An Inteview with Pierre Lhomme

September 5, 2013 | By FRENCH CULTURE FILM

On the occasion of the re-release of the landmark film LE JOLI MAI (1963), co-directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, we are very pleased to share an interview of M. Lhomme by Jean-Michel Frodon, renowned journalist, critic and historian of cinema.

Here are some selected questions from the interview.


Q : How did you become involved with the project?

A: At the very end of 1961, I got a telephone call from Chris Marker. We knew one another a little; I think it was primarily because I had worked a lot with Ghislain Cloquet, who himself had worked a lot with Chris. Chris must have asked Cloquet who he thought would be well-suited to work flexibly and with a handheld camera. It turns out that even though I was a head cameraman, I’d always really loved working more informally. We talked about how he wanted to make this film right away.  

Q : How did you decide which people to interview?

A: The principle was complete freedom. There were very few of us—Chris, Antoine, my assistant Etienne Becker, Pierre Grunstein and me. We strolled around and when we saw someone who seemed interesting we went to see them. Chris had also located certain people in advance, and those people were filmed in a more planned-out way. You really feel it in the second part, “Return of Fantomas”: the worker-priest, the young Algerian worker, the Dahomean student… But then there were chance encounters, which we had to be really open to. The mason who’s at the beginning of the film was the first person we interviewed. We didn’t even know if his shop was next to the production location on rue Mouffetard. Filming this first conversation, I understood that what we were establishing could bring us very far. For the first time, we had 16mm film stock that could record for longer than 10 minutes at a time. And reloading was very quick; I always had refills. We don’t think twice about it now, but at the time this was a real revolution in the possibilities for fly-on-the-wall filming.

Q : How did you become not only the film’s chief cameraman but its co-director?

A : That was the result of Chris’ integrity. After spending hundreds of hours on the dailies during editing, he came to the conclusion that the film was also the result of his cameraman’s work. He decided all alone to add me as co-director; it was not at all planned and it did not appear in the contract. When I came to see the first distribution print, at the Panthéon theater, I discovered on the screen that I had become co-director. You can imagine my emotion….I still feel it today. That affected my entire approach; after having worked with a man of that quality, you become more demanding of others.

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