– CANNES 2022: We chatted to the Catalan director following the warm reception of his hypnotic Cannes competition debut
The first thing you notice of Albert Serra is that it would be a great subject for one of his films. The writer of these lines has never been so dazzled by a director’s games with his clothing during an interview: the shades, the slippers, everything. And then there’s his conversational style, very articulate and sometimes vulgar. He was in a very good mood al Cannes Film Festivalthe day after the premiere at the Grand Théâtre Lumière by Pacifiction [+leggi anche:
intervista: Albert Serra
scheda film]his most ambitious and perhaps most powerful work to date.
Cineuropa: Would you define this as a film that you have wanted to make all your life, or at least your entire artistic career?
Albert Serra: I wouldn’t say that, because maybe he means that I can’t be more ambitious or grow more than that. It’s a process of evolution, it’s true. It opens the door to something totally different, more ambitious and crazier. For people who know my work in the art world, there is even more output – the work I did for the Venice Biennale. I don’t prepare; I don’t have an agenda; I have no worries about my career. I focus on each piece, the evolution of the images and the images I can create.
Could explain the resonance of the international title (Pacifiction)?
It’s just Pacific fiction! And the idea is this: the film is pure fantasy – it touches the political, it touches the contemporary and it touches humans and human relationships, but in the end I like the idea that it’s exotic and artificial and incredible. All these relationships between these two people – De Roller and Shannah – are almost grotesque. He is an admiral who also has many atomic submarines.
How was the preparation on the various islands before starting to shoot? How did you find the non-professional actors, such as dancers and clan leaders?
I only had one trip, I was supposed to shoot immediately, and then COVID-19 hit. I prefer the clutch to go there knowing nothing and be with the whole team. The friction, the crashes, the shock. This creates innocence and spontaneity. There are many things that are out of control – it is the total nightmare of people in the industry. They want to keep tabs on it because it’s a huge industry and there’s little time. But with this, you only get one thing or the other: You’re financially comfortable, but you’re artistically screwed.
At his talk on Amos Vogel last year at NYFF, he spoke about what he describes as “the vulgarity of fiction.” He had this concern in mind during the making of Pacifiction?
Usually, when it comes to fiction, it’s like it’s a children’s thing. You know, “That’s the good guy, that’s the bad guy – I get it” or “Hell, okay okay, they’re corrupt, thank you very much.” You are paying people to tell you what you already know. You pay them ten dollars to give you images you’ve already seen or a feeling you’ve already experienced. In the future you won’t pay – you have hundreds on Netflix. It’s a lot cheaper to have 200 examples of the same shit, for the same price – if you really want that kind of shit, that is. If you want good stuff, it will be more expensive.
But he talked about Chinatown as a source of inspiration: is it surely a supreme example of fiction?
Well, it has some good actors, especially John Huston. Then there’s all the confusion of the last scene, the dark theme of incest, and the theme of corruption, with water. The point of view is important: Jack Nicholson is in all the scenes of the film and we only have the information that he has. We are in his mind or in his eyes. So here I wanted to do the same thing but in a more contemporary way. There is also Why a murder and Cutter’s way: There’s this sense of paranoia that rules the world.
Do you see De Roller as a reflection of today’s politicians, who may be at the core of the ideology, such as Macron or Biden?
It reminded me more of Donald Trump! With the cockfight and the “Ag-gghhh!” [imita il combattimento di galli]. Ok, he seems friendly, but he’s also a populist, then very friendly and then also adorable. After that, you see him as paranoid, then as a psychopath. There are some smiles, but they are those of a psychopath.
(Translated from English)