Do you regularly follow the Rendez-Vous with French Cinéma in New York?
Absolutely. I adore contemporary French cinema. It isn't distributed widely enough in the United States. The films that Americans are used to are "nice" films that lack vision and depth - two things that are precisely the leading qualities of French cinema. I am a total fan of Arnaud Desplechin, and one of my all-time favorite films is a A Christmas Tale, in which there is absolutely everything, especially a total lack of respect for biological ties! I love that! Last year, on my Top 5 I'd included Things to Come by Mia Hansen-Løve, in which Isabelle Huppert, in a wonderful performance, shows everything she knows about the acting craft. It is a film that speaks, with incredible dignity, about the disillusions of a mature woman.
Where does your passion for French cinema come from?
For me, cinema cannot surpass the culture of the country it springs from. As a result, American cinema is childish and limited, the way Americans are. On the one hand, you have endless adaptations of comics, and on the other, self-centered explorations of rich white men - the majority of independent films fall into the latter category. We have been so lucky to have the chance to see a film like Moonlight climb, against all expectations, to the top of the pyramid; it is one of the truly great surprises of the last six months. American independent cinema is, in its own way, as conventional as commercial cinema, and what I admire in French auteur cinema is that it deals with adult themes, and in a very deep way.
How would you describe French cinema in a few words?
I would say that it's a "cinema of texture," which demands that spectators think. What distinguishes it is its ability to tackle themes from head on. A French film always comes at you like a slap in the face. You've got to take it for what it is, and it's often necessary to go through an intellectual process to fully absorb it. No matter the subject, the film confronts you, doesn't flee, doesn't shy away or hide, whether it talks about autocannabalism or immigration. Nothing is pre-digested beforehand, and in my opinion this is a mark of respect for the public, which I really appreciate.