• GNCR Award  
  • International Competition


Antoni Collot

Antoni Collot
In the opening shot, a father is lying in bed and asks his son, “Jojo, have you learned your poetry?” Jojo is Georges Bataille as a child. Antoni Collot has set himself the seemingly impossible challenge of inventing the childhood of the author of Le bleu du ciel. In a similar vein to the radiant Paul est Mort (FID 2018), he rises to the challenge by cobbling together a three-storey anachronism that takes the film away from classic biographical narratives. The first storey does not seek portray the young Bataille or imagine what the future writer might have been, but watches a contemporary child live, studying his experiences from the point of view of Bataille’s way of thinking, of his vision of the world. The childhood scenes thus freed from any form of prefiguration of the man to come, are the stations of a lesson in things: Jojo catches crayfish, builds a cabin, makes a big bonfire, discovers the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch… On the second floor, the editing short-circuits times and ages: as a counterpoint to the immediate present of childhood, moments in the lives of Jojo, his father Joseph and his housekeeper Pernette, Collot adds the sound of the intermittent flow of a radio interview between Bataille and a journalist. On the third floor of this anachronistic rocket, the filmmaker embodies Joseph Bataille, the father blinded and paralysed by syphilis, putting in his mouth the ideas and words of the future writer. Hideous Jojo, lewd and unholy – but loving and loved… It’s as though Bataille, like us marvelling in the child’s joy and intelligence, was trying to rediscover what and who he had been, the sovereignty of his experiences. “Experience should never seek authority elsewhere than in itself”. For the duration of a sequence, the radio becomes a ghost at the sleeping child’s bedside, to borrow from the writer the maxim of the film itself, the formidable ease with which he was able to free himself from the pitfalls of biopics and the fatigue of the guardians of the temple of the Bataille doctrine – until, like Jojo, we lose ourselves in the stars.
(Cyril Neyrat)

Interview with Antoni Collot

1. In Paul est mort (2018), you invented the character of Paul Eichmann, much inspired by the philosopher David Lewis. For Jojo, it was the childhood of Georges Bataille that interested you. Why?
In the writing process I enjoy dialoguing with authors I like and with whom I would have liked to be in contact. This is firstly to address the frustration at not having been able to do so whilst they were still alive, and secondly, to prolong the pleasure of their works and lastly, not to leave them alone with the dead.

2. Did certain writings inspire you in developing the screenplay? What challenges did they bring?
The texts by Georges Bataille as part of his “Somme athéologique” [Summary of Atheology]. L’Expérience intérieure, Le Coupable and L’Alleluiah are those that touch me the most. Also, two events in plays by Sophocles. First, Philoctetes suffering from a foot wound which festers and gives off a vile odour, surrendering to the solitude of his cries and pain on the island of Lemnos. I find that the beauty of Baudelaire’s poem, Une Charogne, which Jojo has to learn, is somehow related to this episode. Then there’s Ajax blinded by Athena massacring animals which he thought to be the companions of Ulysses, before coming to his senses and feeling riddled with shame. All this pathos is thawed by the mischievous joy of Jojo, his childish audacity and his courage. This child is nurtured by the characters of Mark Twain and Antigone’s rebellion. The challenge was above all to look at Bataille differently from the morbid readings usually attached to his work. There is joy in this extreme mysticism, and the laughter is essential.

3. Can we consider the film as the story of a fight, an emancipation?
Yes, it’s a fight movie! But in which they fight “with” and not “against”. With the sun, desires, fear, the night, sex, waiting, and the carrions in the making, all of which we carry with us.

4. How did you choose your actors, Attila Meste de Segonzac, Romane Charbonnel and Nicolas Bouyssi?
The choice of actors preceded the writing. I’ve known Attila since birth and have watched him grow up. The child’s mischievousness and charm delight me. When his mother told me that he wanted to act, I began to image a story in which his love of treehouses, aquatic hunting, and verticality—he climbs trees and road signs—would be transposed. Romane had already featured in La Cheville (2018). I was immediately fascinated by her resemblance to certain portraits by the Flemish Primitives, and Rogier van der Weyden in particular. In daily life, she gives off a very Bressonian energy, at once reserved and capable of surpassing the morally restrictive. I knew that both of them would show a rare generosity, and the shooting confirmed it. To play the ghost of Bataille, I could only imagine a writer sharing a radical vision of literature, of which there are but a few. Bouyssi is the author of a demanding oeuvre in delicate relation with our world, which I very much admire.

5. Jojo’s father is often heard but rarely appears in the picture. What made you decide to play the role?
How to address blindness in cinema was one of the crucial questions in order to be able to shoot. As a solution, I imagined a transfer: to render the blind person almost invisible and privilege his voice over his image. To play a character without a point of view, who better than someone normally behind the camera? When I’m on screen, the camera films by itself, like an eye without a body. I really like these paradoxes, and that the device becomes part of the film. But it was last year, after listening to an interview with Pialat, that I decided to take the risk of playing Joseph. It was “a risk”, because playing madness is never far from caricature. I had to transform my body, soften it, age it, and stage it in somewhat demeaning situations. This allowed me to direct from the inside.

6. The film mainly takes place in a house, filmed in the shadows, and nature is quite sombre. How did you envisage the visual aspect?
Everything is filmed with natural light. I don’t use any artifice. Often, the work schedule was shaken up by a ray of light creating an atmosphere that I particularly wanted to capture. When I shoot, I’m always on the lookout and ready to wait for the right chromatic or luminous moment to set up a scene. I like to work with unstable light, particularly at dawn and dusk, and I have a special fondness for the light change that a cloud can produce. Furthermore, I refuse any calibration during the post-production process and shoot with a very sensitive sensor which I push to its limits. I’m obsessed by the construction of the frame, and so the acting is often adjusted down to the last millimetre.

7. You produced, wrote, filmed and edited this film. Was this autarky determined by artistic choice or economic necessity?
Ideally, I would have liked an Alain Sarde or modern-day Georges de Beauregard to give me a budget without requiring me to unveil my intentions. In the absence of this, I prefer to work alone. As the ghost of Bataille repeats: “No project !” There are many advantages, the greatest of which is not needing to talk, and keeping the discussions for when I’m with the actors, and also being able to change one’s mind and film many scenes I only need in order to forge the characters and which I know I won’t use, though the actors don’t know. However, making a feature film completely alone, from the writing to the editing, is an act of folly with moments of paroxysmal despair and exaltation. I’m always afraid of dying along the way.

Interview by Olivier Pierre.

  • GNCR Award  
  • International Competition

Technical sheet

France / 2021 / 90’

Original Version : French.
Subtitles : English.
Script : Antoni Collot.
Photography : Antoni Collot.
Editing : Antoni Collot.
Sound : Antoni Collot.
Casting : Attila Meste de Segonzac, Romane Charbonnel, Antoni Collot, Nicolas Bouyssi.
Production : Antoni Collot (Ses yeux de fougère Films).
Filmography : Paul est mort, 2018. La Cheville, 2018. Des sables dessinés, 2008.