Director of photography Hélène Louvart: “I am from a generation that did things, without reflecting much on whether it was possible or not” | Culture

Director of photography Hélène Louvart: “I am from a generation that did things, without reflecting much on whether it was possible or not” | Culture
Director of photography Hélène Louvart: “I am from a generation that did things, without reflecting much on whether it was possible or not” | Culture

That the director of photography Hélène Louvart is a great unknown to the general public does not matter at all to the French filmmaker, who in September will turn 60 years old, and almost forty of them active in her work. “Well, people tend towards other types of work when photography is praised in the cinema,” she responds with a knowing smile when asked about the praise that is heard in the syrupy light in which Vittorio Storaro has bathed his latest works. films. That’s not his battle.

Louvart puts herself at the service of filmmakers “always through collaboration and respect,” and in her more than 130 works as a director of photography, works as powerful as The beaches of Agnès, by Agnès Varda; Pau and his brother, by Marc Recha; Pineapple, by Wim Wenders; Happy Lazzaro and The chimera, by Alice Rohrwacher; petra and wild sunflowers, by Jaime Rosales; Maya, by Mia Hansen-Løve; Never, almost never, sometimes, always, by Eliza Hittman; The dark daughter by Maggie Gyllenhaal; Puan, by María Alché and Benjamín Naishtat; The invisible life of Eurídice Gusmão, by Karim Aïnouz… She has collaborated with Claire Denis, Christophe Honoré, Jacques Doillon, Léos Carax and now with Scarlett Johansson, who has made her debut as a feature film director in Eleanor the Great. It is not that she is a pioneer as a woman in her work, it is that Loiuvart is the reference for auteur cinema, be it French, Spanish, Brazilian, American… Present in Madrid at a seminar of the first edition of ECAMFORUM, of the School of Cinema of the Community of Madrid, the winner of the Cannes 2021 Caméra d’Or for murina and the Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution in 2023 for Disco Boy, He takes his eye out for a walk when he changes a shirt so that the color of the clothes does not blend with that of the wall where he poses.

Ask. I saw her working on the set of Petra, by Jaime Rosales, and I thought it was very precise. I don’t know if because that film linked sequence shots or because that’s usually the case.

Answer. As these were sequence shots, the perspective taken was closely linked to the actors and the action. It was like a third entity. Hence the precision. Each sequence shot was a biography. I am ductile, because the pleasure of my work lies precisely in adapting to or understanding what the directors want. And then give in to what they want. I fight for films to be as sincere as possible.

Q. That is why he repeats a lot with those who do understand him.

R. If you create a link, you understand that there is a continuity in the search, because we are always looking for something.

Q. Any red lines?

R. If it’s worth it, let’s betray the script. For example, if the story requires ugly lighting or poorly photographed characters, it is done. It depends on the script, on what was discussed in that search with the director.

Q. What was it like working with Agnès Varda? I say this because Varda had been a photographer before she was a filmmaker, and I don’t know how that situation is handled.

R. It was exciting because I was super attentive to the frames and always pushed me to do things better. She was very demanding and at the same time she liked my proposals. From our mutual understanding a true understanding was born. Agnès was very precise, but she knew that if I proposed something to her, there was something interesting there.

Hélène Louvart, in Madrid.Pablo Monge

Q. The beaches of Agnès It is a good example of an apparently simple film that hides great complexity.

R. Indeed, because it seemed to have been filmed in her patio, and in reality it was filmed in a studio with artificial lighting, the sets… But I was very honest and filmed a shot of the studio because I understood that people could not be fooled.

Q. And do you care about the opinion of the viewers?

R. I like what I do. I like the films I work on and I care about being honest with myself. Everything else, whatever means comparison, is a system in which I do not enter at all. Let’s see, I’m going to be more precise. I haven’t always liked the result of what I do. I am very critical of myself, but what I am not trying to do is impress.

Q. You finished studying at the Louis-Lumière school in Paris [Louvart nació en Pontarlier, al este de Francia] and went directly to work as a director of photography. How was it so easy?

R. In an organic way. At school, where I studied Image, I made short films. I continued collaborating with my classmates, I moved on to documentaries, and I never stopped. People call you for what you have done, basically, and I have chained projects.

Q. Did you have any reference? Female cinematographers were counted in Europe before you.

R. Indeed, I did not have any female reference when I started. My references were movies, and I didn’t focus on a specific person. I belong to a generation that did things, without stopping to reflect much on whether they could be done or not.

Q. On any occasion, have you prioritized working with a female director instead of a male director, or have you sought to support female filmmakers?

R. I don’t fit into this masculine-feminine approach at all. What I think is great is the sameness, what each person is like regardless of their gender. And that there are men and women on all teams, that is what makes the work interesting. Do you know what I give a lot of importance to? To the attitude, to the behavior. I accept less and less men or women who have behavior that I dislike.

Q. Are you referring to that conception of the filmmaker in filming as if he were a general taking over a Normandy beach?

R. Exactly, I’ll stick with that comparison. We are an example for those who come behind; We must behave in a human manner that is as qualitative as possible. When there is a large team, decisions have to be made and it has to be directed. But it can be directed with dialogue, concentrating on what is being done, on what we want to do and, above all, on ensuring that there is no abuse of power.

Q. His filmography in the last decade chained success after success. How does he do it?

R. I choose based on three factors. First I analyze if there is something behind a script, it is not just another story. Then, if the person who is going to direct the film is sincere with respect to that script and that theme. And thirdly, understand if that filmmaker is willing to go a little further. Because going a little further requires searching, requires research and requires work. Is the director here to have a good time or is he really a worker?

Q. Are you worried about the future of your profession, when films on digital platforms are all the same in their photography, flat and saturated with color?

R. I think that cinema has a parallel existence to the platforms. It is outside of digital platforms, and will continue to exist because precisely the platforms need these types of films as a showcase. And at the same time both styles will remain in parallel because they need each other. Personally I have chosen cinema… for all the reasons you can imagine.

Q. Now it’s time to film in Spain again.

R. I will soon start filming in Vigo. Pilgrimage, by Carla Simon. I know Carla very well, because we actually prepare together Alcarràs. Then the filming had to be postponed due to COVID and I couldn’t do it with her anymore. She is a working director who is sincere about her subject matter. And this proposal is of enormous quality.

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