines as “unusual love” between two characters who live the experience of rediscovering love and reconcilement with their historical-genealogical pasts and find answers without saying them. The main characters are Jo, a 25-year-old composer who wants to be part of the electronic music revolution and work as a DJ in a new nightclub called Amnesia, and Martha, a woman who has been living alone in her house by the sea for 40 years. Both meet one night when he knocks on her door and becomes intrigued by her solitude. From that moment, they become friends as the mysteries around her accumulate.
Attending the screening of Amnesia were Barbet Schroeder, Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, Daniela Michel, general director of FICM, and Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, president of FICM, who said:
Thierry Frémaux on Barbet Schroeder:
“I’m very proud to be here and talk about Barbet Schroeder, who is not only one man, but many: producer, friend, director. I can speak of him as a man who disappeared and returned with a film made in Colombia, who is always in important places.”
Barbet Schroeder on the idea from which the story emerges:
“The idea came after returning from Colombia. I sought to make a film that was not like any other. I looked for the impossible, which was to make a story where there was no sex, talk about a relationship based on love and language. Those things are impossible to do in film and that is what I tried to do.”
Barbet Schroeder on Martha’s house:
“When I make a moral decision in life, there is an aesthetic that corresponds to that moral decision. I think this house has a particular aesthetic and decoration that depict that decision. For me, the house was very important, because it was the site of the main character’s life.
Barbet Schroeder on the silence in the film:
“I suffered the silence greatly in the first half hour or hour of the projection because I discovered that there were so many silences and so many places where I worked on expressive messages that nothing could be heard except people shouting outside the room to enter another room. For me it was horrible.”
Screening of More (1969)
The second film by Barbet Schroeder presented at the 13th FICM was his film debut More. Pink Floyd especially composed the music for this film and the next feature film by Schroeder: La vallée (2012). Both are considered cult films and according to Nick Roddick in the FICM catalog, “They are cautionary tales about the Golden Age of Sex, Drugs and Rock’n Roll, but both demonstrate what will be one of the distinguishing features of the director’s later work: a determination to get inside its subjects, to inhabit their world, to see and show what drives them, leaving judgment to the audience.”
More tells how Stefan, a German student, hitchhikes to Paris and, after playing a game of cards, strikes up a friendship with Charlie, a card shark and con man who soon lures Stefan into his schemes. Until one night at a party, Stefan falls madly in love with Estelle who he follows and joins in Ibiza, where they fall into a bottomless pit.
The screening of the film in Morelia was attended by Schroeder and Daniela Michel. During the presentation and question and answer session, Barbet Schroeder said:
On his beginning in cinema:
“I wanted to make films since I was 14 years old. One night while I was walking from the Cineteca in Paris to my home I remember very well that I decided that cinema was going to be my life. I analyzed many directors that I liked and something that I noticed is that the majority made their first film at 40 years old, and I realized that cinema is a mature art.”
On his relationship with photographer Néstor Almendros:
“What happened with Néstor was that he wanted to return to Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power. He wanted to be part of that revolution. But he began several works there, until one day he found that his work space was closed. He discovered it was a kind of boycott because of the problems his work was causing on blacks and homosexuals in Cuba. This forced him to go to Paris with absolutely nothing, and there the left intellectual world rejected him because they thought he had abandoned ‘paradise.’ I invited him to work on a short film with me, shooting photographs, until one day, due to certain problems I had with a cameraman, he offered to do the job. From then on his luck changed. I have a deep friendship with him and he’s a person whom I greatly respect intellectually.”
On the music of Pink Floyd in the film:
“My favorite group when I made More was Pink Floyd. I thought about asking them to do the music and they accepted. They worked intensely on the soundtrack for 15 days. I sent them the film to observe. I didn’t want them to make a soundtrack as it is done normally, that one of their albums be inserted. I wanted something special and they captured the idea. We understood each other very well.”
Screening of Some More About Barbet (2015) by Victoria Clay:
A tribute to Barbet Schroeder, Some More About Barbet, directed by Victoria Clay, was presented at the 13th FICM.
The French director has participated in two editions of FICM: in the 1st FICM with her feature length documentary Maletilla (2003) and at the 10th FICM with her feature documentary about the artist Sophie Calle, Sophie Calle, sin título (2012). Clay dedicated her latest film to French director Barbet Schroeder, after working several years as his assistant. In Some More About Barbet, Clay examines Schroeder’s career and helps us get to know an enigmatic character who has made a mark on the history of cinema.
Attending the presentation of Some More About Barbet were Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, president of FICM, Daniela Michel, general director of FICM, Victoria Clay, French director, and the Guest of Honor Barbet Schroeder, who made the following comments:
Alejandro Ramírez Magaña on the screening:
“This is a very special screening. We have a director who we love and this is the third documentary that she has presented in Morelia. This is a very special documentary especially because this time Barbet Schroeder is here with us.”
Barbet Schroeder on the origin of the documentary:
“It was a very low budget film. Canal Plus wanted to make a documentary about me for television because it is doing a retrospective of my work. They proposed directors but I didn’t like any of them. I said I knew Victoria and her work. Then I thought if she does it, I could do it, and it turned out very well.”
Victoria Clay on filming the documentary:
“We had to sacrifice a lot of material. I not only wanted it to be informative about what Barbet does, but what it’s like working with Barbet.”
Victoria Clay on the influence of Barbet Schroeder on her work:
“Ever since I’ve known him, everything he has told me remains engraved in my mind. He says you have to look for what is real rather than realism.”
In addition to the presentation of his films, Barbet Schroeder conversed with Laurent Cantet, Stephen Frears and Wash Westmoreland, moderated by film critic Nick Roddick, at the Biblioteca Pública of Morelia. You can watch the video: here.
You can watch an interview with Schroeder: here.