Right now there's a movie in theaters that features a strong female character, some absolutely killer soundtrack cuts, is set in 1995 and will blow your mind. No, I'm not talking about "Captain Marvel." I'm talking about "Climax."
From our friends at A24, "Climax" made a splash at last year's Cannes Film Festival, where the heightened tale of a troupe of dancers (led by the mesmerizing Sofia Boutella) is preparing for a tour of the United States. At a party they dance the night away … until the effects from a batch of sangria dosed with LSD takes hold. From there, it's absolute mayhem, and honestly, the less you know about the actual storyline, the better. It unfolds in beautiful and terrifying ways and you will be riveted.
We were lucky enough to talk to the film's brilliant writer-director, Gaspar Noé, the provocateur behind similarly mind-shattering epics as "Enter the Void," "Love" and "Irreversible," about when the movie was going to be a documentary, how the dancers came up with their own dialogue, and what his relationship with Thomas Bangalter aka the silver robot from Daft Punk, is all about. Oh, and we break the news to him that there will be several more "Avatar" sequels on the way. (He's a big fan of the first film.)
Moviefone: So I had read that that this project was initially going to be at a documentary. I was wondering if you could talk about how you decided to make it a narrative.
Noé: Well, I sort of make an excuse. I love the country and if you tell the producers that you want to shoot a narrative movie, they would ask for a script that I didn't have. So I said, "Well I want to do a documentary." And one of the main reasons I wanted to do the film was I was hypnotized by these dancers. I said, "Yeah I would love to film them, with their body language and kinetic skills."
So at a point I had to make a decision either to make a documentary about this type of dancing or should I mix this kind of dancing with this idea for a movie that I had before. So I went to see my producers with my idea. They said, "If you make it very cheap in 15 days and we can pay for it." And one month later we had all the dancers and crew on location and were finding additional financing. I would say this kind of production couldn't happen anywhere else but France.
So all of the dialogue between the dancers -- did they improvise all of that?
No. When I was putting two characters together, the boy and the girl who play brother and sister are not brother and sister in real life, so I said, "Can you pretend to be jealous?" And they were improvising around the characters I was presenting. When the guy says, "I want to f*ck them all," I was telling to them the situation and the characters and they would use their own words. I would film them for 20 minutes and in the editing process I would just keep one minute. For example you have the two guys talking in a very dirty way and I knew they were very funny when they were talking about sex. So I said, "Can you talk very sleazy?" Again, I filmed them for 20 minutes and they were just having fun pretending to be drunk. And I could have never invented that dialogue. They're not themselves, they're pretending to be someone else but using their own language.
Well I wanted to ask about the beginning of the movie and the videotapes on either side of the frame.
Actually, when we were almost finishing shooting the movie, my line producer was driving me home in his car and he said, "What a pity we don't see more of the dancers talking." We were three days away from the end of the shoot and I said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "I love how they talk, they're so funny and so charismatic." So the next day I decided I would set up the camera in one of the rooms at the location and the actors, one after the other, when they were free, I would bring them into the room and interview them with my assistant director. So I was playing the voice of the DJ and she was playing the part of Sofia Boutella, the choreographer looking for dancers for her show in the movie. They were improvising their answers, remembering that they were playing a character from the 90s. And I kept the best answers of all of them.
And because the video we used had the aspect ratio of the 90s, 1:33, I had to put that inside of the CinemaScope frame, I had a black bands on either side. I thought, Oh I should put the tape in the middle of the frame and have my favorite books from the 80s and 90s, my collection of VHS around it. And you see some of the movies that inspired me. There are some VHS that I have put in there but I didn't have them -- "Shivers" by David Cronenberg, his first feature film, I could have also put "The Towering Inferno," a movie I watched 30 times in a row as a kid.
I wanted to ask about your relationship with Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk.
In the case of "Climax," I asked him if he had some tracks from the 90s he didn't use. Because initially I only wanted to use tracks from before 1995 because the movie takes place in 1995, and he gave me a track that we called "Sangria" but he never used. I think he created it in 1994. And, yeah, he helps me out in editing and thanks to him we got "Rollin' and Scratchin'" by Daft Punk from the record label. Basically he's a genius. He's a musician but he's also a filmmaker, he's directed movies too. And he's a friend. It's personal.
Before "Love" came out you talked about "Avatar" and your love of that 3D experience. Are you still in love with 3D? And are you excited about the new "Avatar" movies?
There's going to be a new "Avatar" now?
Yeah, there's going to be four of them!
Huh. I like the movie but what I meant about "Avatar" was I was just discovering how good the 3D could be nowadays. And when "Gravity" came out, it was like, Wow. 3Ds movies from the 50s, 60s, 70s would give you a headache. I remember watching VR movies with the helmet and getting a headache so I'd wait a few more years before I try to do VR. The image isn't enough to be taken seriously.
Is that something you'd want to do, a VR project?
Yeah maybe. But it's a very lonely experience. I like showing movies in a big theater to many people at a time. I have this complex. I've never been to a church in my whole life and never seen a priest give lessons. But I can understand how a priest feels when he's facing 300 people.
"Climax" is out now and expanding (again) this week. Do not miss it.
When members of a dance troupe are lured to an empty school, drug-laced sangria causes their jubilant rehearsal to descend into a dark and explosive nightmare as they try to survive the night -- and find out who's responsible -- before it's too late. Read More