• International Competition

Lázaro de noche

Nicolás Pereda

Forty-somethings Lazaro, Luisa and Francisco live in Mexico City. The friends also make up a love triangle, but their exchanges are so devoid of affection that we see no sign of this. Prosaic, contradictory and repetitive, they exude a slight sense of unease as well as producing a comic effect. The first movement of Lázaro de noche shows their ordinary daily lives punctuated by comical audition scenes for a film about which we know nothing except the director’s method of casting them through observation. With Lázaro de noche, Nicolás Pereda pursues the endeavour he began over fifteen years ago with his faithful community of actor-friends. He brings them together in a mutant film of unparalleled tone, in which he links images of the banal and the marvellous, exploring the limits of realism in the process, inspired by the words of the Argentinian writer César Aira. During a dinner party attended by the three protagonists, a change of camera angle and the emergence of a voice from the past plunge the film into another space-time, the space-time of memory. As soon as their meeting at a writing workshop and the beginnings of their love tangle are sketched out, the story is projected into a third level of fiction and representation, evoking the story of Aladdin written by Luisa at the time. Now, Lazaro and his mother Teresita play Aladdin and his mother in a profane variation of the story, a fairytale of raw triviality. If, during its metamorphosis, Lázaro de noche moves away from reality – from reality to memory, from memory to legend – it does so without sacrificing any of its tangible materiality; the film seems to become disenchanted as it becomes re-enchanted. And while the interpretation of Aladdin is surprising – in making the same wish for food over and over again, the hero “refuses to take the causal leap of magic and chooses the step-by-step of reality” (César Aira) – Nicolás Pereda invites us to rediscover magic in that same step-by-step.

Louise Martin Papasian

Like most of your previous films, Lázaro de noche has a strong connection with literature. You use an interview between Mario Levrero and his student Christian Arán, to build the fictional framework for the three friends’ encounter in a writing workshop, and the final part of the film is inspired by a lecture on realism by César Aira. At what point did this material come into play, and how did it influence the making of the film? More generally, can you tell us about the role of literature for you as a filmmaker?

I listened to the interview to Mario Levrero on youtube several years ago were he mentions how he came to understand that the importance of the workshops was not literature, but rather the coming together of young people who needed a space to express themselves, or simply a space to be together were they could explore aspects of their lives that they otherwise could not. The interview became the starting point for the film. Over the years I’ve taught many workshops in different contexts, but I remembered specifically the first workshops I gave many years ago, when I was around 25 years old. They were mostly in rough and poor areas of Mexico City, where I met people who had talent and enthusiasm for making art, but whose social, economic and geographic circumstances would impede them from ever becoming artists. So, while I am an avid Levrero reader, what drew me to this interview was his approach to an artist workshop, rather than to literature itself.
To me this is a film about desire, and the lecture by César Aira on realism questions our preconceived notions of desire. Why does Aladdin not ask for a new house or whatever else he pleases? Aira explains that the gifts of magic are enjoyed in a reality, in a less magical reality, an everyday reality. If we were to prolong the magic, we would lose all the pleasure of its benefit.
So, while this film, like others I have done in the past, has a connection to literature, what I take form writers are not stories, characters or structures, but conceptual and formal ideas. The writers that I admire, are artists who tend to articulate ideas in concrete and beautiful ways. I try to rearticulate some of these ideas in my own work.

The film’s final movement depicts the iconic tale of Aladdin, as recalled by Luisa, in a very surprising, offbeat staging with burlesque and anachronistic details (the jute costumes next to the refrigerator, among others). What inspired this staging?

I didn’t give the anachronistic details much thought. I wrote it as I imagined it. In general, I find most realist films disconnected to my own reality. I tend to find realism when a human, animal, landscape, or thing, is actually there, rather than pretending to be there. To me realism is not necessarily related to the content of what’s in front of the camera, but rather it’s presence.

The film assumes a form of triviality, notably through the repetition of meal scenes, the commentary on food and the exaggerated swallowing noises. Why this insistence?

The everyday is a complex mixture of a wide range of experiences that define our lives. By focusing on a specific element of the everyday, I try to find meaning and beauty through the repetition of this element. To me, our lives are at stake in the banal. There is nothing banal about triviality.

In his lecture, César Aira analyzes the disconcerting effect of reading the tale of Aladdin. “The discomfort it produces is due to the fact that it is a magical tale that proceeds with the matter of realism.” he says. We find this ambiguity in your film: the workings of fiction are present, but the narrative horizon seems unresolved and the plot elements defused. Could you comment on this aspect of the film? 

I don’t think in terms of thwarting viewers expectations. When I write, I simply try to observe the characters as if I was observing my own life or my friends’ lives. Our lives, as much as I’d like to think of them as interesting and full of excitement, tend to follow the “step-by-step of reality”. I’m not interested in the extraordinary, I’m interested in my life, my experience, and the things I observe around me. My films tend to be unresolved, because they exist in a permanent state of the present. I live with the constant feeling of having matters unresolved, so do my characters.

The auditions, which Lázaro and then Luisa go through with the director and his wife, are a bit grotesque, almost implausible. In what way is the casting situation absurd for you, and how does this portrayal speak to your relationship with actors? What are the levers that interest you in the casting moment?

I agree that the auditions are grotesque, but I don’t think they are implausible. I actually agree with everything the director says: the idea of casting based on observing quotidian movements of actors, and thinking about casting not in terms of how an actor can become a character, but rather the other way around. Of course, the way the director goes about it is a bit comical, and Luisa’s audition is abusive, but to me, still realistic.
I have never done castings, I’ve been working with the same actors for over 15 years, and each time I ask a new person, they tend to be friends of mine, like in the case of the director and his wife.

Precisely how did you collaborate and share the creative process of this film with Lázaro Gabino Rodriguez, Luisa Pardo, Francisco Barreiro and Teresita Sanchez, who have been with you for so long?

Our collaboration is the central element of our work. If I changed the actors, the films would be other films. Not only because there are biographical elements of the actors in the films, but more because the characters are vehicles to make portraits of the performers. I am interested in them specifically, more than the characters they play, or the stories we tell. We don’t speak of our collaboration. I give them a script and they perform it, but they perform it however they want. We don’t speak about characters. The characters don’t exist, it is them.

The film’s sound is very particular, involving sometimes a slight discrepancy between image and sound, the isolation and amplification of certain sound elements, and the use of folley, particularly in Aladdin’s meal scenes, producing a kind of strangeness and unease, and a sometimes comic effect. How did you conceive the sound work and why these choices of treatment?

In the past I’ve often neglected the sound in my films. I decided to do all the sound postproduction myself, including the foley, edit and mix, because I wanted to think about sound. It ended up being a bit sloppy, of course, because I was learning both conceptually and technically as I was doing it, but the process allowed me to think about sound separately from the image for the first time. So rather than following the image in a realist way, I felt free to experiment. The choices are mostly intuitive, but I do believe they produce meaning. The scene where they are at the concert, but we start hearing a conversation that is clearly happening elsewhere, is an example of a moment that I believe is generative, but it’s not exactly clear of what.

Interviewed by Louise Martin Papasian

  • International Competition
21:3027 June 2024Artplexe 1
14:0028 June 2024Variétés 1
18:3029 June 2024Artplexe 1

Technical sheet

Mexico, Canada / 2024 / Colour / 76'

Original version: Spanish
Subtitles: English, French
Script: Nicolás Pereda
Photography: Nicolás Pereda
Editing: Nicolás Pereda
Music: Natalia Pérez-Turner
Sound: Pablo Cervera, Nicolás Pereda
Cast: Lázaro G. Rodríguez, Luisa Pardo, Francisco Barreiro, Teresita Sánchez

Production: Nicolás Pereda (Nicolas Pereda), Catalina Pereda (En Chinga Producciones)
Contact: Maria Vera Kino Rebelde

2022 Flora 10 minutes
2021 Dear Chantal, 5 minutes
2020 Fauna 70 minutes
2019 My Skin, Luminous 40 minutes
2017 The Private Property Trilogy Film/Performance/Lecture – 52 min.
2016 Tales of Two Who Dreamt 80 minutes
2015 Minotaur 52 minutes
2014 The Absent 80 minutes
2013 The Palace 34 minutes
2013 Killing Strangers 63 minutes
2012 Greatest Hits 100 minutes
2010 Summer of Goliath 76 minutes
2010 All Things Were Now Overtaken By Silence 61 min
2009 Perpetuum Mobile 86 minutes
2009 Juntos 74 minutes
2008 Interview with the Earth 18 minutes
2007 Where Are Their Stories? 73 minutes