All the great records [memories] for me are from 1993, the climax of the (Grunge/Riot Grrrl) movement: an interview with director Alphonse GiorgiJune 26th, 2012 | Posted by in IndieFlix filmmaker | Interview | New Releases | Short films
“Youth is wasted on the young.”
These days, Shaw’s famous words reverberate among all continents and reflect our shaky times. Status updates and viral phenomena overshadow interpersonal discoveries within oneself, or another. I do believe if the old man could have seen ahead twenty seven years after his death, he would have recanted when the punk movement began to take hold (1977). Although at his age, he would probably have still disagreed. A movement, any movement, is impermanent. The fleeting moments in adolescence that you share with others are a barometer to how you measure your own life when the days dwindle down. Youth is embraced by the youthful; when one truly appreciates what it is to be young, they never lose it. No matter how long they live. I spoke with Polaroid Song’s co-director, Alphonse Giorgi about bygone days, music, film and what it is to discover yourself. Whether you have seen the film or not, read on to discover more than you knew about France’s underground movements and music.
AS: Salut, Alphonse. Polaroid Song is your debut film. What led you to tell this story?
AG: Well for our first film, the motivation was to dig up our common past. Nostalgic films and the atmosphere of independent movies like Sofia Coppola’s; we decided on a story about music. Music is the universal language that speaks to everyone, everybody personally connects certain songs to memories. We both are huge music fans and it was our first connection when we met. We talked about music before talking about film.The lesbian thing came after we had written some parts of the story, about female homosexuality and how it could be a first step to built someone’s own adult personality.
AS: I see you co-wrote a number of songs, had you been in bands?
AG: I wasn’t in a band, but I used to write in a fanzine. I’m like Lise in the movie: I followed a lot of bands without being a musician but to them I was an equal. My co-director, Yann (Tivrier ), was a guitar player in several bands. I wrote [lyrics] to the song because I wanted to, but also because I am the only one who can speak English! You can say Lise is close to me and Flory is close to Yann.
AS: What was the zine?
AG: A little DIY zine called Calimotcho. I’d like to specify that it was important to us that the songs were in English to get closer to the musical scene that inspired us (the Seattle/Olympia 90′s rock scene).
AS: Do you have any online links to Calimotcho, and how old were you in 1991?
AG: Calimotcho was only a paper zine, nothing remains of it unfortunately. I was 14 in 1991. All the great records [memories] for me are from 1993, the climax of the (Grunge/Riot Grrrl) movement, when I was 16. But 1991 was more symbolic than 1993 because of all the changes in the world (USSR, Berlin wall, Iraq war…). Those also underline the changes within Lise. And of course it was that year Nirvana released Nevermind! We also love Gus Van Sant movies, which often take place in Portland. Our Director Of Photography Raul Fernandez referenced Vant Sant’s films for lighting.
AS: I understand why it would be placed then, instead of 1993. Kind of like 1968, in terms of world changing events and revolutions. I auditioned for a Gus Van Sant film once, Paranoid Park. He was a very nice guy. I think he would like Polaroid Song.
AG: Paranoid Park is such a great movie, powerful! If you meet GVS again give him the link to Polaroid Song on IndieFlix, i hope he will love it!
AS: If I meet him again, you’ve got my word I will do that. Besides Sofia Coppola and Van Sant, who or what else inspires you?
AG: A lot! For Polaroid Song we watched Control by Anton Corbijn and also 24 Hour Party People by Michael Winterbottom (to see how he managed the direct-to-camera speeches) and we brought Raul our DOP to an exhibit of Larry Clark. We also watched Juno (for the teenage perspective) and some french movies like Water Lilies by Celine Sciamma, All Over me by Alex Sichel; also a lot of photographic books (Bettina Rheims, J.B. Mondino, Nan Goldin) and of course many documentaries and photo books about music. In fact there are many of our references throughout the movie: Bret Easton Ellis, Patti Smith, Nirvana, Guy Bourdin… I read The Catcher in the Rye during the making of the movie, that inspired me a lot. Two week before the first shoot we discovered the Brasilian movie, A Deriva by Heitor Dhalia, that was also a good influence for the look of the movie.
AS: Vincent Cassel is in that. Speaking of great French actors, how did you find everyone in Polaroid Song? The cast is incredible, especially Lise (Audrey Giacomini), Daniel (Edouard Audouin) and Pascal (Dominique Bettenfeld) who has worked with Jean-Pierre Jeunet on several films.
AG: Soon as Yann and I started to work together, we used to joke that we would work with Dominique in our first movie. That’s happened! We used to see him in the JP Jeunet movies and the Jan Kounen ones too. He quickly agreed to play in the movie and, even if he’s normally playing bad guys, he’s really nice and gentle. A great professional. We discovered Audrey in Mr. Nobody (by Jaco Van Dormael, with Jared Leto) and we were impressed by the way she catches light, she really seduces the camera. And she’s a great professional actress. Edouard is a stage comedian and he has that incredible face. He’s also very nice and he played a really good Daniel. We’re very lucky to have worked with these people. It was more than we expected. I also have to mention Nolwenn Auguste (Flory): that was her first movie and she managed very well, we were delighted.
AS: Nolwenn is a total natural. I love that she was wearing an Anvil shirt too. Shooting on the Red looks immaculate. How did you and Yann go about financing the film?
AG: Thanks Andre. We saw the Anvil documentary when we were working on the costumes with Amandine Cros. The Anvil shirt became a “must have!” The movie was financed by a subsidy of the local film fund where we shoot the film (in the Poitou-Charentes region), also a pre-buy from a national channel (France Television) who buy several films each year after reading the scripts. Raul Fernandez our DOP has his own Red Camera.
AS: That’s so great! There are incentives and tax breaks in some US states for filmmakers, but nothing outright like that.
AG: Yes, France is full of good things for film making it’s a real competition but when you get it, it really helps.
AS: Washington State has a great incentive program. You all should come to Seattle to shoot a film. Maybe Periodink would reach to their “Graceland.”
AG: Ah ah! it will be like a pilgrimage!
AS: Going back to the Anvil tee shirt. They were never a well recognized band, though they’ve been around since the late 1970′s. It gave the impression that Flory knows a lot about underground music. August 6th 1991 debuted the world wide web publicly, long before file sharing. How did you find your music in the early 90′s, was it difficult?
AG: We wanted to show that Flory and Lise were very aware of the musical and underground culture, as we can see with the books and fanzines in Lise’s room at the opening of the film. In the 90′s our way to find music was word of mouth and fanzines. I was a huge reader of fanzines and we also read all the liner notes on the LP’s to find any indication about a band, a graphic artist or a record label to discover. The other way were the “tables” at the gigs with records and fanzines and flyers, we also tried to reproduce this in the movie. In France we had some “record lists” (I think that existed in USA) that means people or labels who used to sell records, tapes, demos and t-shirts by mail. You receive the list, make your choice on a sheet of paper, send the cash, and after, you receive what you had paid for.
AS: Yeah we totally had things like that here. Distros (independent distributors) were usually one person (or a couple people) who had a bunch of records and zines; they would bring them to every show and sell them. It seems all of that is lost in the digital age, people download music but lose the experience of discovering everything that the album is. The tangible quality of holding a record, discovering something so new; Polaroid Song is a short film that does just that. Not an LP, but a riotous 10 inch.
AG: Yeah, Distros! Like Dischord records at their beginning.
AS: By the way, what band or bands was Yann in? Are there any French bands you would recommend to US listeners?
AG: Yann was in a Hardcore band called Shy. He played in it with Carlos Herreros, who made the music for Periodink and Nipple Torture (he played keyboards at the Nipple Torture gig in the movie). I recommend to you the band Les Thugs (we use one of their songs in the car sequence). They were the only french band who signed with Sub Pop and Jello Biafra’s label, Alternative Tentacles. They played between 1983 and 1999. Very powerful, noisy melodic music. The band (Les Thugs) remained underground and everyone connected to France’s alternative scene have a great respect for them. They split in 1999 but they reformed once to play a concert in Seattle for Sub Pop’s 20th Anniversary Festival. Also Noir Desir are of the greatest band from our country. They split last year but influenced many young musicians in France. They’re like Gun Club meets The Doors!
AS: I’ve got some records at Sonic Boom (a local Seattle record store in Seattle) on hold for me. I’ll see if they have those, or can order them for me.
AG: you will not be disappointed! Is the name of the store a reference to the Sonics album?
AS: I’d like to think it’s a reference to “Here Are The Sonics.” I listen to that album at least once a month. Ashley, who does filmmaker relations here wants to know if any of the girls play instruments. And if so, are they in bands?
AG: Only Nolwenn (Flory) plays guitar, a little. They were coached by musicians and worked hard. The music of Periodink was performed by a backing band we formed for the movie with Carlos Herreros again, and the composer of the soundtrack Ben Jayot with his brother on drums). But Periodink’s vocals are actually Nolwenn’s, who’s also a comedian.
AS: They pulled it off well, I figured they might have played in bands. Can you talk about any upcoming projects?
AG: First, I have breaking news. [within two hours of this interview] We’re selected at the Queer Lisboa film festival. Our forthcoming project is about photography again: it tells the impossible love story between war photography and fashion photography. It has no dialog and will be a very graphic movie. We also have another project; a comedy about by a teenage skater and the feeling and discovery of love.
AS: Excellent, congratulations on Lisboa! Make sure to let us know when those films are completed, we would love to see them and have them on our site!
AG: Thanks Andre, and thanks for the interview and all the nice things you and all the team say about the movie.
AS: No problem. We love film here, that’s what we do. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you!
AG: It was my pleasure Andre
AS: Au revoir, Alphonse.
– Andre Sanabria