Episode 6: albert serra

An interview with the combative and entertaining director of The Death of Louis XIV.

 
 Director Albert Serra on the set of  The Death of Louis XIV . Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

Director Albert Serra on the set of The Death of Louis XIV. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

Death comes to us all. Even kings.

After a hunting trip in August 1715, Louis XIV — the longest serving monarch in French history — complains about a pain in his left leg. A doctor recommends "camphoric spirit dressings and donkey milk baths." Bad advice. Soon, gangrene develops and yet, the doctors do nothing. Day by day, death crawls up his leg and the king moans in pain.

In The Death of Louis XIV, Albert Serra recreates these final days. As birds chirp in the distance, we watch the king, played by the legendary Jean-Pierre Leaud (The 400 Blows, Antoine and Colette, Irma Vep) suffer.

The Death of Louis XIV, an Official Selection of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, represents Serra's third appearance at the prestigious festival. Two of his earlier works — Honor of the Knights and Birdsong — were featured at Cannes' Directors' Fortnight.

In this episode of The Drunk Projectionist film podcast, I chat with director Albert Serra about the making of The Death of Louis XIV. A word of encouragement: every budding filmmaker should listen to this interview because Serra's methods are so surprising. He doesn't like looking through the camera, he doesn't like talking to his crew about shots, and he doesn't particularly care for actors.

— Todd Melby

PODCAST SHOW NOTES

In this episode, we hear the opinionated and entertaining director discuss the The Death of Louis XIV's origin as an art installation at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1:58), on Louis XIV's agony (2:58), on pre-filmmaking discussions with collaborators (4:00), on going against the cliche (8:40), on how to get five "magical" minutes every day when shooting (12:12), on working with Jean-Pierre Leaud (13:10), on the intelligence of actors (17:15), on silent film star Harry Langdon (19:25), on working with non-professional actors (20:50), on the roughness of Andy Warhol's films (22:30), on why he doesn't look at shots from inside the camera (26:00), on capturing "magic" when shooting (29:15), on the most important scene in The Death of Louis XIV (33:33), on expressing silence in a film with subtle sounds (36:44), on the king realizing his death is imminent (40:10), on the relationship between truth and beauty (42:50).

 ClÈment Censier, Jean-Pierre LÈaud and Marc Susini (obscured) in a scene from Albert Serra's  The Death of Louis XIV . Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

ClÈment Censier, Jean-Pierre LÈaud and Marc Susini (obscured) in a scene from Albert Serra's The Death of Louis XIV. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

My system is based on going against. When I shoot, I go against the script. When I do the post production, I go against the edit. It’s like purification.
— Albert Serra
In general, professional actors are quiet stupid people. They are not very kind. They believe they are really important, but not so.
— Albert Serra
 Irene Silvagni, Marc Susini and Jacques Henric in a scene from Albert Serra's  The Death of Louis XIV . Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

Irene Silvagni, Marc Susini and Jacques Henric in a scene from Albert Serra's The Death of Louis XIV. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

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