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Interview with Rémy M.Larochelle - May 2004

Rémy M.Larochelle - May 2004

Kérozène : ""MECANIX" is you first long-running movie, can you tell us about your course and how you get to realise "MECANIX" ?"

I've always had a craze for grotesque, weird and violent art. I read many comics and I intended to make a completely fragmented, violent and aesthetic comic book. This idea has made its way inside my brain for years. I love painting and drawing, but these two medias weren't complete enough for me to realise the idea that hid in my brain at that time. This idea evolved. Now, I wanted to make an aesthetic and violent movie. A weird one, something like an art and "gore" movie. And I felt that this project had to be a long-running one. So I began to make sketches and storyboard outlines. I began to shoot grotesque visual flashes without having a real story. I thought that it was possible to shoot a long-running movie on a large period, so I could spread over the costs. So, from flashes to flashes, a universe was created and littlme by little a strange story took birth. The "MECANIX" shotting spread over several years. I've been a prisonner of my nightmare for four years.

Kérozène : "The universe and aesthetics of the movie are really peculiar, which allows "MECANIX" to be a unique movie in its genre. Which are your inspirations ?"

I first was influenced by Dave McKean's comic books and Camille Rose Garcia's paintings. I wanted to make a dark and strange movie like their work. I watched many movies in order to give me an idea on the genre and style. I think that it's important to watch other artists' work and to read about them and on their vision in order to have a better comprehension of the media. To make an aesthetic and violent movie is a risky concept in the sense that it's easy to fall in ridiculous. Moreover, I wanted to treat it like an art movie. So I watched many films of that genre. The Tool videos, for exemple were a realising element, even if technially there are much more groomed than what i could expect to do for "MECANIX" at that time. But i think that the inspiration can be seen, above all with the latex puppets. Svankmajer with "ALICE" proved me that it was possible to realise a dark and surrealistic long-running movie without having a huge budget, but by being more ingenious. My biggest influence for "MECANIX" was Shinya Tsukamoto. I found what I was looking for. The connection with the grotesqe, weird and aesthetic universe was there. I can't hide either that the Quay brothers influenced me a lot too. I only talked about the visual influence, but "MECANIX" is nothing without the sound that Daniel Lagacé created. I left Daniel free to make what he wanted as a sound universe and I must admit that his imagination went beyond all that I could have imagined. He wanted each event to have its proper sound and it was a difficult work giving the visual material of "MECANIX". The dialogues were written by Mélissa Hébert, she was inspired a lot by Alain Renais. As you can see, "MECANIX" was fed with several influences!

Kérozène : "Technically, the movie seems hybrid. It mixes real shootings, and image by image animation dating from another age, which are the different technics that you used ?"

Most of the composite images were realised intra-camera. To make it more simple : the animations and the actors were combined in the same image "on the set". The technic is simple, easy tomake and, above all, cheaper because it needs no other manipulation in post-production. The process cinsists in shooting the animation hidding the section where the actor will stand. Then we rewind the movie to its original position and we hide the part of the image where the animation stands, and we shoot the actor part. The starting credits and the scene that comes before the snow were realised with an optic shooter. The hallucination is the technical part that I prefer. For this scene i built a kind of optic shooter with a projectora bolex and a translucent sceen in rice paper. The screen was a lot larger than the one of an optic shooter which allowed to draw directly on the image or simply to play with sections of these. Moreover, the rice paper emphasized the gap between black and white while adding texture. About the animation, the puppets are made in latex and their armature are made in wire. The settings are in cardboard like those of the expressionist movies. "MECANIX" was entirely shot with bolex.
To that point, all of the technics date from another age. But once the shooting is done it's up tome and the producer to take technical decisions for the post-production. Shooting with technics from the golden age is cool, but we can't make the sound that way. Moreover, finishing the movie on film seemed a waste of money to us.
"MECANIX" isn't the kind of movie that can have a life in cinemas, it wil live through DVD like most of the underground cinema movies. After a long talk with Philippe Chabot (producer) and his colleagues who considered that the work copy of "MECANIX" added something to the old looking aesthetics of the movie, with scratches and dust, we took the decision not to make negative cuts and to digitalize the work copy. The sepia tint and the movie calibration were made with da Vinci. Moreover, the sound is 5.1. Quite modern for a movie that seems to come from the archives of the early 20th century.

Kérozène : "The movie is quite destabilizing. It is quite agressive with its rough animations, its biomechanical creatures and this totured world, however, we have the feeling that a great sweetness prevails, contradictory, especially thanks to the use of the rare voices in the movie. Why ?"

My visual concept was to make an aesthetic visual violence. A totured and beautiful image. As if pain was something beautiful and wonderful! I don't know up to which point I succeded with the means we had. Only the fact to realise a grotesque underground movie which doesn't make people laugh and which doesn't seem pretentious is a hard task. "MECANIX" is a disturbing movie for several reasons. The image is rough, quacking and there's a lot of gratuitous violence.
Moreover, it's a slow and repetitive movie. I used that strategy to recreate the experience that we feel when we're stuck in a nightmare. I don't know why you feel that sweetness.
"MECANIX" deals with the fear that men have of themselves. That's the nightmare of men ; being controlled by machines. To lose their freedom. The disapparition of nature for a mechanical and robotical environnement. The movie is more nebulous and less explicit, but I think that people can see the thematic. It's true that the way that's been used are very reassuring and that may be that that gives you the impression of sweetness.
As far as I'm concerned, I didn't intend on making "MECANIX" sweet. But I'm very happy if that's what is ensued.

Kérozène : "The subject seems to be inspired by some great biblical themes, is that the case ?"

Some people see a relation with the Genesis! I see a link with Hell, because in "MECANIX" you're tortured, you suffer, but you don't die. That's an eternal pain.

Kérozène : "About the production, how did the project was put into place and took place ?"

"MECANIX" was shot in a 4 year period. I first shot 15 minutes (the bird scene) withe the Concordia equipment (Montreal University, ndr). Then I work as a director assistant on Alexandre Guérigan's short film. The producer of this $10,000 digital project was Philippe Chabot. Talking about budget together and showing him what I shot, I convinced him that it was possible to shoot an experimental long-running horror movie with $10,000. Philippe, after watching the bird scene and the hallucination one, decided to get involved. Then I had a producer and 4 years later a great friend that shares the same vision as me about underground cinema. About the $10,000 budget, that was an uthopia. The hardest thing when you shoot for a long period of time is to have a team. You have to fit with people's availability in order that the shooting dates allow you to have as many team members as possible. And to complicate the task, my actor, Stéphane Bilodeau, was gone and lived in New York during that period. If you wondering why we had two photography directors for "MECANIX", well, it was to fit with their availability. Once "MECANIX"'s production was over with a $30,000 budget, we had to do the post-production. Fortunately, Daniel Lagacé, our sound editor, began to work on preliminary editings.
That way, we could get in touch with the NOF (Canadia's Film National Office, ndr) to help us finish the movie : the editing, the 5.1 mix and the beta digital transfer. The post-production was done in 6 months and cost $45,000. So "MECANIX" is a low budget movie : $75,000.

Kérozène : "What is the future of "MECANIX" now ?"

Of course Philippe and I would like it to be bought by an underground distribution company. "MECANIX" isn't a conventionnal movie. It's a slow and repetitive movie which make it accessible with difficulty. It's not a movie for everybody, it asks a good concentration and a taste for "noise and gore". However, till now the reactions were positive. The audience and the judges of Lausanne underground festival were impressed.
The selection committee of New York horror film festival sent us a valuation letter about the movie besides the fact that they didn't select us. (Unfortunately, "MECANIX" isn't traditionnal enough as an horror movie to be part of the selection). We were selected for Fantasia 2004 by Mitch Davis, we'll see which will be teh reaction of this audience. The future of "MECANIX" is definately in DVD and like all the underground movies its rise will be slow. I hope that "MECANIX" will have a long life and that it won't be forgotten.

Kérozène : "Which are your future cinematographical projects ?"

Now I work on another underground long-running movie. That will be a movie mixing animation and real action again. A colour, urban and surrealistic movie. I'm finishing the storyboard. It will be a narrative movie but with the grotesque imagery remainning. I began to make the main puppets and I have to say that the detail level will be better than the one for "MECANIX". It's a movie about the anguish of independant creation. I'd like to tell you that the shooting will end in 6 months, but it will be a long adventure once again. I can confirm that Philippe Chabot will be producer once again and it will be a fragmented and different movie.

Interview done by Kerozene
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