The French film director and screenwriter Alain Guiraudie, will be an honorary guest at the Stockfish Film Festival in Reykjavík this year. Although he‘s been making films for over 30 years, mostly focusing on gay sex and the fluidity of sexuality, he was only recently discovered by the wider audience when awarded the Queer Palm in Cannes for the film Strangers by the Lake and when his latest work Staying Vertical was a contender for the Palme D’Or last year. Both films will be screened at Stockfish along his film King of Escape from 2009.
Alain will attend the festival and take part in special Q&A screenings of his films. He was generous enough to answer a few of GayIceland‘s questions.
Most of your films feature gay characters or have gay undercurrents. Is that a theme that is important to you as a gay filmmaker. “It is important to represent this kind of sexuality while approaching it with universal themes,“ he replies. „On the other hand, I think that if I wasn’t gay myself, I would stay with heterosexual characters. It’s important to make movies based on your own desires.”
After you received the Queer Palm in Cannes you were quoted on being unhappy about the use of the word queer. “It’s a term used to describe something that is bizarre. Stranger by the Lake is a film in which homosexuality is the norm. It is a world that is ours, but the one we do not see. Furthermore, homosexuality is now clearly established and recognized in the Western world, so why call it bizarre? I find it unfortunate that the Queer Palm rewards films with gay or lesbian theme. ”
On the other hand Alain‘s latest film, Staying Vertical, “is truly a film that is queer.” Another word he uses to describe the film is the french word „rocambolesque“, a word that can be translated as incredible, extraordinary, over-the-top, fantastic or bizarre. Yet none of these words really captures it exact meaning. Just as no genre or standard definition can be used to describe Staying Vertical.
“It’s a film I shot two years ago in the French countryside with comedians, a baby and wolves. It’s somewhere between a dream and reality, adventure and everyday, between fantasy and actuality.”
“The main idea of the film is to be even more confused and ambiguous about the questions it raises. Besides, must one be gay to one day desire to be with another man? Must one be heterosexual to have a love affair with a woman?”
Even the fluid sexuality of the main character leaves the audience uncertain if he’s gay, bi- or hetreosexual. “Often, I try to invent a different reality, a world that fits my own desire,“ he explains. „Sexuality can be very fluid, it’s also certain. The main idea of the film is to be even more confused and ambiguous about the questions it raises. Besides, must one be gay to one day desire to be with another man? Must one be heterosexual to have a love affair with a woman?”
One of the questions Alain has been asked many times since his success at Cannes, is if he sees himself making commercial films in the future. When GayIceland brings up the question he gives a short answer: “Not really.”
If anything he seem to have gone in the opposite direction with Staying Vertical, celebrating his acceptance of his unique style as a filmmaker. “I’m not sure a producer of commercial films would trust me to be create something that becomes a big success,” he says, hinting he will never fit into that kind of filmmaking.
Besides from attending the Stockfish Film Festival as a guest of honor Alain says he’s mostly excited about meeting the Icelandic people and going for a swim. “I can imagine with all the hot underground water in Iceland that it’s the perfect place to bathe outdoors in the middle of winter,“ he says.
„I would also love to hike at many of the amazing places around Iceland, but given the how short the days are, I guess it would be better for me to return in the summer for that.“
He says that „given the length of the winter nights“ in Iceland he will also without a doubt want to spend them watching Icelandic films.” Adding that first Icelandic film he saw was Rams (Hrútar) by director Grímur Hákonarsson. “I love that it’s a film that portrays two beautiful “bears”.”
We can‘t letting Alain go by asking the question that all his fans want to know: What’s next for him? “I’m working on a novel. But it might turn into a screenplay, which is quite often the case with me.”
Main photo: Thierry Valletoux