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Continuing our chat (which began here) with the director of I STAND ALONE and IRREVERSIBLE about his new movie ENTER THE VOID, now playing in select cities, we further investigate his unique vision…and query him about his once-proposed remake of Ken Russell’s classic ALTERED STATES…
FANGORIA: What are there overarching themes in your work, and how are they expressed in ENTER THE VOID?
GASPAR NOÉ: There is an obsession with the female pregnancy, and also, in almost all my movies, there is a major accident or tragedy, an unexpected one, that changes the life of the main characters in a way. When it comes to I STAND ALONE, it is a father who thinks his daughter has been raped, and he turns crazy and stabs a man. In IRREVERSIBLE, it is a man whose girlfriend gets raped, and he turns crazy. In this case [ENTER THE VOID], it is a brother and sister who are very young and they see their parents dying in a car crash.
FANG: Did you look at a lot of pictures of car crashes? That is a terrific scene. Did it end up it working on film as powerfully for you as when you first envisioned it?
NOÉ: It works because you don’t see it coming. It’s so sudden, that’s why it’s effective, and I know that both the French distributor and the American distributor didn’t want to put that scene in the trailer because they thought it would kill the surprise.
FANG: How do you view the spirituality in ENTER THE VOID?
NOÉ: [Hermann] Goering would say, “When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I pick up my gun.” I’ll tell you that that’s something I do—I hear the word culture, I pull out my gun. I hear the word spirituality, I get scared. I think someone is trying to cheat me, or is lying to me: “Oh, if you’re a lamb in this world, you’ll be rewarded for it in the afterlife.” I don’t think that the mind can be separated from the flesh. The mind is like the sweat of the flesh of a lifetime. There are things that you could call a soul, but your brain, your thoughts, do not survive. There are waves of energy that will survive or that will exist through your lifetime, but your brain, as it exists when you are living, doesn’t exist anymore when you are dead.
FANG: I’ve noticed your love of typography and labeling things. Where does that inspiration come from?
NOÉ: I was first a painter, and you can enjoy that, for example, here in this bottle of champagne [gestures at the bottle]—that typography, it puts me in a good mood. You can see in our movies how much energy and how much love we expend doing our work. You can see that the guy who was doing all the typography had a lot of fun, and I edited the credits. Also, the movie is long, and I thought that the credits in the beginning should be short, and put the audience in a good mood to accept this lenghty feature. There are two versions—one is two hours and 35 minutes and the other, two hours and 18—but even the shorter version is kind of long, so I thought that the credits at the start should be very speedy.
FANG: Why are there two versions of the film?
NOÉ: Because I had signed a contract that if the movie went over two hours and 20 minutes, I would do a reduced version, and so the only difference is that if you pull out reel #7 out of nine, so you go from reel #6 to reel #8, you don’t see anything missing. I like the two editions, and the shorter one is not a censored cut.
FANG: Can you tell us a little bit about your ALTERED STATES remake?
NOÉ: At a point before I shot ENTER THE VOID, they proposed for me to do the sequel to ALTERED STATES; they wanted to call it ALTERED STATES: 10 YEARS LATER or something like that. Actually, the script was OK, but I was more excited about doing a remake, so I said, “Instead of saying yes to this project, can I do a new version of ALTERED STATES, with new visual effects?” I read the original book by Paddy Chayefsky, and they said yes—they were really considering giving me the remake.
What happened was that a wide bunch of the producers on [ENTER THE VOID] were not really putting the money into preproduction, so I said, “If you don’t put that money on the table right now, I’m going to Hollywood to make the remake of ALTERED STATES, and I’ll get more money for the visual effects and I’ll be a happy man.” Actually, I was very willing to do ENTER THE VOID, but that was my second option, and the fact that I was proposed that other project made this one happen. And I don’t know if they’re concerned now with doing ALTERED STATES, but I did this movie that I care much more about. I would not do [ALTERED STATES] now; I don’t want to get into another trippy movie after making this one. I’m exhausted; I spent four years shooting and editing the movie, and I’m done with my hallucinogenic film now.
FANG: Why do you make the types of films you do?
NOÉ: When I do movies, I think of what I want to see on the screen. I don’t think of who is going to be in the theater next to me, or when I’m not there. You consider an audience that would be made of people exactly like you—your father, your sister and your best friends. If some people get offended, it’s their problem, not mine. I know what I want to see, I know that I was not offended when I saw DELIVERANCE or STRAW DOGS or TAXI DRIVER. Some movies are shocking, but if they stick in your mind, that means they had some power, they generated a dream that seemed almost real. I’m obsessed with many movies; there are some I’ve seen 10 times, some I’ve seen 20. For example, you know how many times I’ve seen ANDALUSIAN DOG by Luis Buñuel, or [Kenneth Anger’s] INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME? I can watch both movies over and over again. I never get tired; maybe it’s because they’re not narrative, and it’s easier to watch those repeatedly. Maybe when movies are too narrative, you put them in a closet and you know what they’re made of.
FANG: What is your next project?
NOÉ: I want to do an erotic love story, but one that you could not say is erotic; it’s going to contain explicit sex.
FANG: Like CRIMES OF PASSION?
NOÉ: Yeah, more like a joyful version of IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES, like sex is in real life, and how love is in real life—made of sperm and tears.
FANG: Did you go to film school?
NOÉ: I did, but I didn’t do so many commercials [afterward]. I did maybe three or four music videos and two or three commercials. I scare all of those people. I may be too obsessive to work in that industry. Ever since graduating I have been working as an assistant director, then directing features. I’m not very money-driven.
FANG: When audiences watch your films, what do you want people to get out of them?
NOÉ: I want them to enjoy the experience. If you build a rollercoaster, you want people to come out happy. I’m building a rollercoaster and I want them to come out scared, and then they will be happy.
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