Monday, November 20, 2017

The Funhouse interview with cinematographer Caroline Champetier

Champetier shoots with Leos Carax.
I’m always happy to speak with someone whose work I’ve admired for a long time. In the case of Caroline Champetier, I knew the work she had done and had seen her name on the credits of many films, but had never “added up” exactly how important her contributions have been to French cinema over the last 35 years.

I interviewed her when she was in NYC for a mini-retro of her work at the Alliance Francaise (FIAF) in October. I was able to move through her career quite well in the time we were allotted but, as I am editing the shows that will come from this interview (I’m hoping to do three), I am reminded of just how many great filmmakers she has collaborated with.

She has shot film (and video) for Akerman, Straub/Huillet, Godard, Rivette, Jean Eustache, Jacques Doillon, Benoit Jacquot, Leos Carax, Anne Fontaine, and Ms. Champetier herself. Those were the individuals I discussed with her in the interview; I chose to leave out her work with Claude Lanzmann and Xavier Beauvois (you can’t fit everything in in one interview — especially not a giant work like Shoah!).

Caroline Champetier
Below are two segments from the interview that are particularly enjoyable. The first is about her time shooting Holy Motors with Carax — in particular her shooting the feature exclusively at night on high-def video, and the amazing “intermission” scene featuring a killer band playing in a church (with our hero Denis Lavant on accordion).

The second clip is about her time with Godard, doting on his “Uncle Jean” comedic alter-ego and his reputation (among many critics and filmmakers — Hal Hartley, just to throw out one name) as a “master of lighting.” Champetier takes issue with this (not disputing his mastery, but more the title — since the cinematographer lights the scenes….).

The interview will air in the coming weeks on the Funhouse. Stay tuned!

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