Belgian director Frédéric Fonteyne tells us about Tango Libre, his fourth film that has been selected for the Orizzonti competition at the upcoming 69th Venice Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Why did you wait eight years between releasing Gilles’ Wife and Tango Libre?
Frédéric Fonteyne: It’s becoming very difficult for me to make the films that I love. As a director, I first asked myself the question, how? How does one make films today? There are so many films coming out. How does one manage to stand out? The other question is, why? Is all this time and investment really worth it? It took me a while to find good reasons to make a film. What is more, the public's reception of Gilles’ Wife was quite cool in 2004, so I took the time to ask myself what film I had made, what it had provoked in its audience, and what I now wanted to provoke, to trigger a film in response to this.
Perhaps a less pessimistic film?
Yes, certainly. Gilles’ Wife was a difficult film for the audience, but also a difficult film for me. I look around and see that the European film scene is saturated with pessimism and drama. It’s not surprising that the public doesn’t really want to go to the cinema anymore! Ok, the world is not doing well, but what ethical responsibility do we have as directors? Why do we go to the cinema? What do artists have to defend about humans? Is there still room for humans on screen? It seems that monsters have now taken over... If that’s the case, I don’t want to see films anymore, or at least not for now! With Tango Libre, I took a radically different direction. The idea was to make a film that would be just as daring, but that would produce a different type of pleasure in the audience, similar to the pleasure that I would want to feel.
It seems that Tango Libre might actually be even more daring, if only in the choice of actors...
Yes. Anne Paulicevich, with whom I share my life, wrote the screenplay and took on the lead role. It’s not easy to direct your wife, especially in a plot with multiple love stories. Sergi Lopez has been a friend since we worked together on Une Liaison Pornographique and the same goes for Jan Hammenecker with whom I have been close since Max et Bobo. François Damiens has a more serious role than is usual for him. It was a lot to manage to be working with actors that you really like, others with whom I had already filmed, and my family too, and relations with actors on set were very different, more complex than on set of my previous films.
You have only made four films in 15 years. How do you spend your time between two films?
I don’t feel the need to follow one film with another straight away. I work a lot with actors. I hold workshops in big film and acting schools in Belgium and France. I don’t only make films, but between two films I do continue to work in cinema. These workshops are laboratories where I also learn a huge amount through experimentation. Working with youth is very rewarding. They learn from you as much as you learn from them in a context that is much freer than that when making a film.
Is it encouraging to return to the Venice Film Festival 13 years after having attended with Une Liaison Pornographique ?
Tango Libre has been selected for the Orizzonti section, and when the selectors called me to give me the news and to tell me that they really liked my film, I felt an agreeable sort of recognition. It’s great to feel that you have done well, even before a public screening. They hadn’t forgotten me and I hope that neither has the public.
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