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“Love Battles” (Mes séances de lutte) Director Jacques Doillon

Interviewed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Please let us introduce him to you, this is Ryusuke Hamaguchi , who is now one of the most promised cineast in Japan, and he will be the interviewer for today.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi (R.H.) : Very nice to meet you.
Jacques Doillon (J.D.): I would love to see your work. Do you happen to have any of your DVDs with you today?
Room: (Laughs)
(Ryusuke hands Jack his DVD)
This film “PASSION” is one of Hamaguchi's most acclaimed work, and has also been filmed in various international film festivals such as the San Sebastian Interational Film Festival.
R.H. : The other one is a film called “Storytellers”, which is a documentary about a research activity in Japanese regional folktales.
J.D. : My pleasure. Perhaps it was a bit too short for such nice conversation.
J.D. : So which one came after the other?
R.H. : “PASSION” (2008) is older, and also it's a fictional story. “Storytellers” , is a film which we produced after the earthquake which occurred on March 11th 2011. Me and my crew moved to the North Eastern area of Japan, which is where the disaster mainly took place, to film a documentary about the disaster. This film is what we developed while meeting many people during that stay.
J.D. : I see. I sense your feelings.
R.H. : Thank you. Well, let us move on to the interview. First of all, I must say that your latest film “Love Battles” was great. I have always looked up to you and admired your work, but this film was another great experience for me.
J.D. : Oh my! Maybe I should stop filming anymore. It would be a shame to let anyone down after you had told me so many good things about my work!
everyone (laughs)

The Importance Of Trying Many Takes

R.H. : I saw your film “Just Anybody”(Original Title:Le premier venu)at the “Tresors caches du cinema francais” which took place in 2008. You were there for a talk event, and during the conversation, you said you often take 20 to 30 takes, and the followong words were “what I am waiting for, is not an ideal scene. Its their exhaustion”, which was a phrase I found very interesting. But after watching “Love Battles”, to me, there were so many scenes that were so intense and so impressively well shot, that I started to doubt, that the fundamental rules and the method you mentioned at the talk event may not necessarily be always true for your own films. Even though you mentioned that you wait for the actors, and the scene to “exhaust”, I don't think anyone is capable of repeating such intense acting over and over for 20 or 30 times. How was the shooting actually made? Was there a certain different way that you took which you may not do in your other films?
J.D. : We started shooting “Just Anybody” without doing any rehearsals, so the first take was almost like a rehearsal with the camera actually recording the scenes. But around the 7th or the 8th take, a slight sense of hope, or should I say, a confidence emerged inside of me saying that this scene is going to become a good one. That is why the scene eventually took 20, 30 takes to capture the scenes I wanted. But “Love Battle”on the other hand we filmed most of the scenes in one shot, which of course makes each sequence very long. Now, that is very tough not only for the actors, but also for the cameraman and the sound man as well. So in this film we decided to do rehearsals before we actually roll the cameras, to figure out how we should shoot each scene. The scenes were 7 to 8 minutes long in average, so we decided not to go further than 5 takes, especially for the violent, fighting scenes, because those were definitely the hardest and the most dangerous for the actors, and it was obviously not a good idea to do so many takes. Otherwise they would be too exhausted or the worse, be injured to work on other scenes. The actual take may have been 4 to 6, but the energy we spent and the exhaustion had probably been worth the 20 takes of my other films.
What I have been attempting to bring out was not necessary just exhaustion. Exhaustion is always welcome as long as it is not to the extreme, but it is not the only essence I was trying to grasp by repeating so many takes. I always like to explain this idea by comparing it to a boxing match, where most matches are not so exciting in the first round. But as they continue to box for, say 8,9,10 rounds, the two will gradually become exhausted and their guards will begin to drop, and they start see chances in each other's defense. My idea is that the same thing can be said to actors as well. Since my shooting strategy consists of long single shot sequences with long lines, the actors are exposed to so much work in order to be ready for the actual filming. Not just the reading and memorizing of the lines, but they need to understand and memorize each move, position, where you are suppose to be standing in the camera, what action you are suppose make during a certain line, what you are supposed to be doing with your co actor during that moment, and so on. There is so much they need to be perfectly ready with, and they need to be completely capable to act that act, and after going through all of that, they are finally capable of bringing out their potentials, figuring out how to act freely and naturally. Even I do not know how the scene is suppose to come out, during the first take. But as we continue to try again and again, we begin to understand the scene and attempt to correct each move, or tempo in order to complete the sequence. After many takes I will be capable of controlling the scene, and of course the actors will have every move and line in their heads, ready to act naturally and freely by then.
I remember Léa Seydoux, now a very famous french actress of course, once came to me saying strongly, well, not that she was angry or verbally harsh, but the content was strong, and she said “Is it really necessary for me to practice and prepare this hard?”. So I answered her telling her that it is all for the sake of bringing out her best performance. It is natural and obvious that the 17, 18 th take is far more better than the second, and the same thing can be said to any actor, whether she is a child or Isabelle Huppert, anyone. Of course, in the first place, it takes time for me too to be able to give the right directions for them, having to have to go through such long process.
Despite the tough filming, “Love Battles” took only one month. I heard that Japanese films are often shot in a very short period of time, and in France, the averages are maybe 8 to 12 weeks. I heard one of the french directors complaining during this film festival saying he was only given 12 weeks to finish the filming, but time given to us was way more shorter than that. Only 4 weeks and 2 days, just a month. So I had to film quick, no matter what. A musician would spend a long time to prepare for a single concert but in our case, what we did was, we would figure out and film a 7,8 minute single sequence in about 3,4 hours, which requires very quick and concentrated work, and the film consists in total of 18 sequences, so we would film each of them after another, every day to the next during that period, and I must say it was very hard but very quick work. Of course it might have been a lot more easier if we were allowed more time, but somehow we did complete the film, and it eventually became, what it is. Particularly for me, this film started out as a very rough sketch in the first place, so it is hard to say whether the film is actually a “complete” film or not if you are to criticize from, say a perfectionist point of view, but I am very proud of what we accomplished and how it came out to be, in spite of such short period of filming time, and above all I am so happy to hear that someone actually liked it.

To Be Precise And Strict

R.H. : The harmony between the actors and the camera was so impressive. In the scene where the man takes away the carpet covering the female actor's body, all the moves seemed spontaneous and improvised but the camera was perfectly following their actions, and again, it did not seem that the camera was aware beforehand of how they were going to move, so the camera too seemed as if it was controlled and improvised at the spot. I predict that there must have been two cameras for that scene, in one shot. The atmosphere in the scene does not change nor be stopped by the cut, and to me, it seemed that even the actors respiration had been maintaining its tension and rhythm. There was a certain feel of time, developing and flowing inside the film. Considering the context and the consistence of the story, that was one thing that astonished me. How is such integration and harmony made possible in your film?
J.D. : I can see that you came to me with your questions as a movie director, not a journalist. Well, about the using of two cameras, when I took “Ponette” and “La Pirate” the framing was much more strict and calculated. The position of the camera was always fixed in a certain height, and besides small exceptions such as short distance camera moves and some little zooming and some changes in the focus points, the camera basically followed the 18 markers which was carefully marked on the floor in order to make the precise directions for the cameras. It was that precise, and strictly calculated, and, oh yes, there is a film by Mikio Naruse called “Floating Clouds”, maybe you might know. The camera works in “Love Battles” is a little more loose, and its movements has this floating kind of feeling to them. It is just that, as I was trying to explain that loose, floating feeling, I remembered “Floating Clouds” so I just happened to mention it, but anyway, always being stable and precise and calculated is not the easiest thing to do for a camera. One of the two cameraman was very experienced and well trained, but I have to say that the other was tend to get more exhausted easier, and there were a lot these, floating feeling in the camera work. At least for me, it was a bit too much. Then again, the time limited to us was only a month, and it was obvious that there was no way making things more stricter and precise so we had to go on with it.Luckily, it did not turn out to be as unsystematic or confused as I thought, so I felt relieved that it all came out alright.
First of all, the reason I used two cameras was because of the limited filming period, but it also made the process easier for me since my idea was to film each and every scene in a long one shot sequence. It does not mean that the two were always rolling at the same time, for instance, if one was rolling in the living room, the other would be waiting upstairs, or it can be the other way round, and this technic enables you to film the scene in one shot even when the characters have to move around. Once you started the filming, and as the scene begins to sing and flow, this technic will enable to capture the entirely from the beginning to the end, like you have said earlier, without stopping or eliminating the music or should I say, respiration. Most important for me is to capture that rich and blissful moment and to have it sustained throughout each scene, so this method was definitely useful. Yet I have to admit that this technic does have an in avoidable negative aspect, which is that the camera cannot stay stable. Or if I am to use the aforementioned term, the camera work will eventually turn out having this floating feeling. It's just something you can not avoid when it is handled by a human hand, otherwise it needs to be on a tripod or a dolly.
R.H. : Thank you. There is one last thing I want to know, something I need to learn from you as a director. So this is going to be my final question. As I watch each of your films, I imagine that your actors are always exposed to danger during the filming, and I think that it is one of the many elements that makes your films so great. Is there anything particular that you do, or something that you always keep in mind in order to encourage the actors, to get through the tough filming?
J.D. : For my actors, I always expect every each one to be ambitious and spontaneous with what they are capable of for the project. They are not just there to be some extra or a super, they are supposed to be there to do something much more and grander than that. And I know they have that ability. If you wish to create something beautiful by touching its mystery and its magical powers, you cannot just do what you are told to do. You have to be able to offer something from deep within themselves, and I always believe they do have that ability and the power.
R.H. : Thank you so much for sharing you time with us today.
J.D. : My pleasure. Perhaps it was a bit too short for such nice conversation.
English translation by Ryo Hamamoto
『Love Battles 』

France|2013|103 min|color

Director : Jacques Doillon / CAST : Sara Forestier, James Thiérrée

The Story


The woman returns to her hometown for her father's funeral and her family's financial adjustment. During the stay, she meets the man whom she was in love with when she was a local resident. Meanwhile, the distribution of the property between her brothers and sisters becomes intense, revealing their conflicts and childhood traumas. Her suffering leads her to look away from her reality, and to reunite with the man, and the two begins an odd “therapy”. The “therapy” first lead to a quarrel but as they continue their session and as she begins to release her anger and repellence, their verbal sparring becomes more and more intense and obscene, their frequent meetings eventually becomes a session for physical fights and hatred, a love battle.
『Touching the Skin of Eeriness』

Japan |2013|54min|color

Director : Ryusuke Hamaguchi / Production : LOAD SHOW, fictive / Producer : Gou Kitahara , Hideyuki Okamoto , Ryusuke Hamaguchi / Screenplay : Tomoyuki Takahashi / Director of Photography : Yasuyuki Sasaki / Sound : HWANG Young Chang / Music : Hiroyuki Nagashima / Assistant Director : Tadashi Nohara / Production Manager : Masayoshi jonai / Choreography : Osamu Jareo / Cast : Shota Sometani, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, houshi ishida, Natsumi Seto, Aoba Kawai, Ayumi Mizukoshi, Jun Murakami

The Story


After the death of his father, Chihiro (Shota Sometani) goes to live with older half-brother Togo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa). Although Togo and his girlfriend Satomi (Natsumi Seto) warmly take him in, Chihiro’s loneliness still lingers, and he becomes engrossed in practicing modern dance with classmate Naoya (Hoshi Ishida). However, disturbing events soon start to take place in the town where the two so innocently dance...
Touching the Skin of Eeriness directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi is a mystery-driven drama full of brilliance and charm that acts as the prequel to his forthcoming feature FLOODS. Starring in the lead is Shota Sometani (Winner of the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best newcomer at the 68th Venice International Film Festival for his role in director Shion Sono’s film Himizu), in his first role in a Ryusuke Hamaguchi film. In supporting roles are Kiyohiko Shibukawa, working with Hamaguchi for the first time in 5 years since PASSION, and Hoshi Ishida, joining Hamaguchi for the first time in 3 years since THE DEPTHS. Jun Murakami, Aoba Kawai, and Natsumi Seto, Ayumi Mizukoshi round out this all-star cast.
  • 『Jacques Doillon』
    A French film director, writer, born in Paris. Highly praised by many acclaimed film makers such as François Truffaut, Doillon starts his world wide carrier beginning with his 1979 film “La Drolesse” winning the Young Cinema Award at the 32th Cannes Film Festival International. His 1990 film “Le Petit Criminel” won Louis-Delluc Award, and also Honorable Mention at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival in the following year. His 1996 film “Ponette” won the International Critics Award and Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival, also the Best Foreign Film in 1997 New York Film Critics Circle. Married with actress Jane Birkin, and their daughter Lou Doillon is also an actress.
  • 『Ryusuke Hamaguchi』
    Born 1978 in Kanagawa , A Japanese film director. Graduated Tokyo Univ. faculty of Literature. After working as a assistant director for television programs, entered Tokyo National Univ. of Fine Arts and Music's visual laboratory postgraduate course. After his graduation product film “PASSION” gained high reputations in domestic and international film festivals, he has been constantly working on films such as Japanese/Korean collaborative film “THE DEPTHS”(2010), “The Sound of Waves” (2011/ collaboration with director Ko Sakai) which is a documentary film composed by interviews made to the sufferers of the devastating Earthquake which hit the North Eastern Pacific coast in 2011, and also a 4 hour lengthy “The Sound of Waves”(2012).