The Acclaimed Director Gives Us an Insider's Glimpse of His Favorite Video Store
Michel Gondry takes us on a tour of his local Parisian haunt in A Cinephile’s Labyrinth, a new work directed by Larry Clark alumna, actress and filmmaker Tiffany Limos. The Academy Award-winning director reminisces on time spent wandering the aisles of La Butte Video Club, the small VHS and DVD store to which he has made pilgrimages over the years. “I watched all the early Wim Wenders films from La Butte when I was preparing for The Science of Sleep,” says Gondry of this old school answer to Netflix. In his forthcoming L’Écume des Jours (Mood Indigo), the French auteur adapts Boris Vian’s 1947 cult novel of the same name—a satirical story of young love set in jazz-infused Paris. “I tried to avoid ‘Rive Gauche’ clichés,” he says of the upcoming feature, “but I used the music of Duke Ellington.” Similarly, La Butte is a relic of Paris’ past and one that continues to inspire—not just during the making of 2008’s homage to video, Be Kind Rewind, but in providing the director with regular interaction with other film lovers. “Out of all the directors I work with, Michel is the most fun,” muses Limos. “He makes me laugh out loud constantly.” Here Gondry reveals just how important his encounters in the video aisle have been to his acclaimed oeuvre.
Was the video store a big part of your early experience with film?
Michel Gondry: We had a video player at home since the early 80s so the video process was part of my adolescence. I used to shoot little sketches with my brothers and our friends. Sadly, I don’t think there are many places like La Butte left where I live in Brooklyn.
Do you ever think about whether your film will end up on the shelves of somewhere like La Butte when you are making it?
MG: Yes. In fact it’s one of the reasons why we as filmmakers have to define the genre that we want our film to belong to. We know that people will put them on specific shelves. It doesn’t make things easy when your genre is not well defined.
Have these films also influenced your collaborations with other artists, such as the musicians for whom you’ve made music videos?
MG: Yes, sure. I remember the first time I collaborated with Björk—we discussed all our favorite movies. We discovered that we had lots of favorite films in common. Like The Night of the Hunter (1955) for instance, which became an inspiration for the video for [her 1993 single] “Human Behaviour.”
Do you still watch films as much as you used to before you began making them?
MG: I don’t see them the same way. Unfortunately, I can’t take myself out of the equation. Most of the time I’m watching a movie, I’m thinking, “I could never achieve this!”
Your latest adaptation takes on a work of satire. Is it important to have a sense of humor in filmmaking today?
MG: Humor helps to swallow the harshness of life.
China's Quirky Star Model and Marc Jacobs Muse Disrobes After Fashion Week
Bare-faced and beguiling, current fashion world darling Xiao Wen Ju lets her guard down for renowned Dutch photographer Dana Lixenberg, unwinding after a gruelling Fashion Week schedule of fittings and shows in this series of intimate and raw portraits. “It’s always a bit challenging to do a natural portrait of a model,” says Lixenberg, who shot Ju in Manhattan's Lafayette House hotel. “Somehow youth and beauty dominate, so it almost helped that she was exhausted and had come from a rehearsal.” Twenty-year-old Xiao Wen, who hails from the ancient city of Xi’an in China, signed with IMG in 2010 and quickly climbed the ranks both in her home country and internationally, featuring on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar China that May as well as walking for designers including Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Prada the following year, ultimately scoring Marc Jacobs’ Spring campaign in 2012. “There’s a playful element to her,” says Lixenberg, who has shot for publications including The New Yorker, Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine and exhibited in solo shows at Amsterdam's FOAM and the Nederlands Fotomuseum. “She looks like a little dancer: petite, almost Audrey Hepburnish and very slim and flexible like a kitten. She had a quiet charisma, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it popped up in film.”
The Hardcore Vision Behind the Cult Director's First Digital Release
The ever-provocative photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark delves into the making of Marfa Girl, his first feature in seven years and the winner of the Marco Aurelio Award for Best Film at the Rome Film Festival, in today’s video by NOWNESS regular Matt Black. Set in the eponymous Texas desert town, the new work focuses on the culture clash arising from the area’s mix of Mexican Americans, ranchers, border patrol police and a creative scene founded by minimalist artist Donald Judd, who moved there in the 1970s. Starring a cast of mostly non-actors, Clark’s latest film returns to his signature themes of adolescent sexuality, the dark side of American youth and its unseen subcultures. The 69-year-old maverick achieved notoriety with his seminal 1971 black-and-white monograph Tulsa. His raw, intimate debut feature Kids – the controversial tale of a handful of nihilistic New York skaters – shot him to international fame in 1995, simultaneously launching the careers of Chloë Sevigny, Harmony Korine, Leo Fitzpatrick and Rosario Dawson. “He has a very authentic way of documenting sexual freedom, drug abuse and darkness,” says Black, Clark’s Tribeca neighbor. “When you pick up fashion magazines today, so much of the editorial is done in Larry’s street style. His visual codes are part of our language now.” While Clark’s documentary aesthetic has inspired generations of artists and filmmakers, in Hollywood he remains an outsider. Ratings and censorship led him to the decision to bypass distributors completely this time, making Marfa Girl available exclusively to watch online via his website larryclark.com. “Larry’s in a special position,” says Black. “He’s hugely respected in the fashion industry, the art industry and by young people. Heavyweight artists like Richard Prince and Christopher Wool love him. He can put this film online and everyone will want to see it—whether they like him or not.”