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Elisabeth Perceval

Nicolas Klotz

Elisabeth Perceval Nicolas Klotz
“So long Michael”: with utmost simplicity, a tribute to Michael Lonsdale, who died in september 2020. Shot a few months before his death, the images show us the great actor in extreme close-up: first his hands, then his face, as he reads texts by Antonin Artaud and Plutarch. The format of the image changes: first of all digital, then film, then film negative, then white noise that barely hints at the actor’s outlilnes. A way to force the viewer’s attention on his words, but also a way of enquiring into a face, of working on it visually, of exploring all its expressive possibilities. (Nathan Letoré)

Interview with Élisabeth Perceval & Nicolas Klotz

Your work combines all forms, genres and formats. So Long Michael is a short film starring Michael Lonsdale, who also starred in The Human Question in 2007. What does this actor embody in cinema for you and why this new collaboration?

The extraordinary constellation of films and filmmakers Michael has worked with inevitably haunts our work. It also poses formidable challenges to the film-makers of our generation; the question of transmission, of ghosts, and of the necessary transgression of anything remotely resembling “heritage” cinema. Michael is the spirit brother of Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto, Delphine Seyrig, Jacques Rivette, Jean Eustache, Luis Buñuel, Marguerite Duras and many others. His modesty is matched only by the magnitude of his utterly mysterious and amiable presence. The idea of filming again with Michael came very naturally to us after seeing him in Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 in the summer of 2019.

What was your initial project?

Initially, the idea was to shoot a coda for Let’s Say Revolution – a love letter to a lover with whom he’d had a relationship for thirty years. This woman, an actress, was going to be played by Frédérique Duchêne, who we had worked with on Four White Nights. Michael died during the editing of Let’s Say Revolution and the footage became a film in its own right starring Michael – his last film.

How did you work with him?

On the shoot, in December 2019, Michael slept a lot during the day. He only really woke up at dusk. It was during the big strikes against the pension reform law. No public transport, lots of people in the streets. There was incredible electricity in the air; it was very exciting for him. We went to visit him several times with oysters, wine and cakes. If his body was barely supporting him, his spirit and his playfulness lit up the kitchen with palpable joy. As soon as the camera started rolling, the happiness of a vitality that eternally linked him to childhood, would naturally flow through his body, his voice and his eyes. With a lightness that went so well with the carnal language of Artaud and the cosmic vision of Plutarch. He often compared his work to that of a painter or musician and said he never prepared anything, but just let himself be carried away by the vibrations he felt in the moment.

Why did you use a variety of camera techniques?

We did a single take on video, then a reel of Super-8. He talked to us at length about his desire to get back to film. We left the sound recorder running. I didn’t really know if the camera still worked. I hadn’t used it for fifteen years. “But it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t print, we’ll still be here. »

How do you explain the variations of the Super 8? Did you think of So Long Michael as a tribute to the actor?

Super 8 film – negative or positive, with its rawness, the dust captured on the film, the sound of the camera – is cinema and the afterlife’s most sensitive medium: the reality and the hereafter from which Michael now addresses us. The colour film is at the crossroads of his presence and his passing. In the course of these ten minutes, between Plutarch’s text and his presence on the brink of passing, almost two millennia pass before our eyes. What is visible or not visible, but which is here.

Interview by Olivier Pierre

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Technical sheet

France / 2021 / Colour and B&W / 8 mm / 11’

Original version : french
Script, Editing : Elisabeth Perceval, Nicolas Klotz
Photography : Nicolas Klotz.Son : Thomas Guillot, Mikaël Barre
With : Michael Lonsdale
Production : Nicolas Klotz & Elisabeth Perceval (Mata Atlantica).
Filmography : Chant pour la ville enfouie, 2022
Nous disons Révolution, 2021
Saxifrages, 2020
L’Héroïque Lande, 2017
Mata Atlantica, 2016
Low Life, 2012.
La question humaine, 2007
La Blessure, 2003
Paria, 2000.