Gaspar Noé talks filmmaking, isolation, and reimagining A Space Odyssey

Spoiler: it could involve puppets

If you’ve ever sat down to watch a Gaspar Noé film, you’ll likely be fully aware just how unique, and kind of twisted, his mind is.

From the psychedelic headfuck that is Enter The Void and the cerebral, chaotic acid trip offered up by Climax, to his gut-wrenching, nihilistic saga of Love gone awry, the Argentina-born, Paris-based auteur is one of the most exciting, and simultaneously divisive, directors working today. 

More recently, Noé worked on a short film debuted as part of Saint Laurent’s SELF series: Lux Æterna which features Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Under Anthony Vaccarello’s creative direction, the two drew inspiration from experimental movies from the 60s and 70s, by notable creatives including Kenneth Anger. Unsurprisingly, in Noé’s hands, the result was a darkly comic which touched on magic, witchcraft, and, in something of a meta turn-up for the books, filmmaking.

Now, as he adjusts to life under lockdown, the director offers up a few tips for those looking to follow in his creative footsteps, shares what advice he would have offered his younger self, and lets us in on the three movies he’d encourage everyone to watch while in isolation. 

When did you first pick up a camera, and what did you capture with it?

Gaspar Noé: My father offered me a Super8 camera that he bought in some Brazilian airport. I was 16, and shot a reel with my best friend Juan Solanas jumping from the Pont Neuf bridge. It was my first psychological drama.

What makes a great film in your opinion?

Gaspar Noé: When you meet images and sounds that you hadn’t experienced before.

If you could go back and offer young Gaspar some advice for the future, what would you say?

Gaspar Noé: I’d say ‘Hey Gaspi, go, go! Do exactly the same, but please spend less time and energy looking for posters and books on eBay!’

It’s a well known fact your favourite film is 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you were remaking this, how would you change it? Are there any other films you’d like to reimagine? 

Gaspar Noé: 2001: A Space Odyssey is so perfect that the only non-suicidal way to remake it would be to do it in a totally different way: a) in black and white, b) in 3D or c) with marionettes instead of actors, like Team America. By the way, there was an excellent comic book adaptation of the movie drawn by Jack Kirby. But no one could ever top the power of the film… Otherwise, the only films that I could be tempted to remake are those partly failed ones, in which the storyline or narrative concept were stronger than the filmmaking itself.

Where do you find inspiration? 

Gaspar Noé: Mostly in life, by watching people around and listening to their stories, but also from reading newspapers and watching films.

What makes a great story?

Gaspar Noé: You know it’s a great story when you identify with the main character to the point that you forget you’re a spectator or a reader. All strong stories mostly deal only with blood, sperm, and tears.

Your films offer incredibly intense rides through the human psyche. How do you get your cast to relax ahead of shooting a scene? 

Gaspar Noé: On my sets, everybody seems very relaxed. I always try to avoid any tension before it even begins. A shooting has to be like a party. The creative process must be joyful, even if the final result is meant to be sad or scary.

How are you spending isolation? 

Gaspar Noé: Watching three great movies a day, reading essays, eating, wandering in deserted streets, and dreaming.

Could you list three films that you would encourage people to watch while under lockdown? 

Gaspar Noé: Among the underrated masterpieces to rediscover: Warning Shadows (1923) by Arthur Robinson, The Ballad of Narayama (1958) by Keisuke Kinoshita and Threads (1984) by Mick Jackson. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into filmmaking? 

Gaspar Noé: Listen to the works of your idols, not your teachers.

Watch a clip from Lux Æterna above and revisit the AW20 Saint Laurent collection below.