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WORLD CINEMA “Hands Up” Interview with Romain Goupil (Director) (10/24)

WORLD CINEMA “Hands Up” Interview with Romain Goupil (Director) (10/24)

Romain Goupil experienced the French Revolution in 1968, worked as assistant director under Chantal Akerman, Roman Polanski and Jean-Luc Godard, before making a directorial debut with “Mourir à 30 ans” in 1982, which won Caméra d'or at Cannes. He continued to reflect on the repercussions of the French Revolution in his autobiographical works such as “Letter pour L…” and “A mort la mort.”
©2010 TIFF

---Your works are known among film fans as almost mythical. I am glad to see the official screening in Japan for the first time.

To me, Japan as portrayed in Yasujiro Ozu’s films is more mystical. His screen structure is brilliant, his direction is rich and expansive, and I like the fact that ordinary people are portrayed. I am glad to be able to come to Tokyo for the first time.
©2010 TIFF

---Your work is also about ordinary people, mostly acted by non-professionals.

In this film, I looked at children at the other end of the spectrum to adults. Ordinary adults are not always kind. Teachers, police, and all kinds of adults can be a threat to children. Something is not working out as they hoped in the adult world, so they try to get rid of Milana and her friends. Children see the flaws in adults.

---Even children are incorporated into the political situation. Is this in your everyday life?

What is important for children is to take good care of their friends, regardless of their nationality. If the approach to protect what is essential to you is considered political, then it is in my everyday life. How well you live together with the people you love is an issue we have to tackle ourselves, and it is not working out very well in real life. There is a scene in “Mourir à 30 ans” where I, when I was 14 at the time, enter a basement for a scheme to transform the world. I set the camera at the same position without noticing it in “Hands Up.” I asked the children, two generations later, to do the same thing. I had to do the same thing because it did not work back then. I realized it only after someone pointed it out to me.

---These scenes point to important themes which is there consistently from “Mourir à 30 ans” to the latest work. They are “to form a group” and “to go underground.”

In my film, a group is an entity to implement an attempt to live together. That’s why they gather in an apartment or a basement to try out different things. They think how to live together, just like dreaming in a closed space. Many people may think politics is useless but I think it is wonderful from the viewpoint of thinking about others, and films can present such queries to the audience. I am not making political films as an activist, but I am making films that present questions. Activists’ films will have some sort of assertions and they will suggest solutions, but that is not what I want. My biggest ambition is to prompt viewers to think after the film. I’m not hoping everyone is thinking about the same thing at the same time. Rather, someone thinks of something at some point in time, then a little later, someone else links the idea to something else, and the idea develops. That’s what I am interested in and what I hope for. That’s why I always present an image, followed by another conflicting image. The same goes for the sound, with conflicting sounds used side by side, which creates some sort of uncertainty. This causes anxiety among the audience, but the uncertainty leads to questions and that is what I am aiming for. To me, films that address questions and uncertainties are political films.

---Two images are presented at the ending. One is the image of children raising their hands, as remembered by the girl, and the other is the image of children not raising their hands, as remembered by the boy. Are these contra-positive images to do with what you’ve just said?

The girl says she doesn’t remember who said first to raise hands, which means it wasn’t her who suggested. Then the boy says he remembers it was silent. You can see in the image that people around them were messing around or rejoicing, so the boy’s claim that it was silent is also inaccurate. The claims by the two do not match, but what is important is the fact that they do not match. I want to draw attention to the fact that differences arise when you look back on an incident to retell the story. The image of children emerging with their hands up may have been overlapped by the image of a boy, with his hands in the air, coming out of the ghetto in Warsaw. Or the hands were up simply to protect themselves from being hit by their parents. One image does not correspond to one truth. A film in itself is a beautiful fabrication, so it was partly to pay homage to it. These are the reasons for the counter-positive images. There should be something emerging from amongst many counter-positive images. I believe in films in that sense, but not the images.

---In “Lettre pour L…,” Mathieu Amalric is wearing a sweatshirt with “Juste une image” printed on the chest. It is from Godard’s saying, “ce n'est pas une image juste, c'est juste une image (It is not a just image, but it is just an image). I guess the difference between the two is important to you.

It was Godard’s collaborator, Jean-Pierre Gorin, who mentioned “a just image”. When Gorin, a forthcoming activist, suggested taking a just image, this was probably Godard’s rather skeptic response, being a sarcastic and contradictory person. It has always been an issue in political films whether “just an image” is “a just image”, which he implied. After {Lettre pour L…}, I began to think what is a “just image”. I believe Godard also thinks it is dangerous to assume the existence of a just image. There is another episode about Godard. When he was asked why he makes films, he responded that he makes films to avoid the question (eviter le pourquoi). I don’t agree with this statement. I make films to pursue the answers to the question.

---The question of how to live together is an important issue in Japan where the voting rights for non-Japanese nationals is being discussed, and this film sheds light right on it.

When you read a book, you sometimes come across to a phrase which exactly sums up your feelings. I would be most pleased if even one person can feel that way with my film. A Jewish thinker said, “There is no meaning in history, there are only tragedies and disasters to turn away from”. However, if one person objects to something which is taken for granted, for example, the slavery system, and if one more person joins in, and one more, then history can be changed, and that is where the subtlety lies. If there is something which you feel is not right, you should express your objection so that the utopia you aim for will be achieved in the end. I think that is the only way.
©2010 TIFF

---I think this film is an extension of your past work, but with wider frontage. I hope this screening will pave the way for more of your films to be screened in Japan.

As you said, one cycle which started with “Mourir à 30 ans” has come to a close with this film, and something new is emerging. I am going to leave the analysis of the past for now, and I intend to make something a little lighter from now on.

(Interviewed by Satoshi Kuzuu)

Hands Up
Film Information

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KEIRIN.JPThe 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
22nd Tokyo International Film Festival(2009)