Interview Gaspar Noé

What’s the matter with Gaspar Noé, the enfant terrible of French cinema? His previous films – Irréversible the most – caused quite a stir and made the public walk away, but his latest feature film seems to be embraced by both friend and enemy. Remarkable, because this hallucinating danse macabre that’s called Climax offers anything but cheerfulness. But the filmmaker himself thinks differently.

Written by Anton Damen

Gaspar Noé is in a great mood. His film Climax was sold out each screening at IFFR and the reviews are praiseful. Even though the film with all its lugubrious scenes could be described as a greatest hits compilation from the professional provocateur, the maker thinks it is a particularly amusing end product. “I didn’t mean to make a funny film, but that is what it became in the end. I did have to swear when I saw the first assembly version. I wanted to make a serious drama and it ended up being comic again,” he laughs. Well, the cinematic masterpiece that's called Climax presumes a certain kind of humour. Black humour. The reason why this film is accepted by the audience? “In all my previous films the characters are anti-heroes that the viewer has to identify with, but then the characters make the wrong decision - or don’t. In the case of Climax, no one makes a decision, it all overcomes them. And in the second half, the people in great fear show their true faces, indeed.”

I didn’t expect I could make a film so quickly - in just fifteen production days! And that I could be proud of each frame - who would have thought it.” – Gaspar Noé

Another reason why Noé feels happy, as he says so: “I didn’t expect I could make a film so quickly - in just fifteen production days! And that I could be proud of each frame - who would have thought it”. He adds, disarmingly honest: “And before this film, I was pretty much in debt, and now I’m not anymore. Someone suggested this project to me as a way to get out of debts, if I was able to make it for less than two million. Now I’m out of the red and I have some money left for my hobby: collecting original film posters. You should know that the 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t particularly cheap. As a matter of fact, I find it hard myself to foretell if a film becomes a commercial success. I thought I knew for sure with Enter the Void, and with Love, but it turned out differently. From all my former films only Irréversible became a great hit. This proves that positive reviews aren’t always the right indicator of success. Because the film that people complained the most about, was Irréversible. So probably the audiences went to see it for the wrong reasons. Not because they really wanted to see a story being told backwards. But okay, I don’t really care that much for the money. I don’t need a lot. As long as I have money to drink, to have lunch and to buy film posters.”

Noé is revealed as a true collector in the second scene of Climax, with his favourite films books and videotapes stapled beside a TV-monitor. “They are from my very own collection. And they all refer to what happens in the film. The only film that belonged on the VHS-staple, but that I don't own myself, is Shivers by David Cronenberg. Because this film has a lot of similarities with mine.” He sighs deeply. ”It’s a sort of mental illness, being a collector. I spend more time on eBay searching for posters and film photos than I do making films. I still keep hundreds of VHS-tapes in the basement. If I will ever get rid of them? No, they are like longtime friends. And if your friend gets dementia, that’s doesn’t mean you should say goodbye?”, he chuckles.

  • Still from Climax

  • Still from Climax

  • Still from Climax

  • Still from Climax

  • The dancers of Climax crashed the first screening of the film. 

  • Gaspar Noé and cast members of Climax

  • The dancers of Climax crashed the first screening of the film. 

But there must be a difference: Noé's own films are displayed perfectly in order in his working space. “I try to get the DVDs of all of my films in each language and each version. This can come in handy when someone in the future still wants to do something with them and the film prints don’t exist anymore - then we still have the subtitles. A friend of mine got me every illegal version of my DVDs that he found on the black market in Iran. Enter the Void and Irréversible, with perfect Persian subtitles. Since my films could be banned from cinemas, it only means they will sell even better in the underground circuit. Being prohibited is actually the best publicity there is, haha! My previous film, Love, was prohibited in Russia and Iran. Just guess in which two countries Climax does it best.

Watch the trailer of Climax

More interviews of IFFR 2019

Photo in header: Gaspar Noé & cast