Category Archive: Editor’s Pick
  1. The wonder that makes us ponder: Morrissey in Glasgow review

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    Morrissey Tour Live Report. Glasgow: Sunday, October 2. 

    “It’s great to be grabbed by the Gorbals.” – Morrissey 

    Morrissey is the wonder that continues to make us ponder. To try to properly review a Morrissey gig, one should be a philosopher, a critic, as well as an unbiased music writer. I am none of the above. Alas, here goes. 

    The setting for the most welcome of unwelcome uncles (especially in modern-day Britain) took place at Glasgow’s SEC Armadillo, an all-seater affair that is noticeably smaller than Morrissey’s last visit here. The last Moz show in Glasgow took place just across the road in the Hydro, a venue that holds a much bigger audience; a fact which before the gig here gave me a momentary sense of sadness. “Maybe the fuckers, haters are winning after all?”, I thought. Thankfully, such nonsense dispersed (Balls to the idea that anyone should even dare try to cancel this genius) as I looked around at the eager faces: some familiar, some young, and some as old as my own beamed as we looked at Morrissey’s best-ever support band. As is customary nowadays, Morrissey’s legions were treated to a backdrop of the man’s own favorite artists before he came on. We got the Sex Pistols, Ramones, Bowie, and even iconic British actors like Kenneth Williams prior to Mozza taking the stage.

    Early in tonight’s show, Moz was keen to point out a few things about his last time in Glasgow. Specifically, he spoke about the torrent of fake news published after his last appearance. “Do you see what I have to put up with?”, he asked, referring to lies peddled by those who should know better. Indeed, those of us with integrity in our hearts do know what this great man has to put up with. Many reports from his previous Glasgow show claimed that half the crowd ‘booed’ and stormed out after Morrissey dared lampoon Scotland’s very own dear leader, Mrs. Sturgeon. Side note for my own kudos: The review by yours truly pointed out this narrative was complete bullshit.

    “Blah blah, blah, blah blah!” was the cry from Morrissey when taking the stage. Britain’s greatest living poet, singer, and songwriter felt the need to let his lyrics do the talking upon his arrival. And as he should. “How Soon Is Now”, The Smiths classic, set a wonderful tone and benchmark for what was to come. Those of us who hadn’t seen Morrissey live for a while, like I, were struck instantly, dumbfounded at the man’s range. There is no sense of decline in his output. Despite what shit other notable media outlets try to throw, Morrissey’s voice is as strong and as booming as ever.

    Morrissey

    Moz belted his way through classic tracks like ‘Our Frank’, ‘We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful’ and ‘Billy Budd’, all in what seemed like one perfect moment. I managed to miss his rendition of ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly’ but enough said about that. At the time of writing, Morrissey has already shared the track list for his new album, ‘Bonfire of Teenagers’, however a release date is yet to be confirmed. Despite the lack of a recorded album (yet), Morrissey treated the crowd to a quick succession of tremendous new tracks from said album. The first, ‘Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings’ was, in scotch language, ‘a belter’ and recalled the heavier, crunch-rock moments of 2009’s ‘Years of Refusal’ album. ‘I Am Veronica’ and ‘Rebels Without Applause’ are other new songs that sounded just as fresh and important as anything Morrissey has sung. The latter was instantly recognizable as a sister or brother track to The Smiths’ classic ‘Cemetary Gates’.

    Morrissey often likes to throw a somber tune into his live shows, and rightly so. Usually, it will be a rendition of ‘Meat is Murder’. But this evening it came in the form of the title track of his new yet-to-be-released record, ‘Bonfire of Teenagers’, which directly refers to the 2017 massacre in Manchester. As Morrissey said, ‘Bonfire of Teenagers’ is a track that many won’t talk about. “But… I will”, he maintained. “All the silly people say, don’t look back in anger/ I can assure you I will look back in anger till the day I die.”

    Indeed, he remains the only artist with anything interesting to say about such atrocities. These things, and what drives them, need to be addressed and thank God Morrissey has the guts to do so.

    An instrumental intro of Auld Lang Syne rang out before Morrissey belted out a song as great as anything he’s ever created. ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’ is a breathtaking song in its own right. But in a live setting, it had the customary effect of sending the crowd all into ecstasy.

    “Come armageddon, come armageddon come, come, come nuclear bomb” Morrissey pleaded, and for another moment, many of us here would have been happy to go down weeping along to this ultimate plea for disappearance. Words cannot do this man justice in his delivery and ability to seduce and comfort those willing to listen.

    Not for the first time in a Morrissey finale, we were given ‘Jack The Ripper’ as a starting sign-off.

    “Crash into my arms” is just about the most Morrissey of Morrissey-Esque lines ever delivered. Morrissey indeed does welcome those brave souls willing to storm the stage in the hope of crashing into his arms. And, as with many gigs on this and previous tours, many of the crowd made their own way onto the stage, some with more success than others. Aging and cowardly as I am, I was happy to observe the beauty on show.

    Morrissey

    As is almost always the case, I doubt anyone here will have been truly satisfied by Morrissey’s setlist. So it goes. Yes, he paid attention to the few fans who knew only The Smiths, and gave us heart-wrenching renditions of ‘Never Had No One Ever’, ‘Half a Person’, and ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’. Another VERY short encore of ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ did its job in almost reducing the crowd to our knees in wonder. But the biggest problem with Morrissey is the very reason he’s still so adored. It’s his own Catch-22. We want more. We need more. And I think he really understands that, which is, of course, what makes him so special to those of us with half a brain cell. There are many songs I would have loved to have heard, however as with every Morrissey live gig, I was utterly speechless during and upon leaving. Just witnessing this man in a live setting is enough.

    Morrissey will continue to get one in the neck from mainstream British media. They cannot help themselves. Whether it be his opinions, unfavorable political badges, or dedication to animal welfare, Morrissey (strangely) gets it very tough in dear old Blighty. So it goes. 

    At one point Morrissey addressed his rapturous crowd and said, “If I fall down the stairs tomorrow, split my head open and die, can I thank you now for all the years of support…”

    Dear Morrissey, the pleasure and the privilege is always ours.

    Images by Marcel P. 

  2. Shilpa Ray: “I’m an introvert so I spend a lot of time by myself when I can.”

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    I first took notice of Shilpa Ray when Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds invited her to support them on tour, a few brief moons ago. Back then she was with her band of ‘Happy Hookers’ and immediately struck me as an artist worth gushing over. She has an iconic voice and range, not to mention lyrics which will make you shiver and crack up with laughter at the same time. 

    She released her latest solo record Portrait Of A Lady earlier this year, an almost concept-type album which one can safely say is her most personal, dealing with issues as it does like abusive relationships, violence against women, and of course, feelings towards the former U.S ‘Commander in Chief’, Donald Trump.  Portrait Of A Lady is an interesting side step for Shilpa Ray as for the first time in her career, brings in moments of synth and electronica mixed with her usual love of crunching guitar and pop melody. It also encapsulates her own very brilliant dry, witty sense of humor.

    I had the pleasure of interviewing Shilpa Ray about her new record, what brought it on, and the various influences on her as an artist. 

     

    Ms. Ray, I understand you currently/recently had COVID – just at a time when I think the world was at least starting to move on slightly. How are you feeling at this point in time, I hope it’s not hit you too badly and how has this affected your touring and live shows? 

     

    I’m fine. I’m twice vaxxed so my worst ailments were fatigue and brain fog. I did get a sore throat and slight fever but only in the beginning. I thought I had allergies since every time I got tested they would say it was allergies. This time the results came in different. A lot of touring musicians are getting it actually and it’s wreaked havoc on Spring touring for sure. You have to be out in public a lot in different environments, not in your own town or bubble, so the risk is high. The risk was always high to get sick on tour anyway and now you get this illness where you’re canceling/rescheduling constantly and it’s unpredictable.

     

    How are you spending your time – does this kind of situation allow you to do things you might not have time for otherwise? 

     

    I’m an introvert so I spend a lot of time by myself when I can anyway. I love quarantine! I realize that’s kinda nuts to say since so many people died and the amount of death and panic in NYC in March/April 2020 was pretty scary.  However, I needed the pause. People are unbelievably exhausting and Americans, in general, are overdramatic and talk too much, so when they smell the empath in you, you will get used up. I was definitely feeling used up, so retreating felt like a dream. I picked up a guitar, mixed an album, worked on some videos, did some live streams, cooked a lot, worked at a mask factory, redecorated, chain-smoked then quit smoking, read books, and watched TV. Everything was simple. I’ve been desperately trying to hold on to that simplicity. I’m at my best when no one is breathing down my neck haha – in New York, living like that is impossible.

     

    The press notes which accompany ‘Portrait of A Lady’ mention Nan Goldin’s “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” –  You’ve talked about the influence that had on you and this record and how it made you want to dig deep into yourself and your own work. How do you as an artist go about channeling that kind of thing into a pop record – where do you start, and do you ever run certain risks about giving more away about yourself than you may wish to? 

     

    The process of writing this album was incredibly hard.  I wanted to musically capture the impact Nan Goldin’s work had on me.  I am an abuse survivor but had rarely expressed it cause it comes with a lot of embarrassment and shame. I also rank really low on the totem pole of public sympathy – A brown punk rock woman of small stature, sometimes broke/sometimes not broke is not the heroine of the #metoo movement. I grew up in an environment that informed me I had to be unbreakable in order to survive. I related to Nan Goldin in the sense that she’s an artist drawn to the artist’s world of anarchy only to find that the anarchy is patriarchal and being curious and intelligent other was gonna cause problems and by problems I mean problems that could be fatal. I found that out in my mid to late 20s during the bro culture of the aughts. This bro culture still exists now, by the way, I just learned how to spot the flags faster. The moment I saw her work I had that “aha”  moment. No other artwork has impacted me that way. She’s the ultimate badass.

     

     

    You’ve said her work “shook me to my core and made me reflect on my own experiences with sexual assault and abuse.” – I understand you probably won’t want to divulge your own experiences of these matters, but have you ever addressed them in your art prior?  

     

    My goal, in writing this album was to be as honest as possible and to finish it. It was important to me to be real and not fall into the traps of speaking for others or pushing generalized agendas. Every survivor deals w/ surviving in their own way. I could never express myself in an op-ed. First off, I’m not important or academic enough to write one, so I wrote a ‘traumopera’. Lydia Lunch helped me coin that term btw.  She’s a gem. Talk about meeting someone and having the “aha” moment. I have boundaries for sure. My experiences also happened 15 years ago so they are not as raw as they would’ve been had I written them a few years after the fact. That would’ve been a completely different record.  I wrote about my experience as a 20-something while I was in my late 30s. I had already gone through therapy, time, and establishing my lifelong friends and support system. Not bad for an introvert. I’m in my 40s now, still experiencing giant man-babies, red in the face screaming over me, when they don’t get their way and I have zero tolerance for that. The world might still think they’re precious but I don’t. I would never want to live in a head like that. I could never love that.

     

    In terms of this record’s themes (Trump, abusive relationships, #MeToo, it ran the risk of being an angry album, but you managed to not make it so which is a huge credit to you. 

     

    Yeah. As I mentioned before, time molded my anger in a different way but seriously compared to all the sad girl music out there this album is incredibly pissed off. I don’t have any puritanical views of expressing anger. I was raised a Kali-worshipping Hindu. Rage can go off the rails for sure but is not expressed enough in art. It’s a very real part of human emotion. There’s hypocrisy in the Western world when expressing rage.

     

    Before even hearing a note or lyric on this album, I was drawn to the song titles which made me smile e.g. ‘Charm School for Damaged Boys’, Male Feminist’, ‘Cry for The Cameras’. You seem to have a good sense of humor. 

     

    What other choices do we have when we’re forced into being pacifists? I have always had a dry biting sense of humor and it comes out when it needs to. It developed from being bullied at school. Some big white kid would come mess with me and my ego would be like “I’m too smart for this shit”. Then I’d use my words and they would cry. You learn a lot about survival being the first generation in an American school. It’s exhausting though, which is why I mostly keep to myself. I would like to enjoy my life.

     

    How much do you think about the future in terms of your creative process and what your output may be like, in terms of with another band or otherwise?

     

    I’ve actually enjoyed being a side player in other people’s projects cause you learn about music in a completely different way. It’s more technical and the pressure’s off cause all you are responsible for is listening to the bandleader and playing your part the best you can. When it’s your own project you have to wear so many hats, make no money, and be perfect all the time, while everyone else shits on you. It’s a sad existence.

    I am getting older and I find that music belongs to a different generation now, so it’s time for me to try other things that fit my age. It would be different if I was in some kind of Radiohead-type band where we’re making money, therefore I can continue touring till whenever, but unfortunately for me, that’s not the case. You can only be a poor “up and coming” act for so long till you have to change how you are incorporating music into your life. That said, I never compromised and always made the albums I wanted to make, mistakes and all. I’m really proud of that, but yeah switching gears and making old people art like films and writing has crossed my mind.

     

     

    I first came to love your music through hearing The Happy Hookers and specifically, touring with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. You must get asked about this a lot, I presume so I apologize for being another lazy interviewer. What was it like being a part of his tour?  

     

    It was amazing! I have very fond memories of my time with them. I learned a lot and became a stronger performer cause he was just throwing me out there alone in front of an arena full of people who were only there to see them. What a challenge! He is definitely one of the kindest most generous artists I’ve ever met. I’m lucky they took a chance on me.

     

    What are your thoughts on musical influences? 

     

    I still love the feeling of discovering something and becoming obsessed with it. I’m very much a listener and consumer of art who needs to develop my own relationship with what I’m consuming. I think that’s why I don’t automatically listen to new music. I’m not susceptible to marketing campaigns or doing what everyone else is doing. I remember being obsessed with Gun Club in my early 20s when everyone else was listening to whatever generic brand of NYC/Brooklyn indie music that was being released at the time. It took me 6 years after Is This It came out to genuinely dig the Strokes.  I was at a New Year’s Party w/o my abusive partner at the time. Someone turned on Hard To Explain and I was high and dancing and everyone there was so rad and happy. I felt so young and free. I hadn’t felt that way in a really long time. It also gave me so much joy to love something I knew “he” had hated so much. I’ll never forget that moment.

     

    What kind of influence of being a New Yorker have on you?

     

    A lot of problem-solving, a lot of noise, and a lot of keeping it short. New York doesn’t have time for one’s 8 min opus and I love that. Take the fillers out. I’ve always been a creative person but didn’t really try it publicly till my early 20s. I studied music as a kid, bombed many recitals, and was always thought of as an unfocused, lazy underachiever throughout my childhood. For a while, I believed it, until I found myself hauling a baby-sized coffin with my heavy ass harmonium on a hand truck over the Williamsburg Bridge just to play an open mic. I didn’t see myself as being lazy after that.

     

    How has that changed in the years since you started?

     

     It’s tough to keep the same momentum. There’s so much negative in the music industry, you can really lose why you do it in the first place. Every time I put out an album I ask myself “why am I still doing this?” then I forget I felt that way, get back into my zone, and start writing again.

     

    ‘Portrait Of A Lady’ is out now

  3. Lea Seydoux: “Like many actors, I have a lot of instinct, but I’m also scared, even if I often feel comfortable on a set.”

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    Lea Seydoux follows in a long line of sulky, petted lip and iconic French actresses, of which there are quite a few – I would argue that she’s already up there with the likes of Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Seydoux is a famed art-house actress (The Lobster, Blue is The Warmest Colour)  with a penchant for staring in blockbusters (James Bond).  Here, we discuss her new movie Deception, ‘a profession of faith’ based on the eponymous Philip Roth novel, and her latest collaboration with the brilliant and prolific director Arnaud Desplechin. 

     

     

    The softness of your voice in Deception is striking, almost hypnotic, from the opening scene where you are facing the camera. Was it a given from the start? 

     

    I have had few such a talkative roles in my career, moreover with such demanding text. Here the words had to be expressed incisively and quickly. We surely all have several voices according to different periods and situations in life. My voice in Oh Mercy! was clearly different from the one I have in Deception. In this film it is closer to mine in life. 

     

    You all seem to have an erotic relationship with the text in this film… 

     

    This comes from Arnaud, who has a very close relationship with literature. I think that words, language, literature are essentially erotic. I am convinced that creation in general has a close relationship with eros. It’s a libidinal transformation. And this is the case in Deception. Throughout his films Arnaud narrates feelings supported by the text.

     

     

    It is also a sensual film, as close as possible to faces and bodies. Did you feel enveloped by the camera and the light? 

     

    I wasn’t exactly aware of the work the camera was doing while I was acting, but I loved working with the DP, Yorick Le Saux, who brought so much energy. There was such a special energy on this shoot. When you work with Arnaud, you want to espouse his cause. The actors he directs are thrilled on set. At his side, we feel transcended. He manages, with great youthfulness, to infuse a childlike excitement on set. His enthusiasm is contagious. He has fire in him and manages to communicate it to you. It’s as if he was handing us the torch. Then it’s up to us to seize it and make it blaze. Under his gaze we want to give the best. Arnaud inspires me enormously. In addition, he has the gift of choosing subjects that fascinate me. 

     

    Can you say more? 

     

    I like the way he talks about feelings. I especially like his viewpoint, his subjectivity. At his side, I feel I’m learning as much about cinema as about life, one not being distinct from the other. Thanks to him I have understood that one thing always goes with its opposite. That is why he doesn’t blame his characters, even those whose behaviour is reprehensible. He is always looking for their humanity. This was at the very heart of Oh Mercy! And it’s also the case in Deception. We can discuss the fact that adultery is immoral, but Arnaud films the love between my character and Philip. He always manages to make humanity triumph. His films never moralize; feelings always prevail, which gives dignity to the characters. I think that’s wonderful.

     

    What was your feeling when you read Arnaud Desplechin and Julie Peyr’s screenplay?

     

    I had the feeling of understanding the film immediately. And it was the same thing on set: when Arnaud gave me directions, I knew instantly what he wanted, it was evident… Sometimes it only takes one sentence in a screenplay for you to understand the whole film, a sentence around which the film revolves. In this case, it’s the final sentence, when my character says to Philip: “Because it was so tender…. unless I was mistaken.” He tells her no, she wasn’t mistaken. The whole film is in these two sentences, there’s no misunderstanding, tenderness did exist between the two of them. This sentence is related to the beginning of the film, where she asks him if he feels the same way she does. There are often misunderstandings in love. Here, both of them agree at the end: they did understand each other. By the end of the script, I was in tears! And I was in the same state when I played that scene. Our world cruelly lacks tenderness. Yet tenderness has to do with giving, with generosity. It’s overwhelming. And there are many such scenes in the film. 

     

    Were you familiar with Philip Roth’s world before shooting this adaptation? 

     

    I discovered it thanks to Arnaud. Roth is both vulgar and poetic. It seems to me that paradox runs through his oeuvre. This is probably why he is so fascinating to so many. 

     

     

     

     

     Did you work differently with Arnaud Desplechin on this film than on the one before? 

     

    I was almost more intimidated on Deception than on Oh Mercy! It seems to me that it was the opposite for Arnaud. I thought he was more confident on this one. 

     

    We perceive you as a tightrope walker in this film, constantly between two states, often overwhelmed by emotion… 

     

    I played this woman as if she was on the edge of a precipice and that’s how I felt on set. I was very shy during this shoot. I was so exposed… My character offers herself: this woman is in love. You feel very vulnerable when you’re in love. Because you want to be loved in return, you expect something. So I felt very fragile. My smiles are a way of masking my distress and emotion. Playing a lover is daunting. 

     

    What did you tell yourself about your character, who has no first name? Did you secretly give her a name? 

     

    In the screenplay she’s referred to as “The Lover”. It’s as if the characters were conscious of being characters… Because apart from Philip and Rosalie, no one is named in the story. Philip is like a sun around which everyone orbits. My character is neglected by her husband. We sense a great loneliness in her. She is a woman who doesn’t work, she’s financially dependent on her husband and therefore not free. “Without income you don’t have dignity,” she says. This sentence summarizes her situation, her state. I see her as an imprisoned woman. Her lover is her escape. 

     

    Did her sophisticated look, her meticulous outfits, her stylish hair help you find the core of her character? 

     

    I blended with this character quite naturally. I could dress like her in life. I wear some of my clothes in the film and bought some of the costumes after the shoot! The costume designer, Jürgen Doering, who has worked for Saint-Laurent, has beautiful taste. I loved wearing the clothes in the film, I felt very at ease in them. They are both chic and comfortable. 

     

    What kind of acting partner is Denis Podalydès? 

     

    He is firstly a man with whom I absolutely love to have conversations in between takes. We got on very well. He is as inspiring as Arnaud can be, and like him knows how to open up new perspectives. He’s also attentive, caring, strong. He is a theatre actor, his feet on the ground, he’s earthy. This was precious to me, as I was playing a febrile character. 

     

    Did Arnaud Desplechin direct you together? 

     

    He gave each of us different indications. Arnaud is great actor’s director, the greatest perhaps. Being directed by him is an immense pleasure. He is as intelligent as he is sensitive. 

     

    Denis Podalydès says he had the feeling that you were always one step ahead of him… 

     

    Is it because I never know what I’m going to do before the camera starts rolling? It can be destabilizing for my partners. I can go through peaks and abysses, which no one is aware of but me. I feel like a wild animal, one that hasn’t allowed itself to be tamed and which, emotionally speaking, has no reference point. Like many actors, I have a lot of instinct, but I’m also scared, even if I often feel comfortable on a set… although sometimes not. So I too am one thing and it’s opposite! 

    Were you inspired by the sets, the 80s accessories? 

     

    The sets are sensual and vibrant. I liked their “French charm”, while the action is set in England. Arnaud embodies French elegance! 

     

    Did this experience trigger some inner change in you? 

     

    I feel as if this was my first role as a woman and that I am in synch with my age, with my own life. I wouldn’t have been able to play this part five years ago. My experience in life nourished me for this film.

  4. Julia Ducournau: “I wanted light to spring from the shadows…”

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    Julia Ducournau first gained attention as writer/ director in 2011 when her short film ‘Junior’ was selected at the critics’ week in Cannes. The film would also win the Audience Award at the Festival Premiers Plans in Angers. She first came to my attention in 2016 with the release of ‘Raw’, a brilliantly witty yet horrifying (especially for vegetarians) twist on the flesh-eating horror genre which reportedly had some fainting in the cinema aisles. So it goes. The film would go on to win a host of awards at various international film festivals (Sundance, Sitges, Toronto) and her latest and second feature, ‘Titane’ recently won the Palm d’Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Here, in a shorter interview than I’d like, Ducournau discusses her latest film, it’s relationship with ‘Raw’, and divulges some insight into her methodology. 

     

    Ms Ducournau, can you tell me about the writing in Titane and how it took shape?

     

    I sensed I was facing a very complex puzzle, with dense matter that I clearly needed to simplify. But I had to be careful or I’d risk losing the existential scope I was aiming for. It was a real balancing act. To give TITANE its definitive shape, I honed in on the character of Vincent [Vincent Lindon] and his fantasy: this idea that through a lie, you can bring love and humanity to life. I wanted to make a film that initially may seem unlovable because of its violence, but then we grow deeply attached to the characters, and ultimately we receive the film as a love story. Or rather, a story about the birth of love because here, everything is a question of election.

     

    Can you talk about the post title sequence where we’re introduced to Agathe Rousselle (Alexia) as an adult?

     

    That sequence is there to impose a certain vision – not my vision – of Alexia, or more accurately, who others want her to be. This vision idealizes her, forcefully iconizes and sexualizes her, makes her obey a whole series of clichés. I see it as a decoy: we’re exploring a surface layer that hints at the ocean we’re about to plunge into, where we’ll discover a femininity with very blurry contours. I wanted this sequence to be both extremely organic and totally disconnected from reality. The Alexia presented to us here does not align with the truth of the character. 

     

     

     

    What was the casting process like for the part of Alexia?

     

    I knew right away she’d have to be an unknown face. As she goes through her mutations I didn’t want people thinking they’re watching the transformation of a physically familiar actress. I mention above a ‘femininity with blurry contours’. I needed an unknown to embody that. Someone the audience couldn’t project any expectations onto. Someone they could watch transform as the story plays out without being conscious of the artifice. So I went straight to non-professional young women. I had a certain androgynous physique in mind, one that could endure the various transformational states that playout for the camera. I wanted a face that would change with the angle of the shot. A face that could make us believe anything. So the casting was both vast and precise. I knew there’d be a lot of work for whoever I chose. Not so much rehearsing lines (Alexia is practically mute) but in the acting itself. I’d have to go digging for something inside her, push her to places she wasn’t used to going, and obviously that takes time. When I saw Agathe [Rousselle] for the first time at a casting session, she really stood out. She had the right physique and a fascinating face, but also a presence. She commanded the screen, and that’s exactly what I wanted. 

     

    What about Vincent Lindon’s character? 

     

    For the character of Vincent it was far simpler: I wrote the role for Vincent Lindon. We’ve known each other for a long time. I wanted to film him and show him to everyone the way I see him. His character required a range of emotions that, in my eyes, only he is capable of: at once scary and vulnerable, childlike and dark, deeply human yet monstrous… especially with that impressive hulk of a body. In preparation for the role he did serious weightlifting for a year. I wanted him beefy like an ox, reminding us of Harvey Keitel’s massiveness in Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. We got along beautifully during the shoot and I’m very proud of that. Vincent trusted me. He accepted the idea of surrendering to the character without necessarily holding all the keys to my cinema. He was exceptionally generous in what he gave to the role and to me. I think I got something from him that he himself was looking for at this stage in his career. I came along at the right time, if you will. 

     

    Can you say how you achieved the many special effects in TITANE?

     

    The biggest challenge by far were the prosthetics Agathe [Rousselle] had to wear. She spent long, laborious hours in makeup every day, which was exhausting for her and stressful for us, as every little touchup obviously takes time. The prosthetics were a central part of our daily schedules. It’s funny, because I’ve been using them since Junior and every time I say to myself, ‘Never again, too much hassle!’ Then I go right back and do it again on the next film! (laughter) But the thing is, for actors, prosthetics are true companions in the acting process. And they’re so organic on screen. 

     

    And you again teamed up with Rubens Impens who worked on RAW. What did brief did you provide for this film?

     

    I often used the word ‘malfunction’ to evoke the film’s transformations. ‘Derailment’ too, because the story is peppered with machines and metal. Ruben and I worked hand in hand. We did the shot list together, the lighting chart together, we were practically joined at the hip on set… We started by figuring out what machinery we’d need on the film, because we shared frustration from not having played on that more in RAW. And we discussed how to do something graphic without losing the characters in the process. When it comes to lighting, I work a lot within a cold/hot dichotomy. TITANE is concerned with metal and fire, so the cold/ hot relationship had to be ever-present. Ruben and I wanted to take a deep dive into contrast. We were constantly flirting with the limit, the limit being the cartoon: one step further and we could fall into cartoonish. We had to stay in the reality of the film. Push the shadow/light envelope as far as we could, without getting lost in an ultra-stylization that would suck the blood out of the characters and the action. We focused more on pictorial references than film references, the paintings of Caravaggio in particular. I also showed Ruben Summer Night by Winslow Homer and THE EMPIRE OF LIGHT series by René Magritte to give him an idea of what I was looking for in the contrasts. I wanted light to spring from the shadows in the same way emotion gushes after an initial shock. I also wanted lots of colors, to break with the darkness of the story and avoid an impression of inescapable sordidness. For the many nude scenes, which I wanted as non-sexualized as possible, I tried to use lighting to reinvent the skin each time. Our work with color made it possible to bring new textures, meanings, and emotions to the skin itself. 

     

    Another thing which struck me is the music. Where you again work with Jim Williams, what spec did you give him?

     

    I asked him to use percussions and bells. And I insisted on the bells. Why? Because I absolutely wanted to incorporate metal into the score. I wanted music that sounded metallic while still being melodic. As with RAW, I wanted a memorable recurring theme that would vary according to my characters’ trajectories. TITANE goes from animal to impulsive to sacred. To help us feel that progression, the music must also fluctuate, hybridize, transform. We go from percussion to bells to electric guitar and sometimes everything combined. Then voices come in, bringing a liturgical dimension to the film. I asked Jim [Williams] to work on creating a momentum towards the sacred. His music also needed to be like bursts of light in the shadows. 

     

    Julia Docournau, thank you.

    And thank you to Wild Bunch International. 

     

     

     

  5. Rebecca Lucy Taylor: “I had no fucking self-esteem at all and that was what was wrong in my life.”

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    Felten Ink recently had the pleasure, the privilege of speaking with Rebecca Lucy Taylor, the former Slow Club musician and now ‘front’ for her own solo project, Self Esteem. Her first record as Self Esteem, ‘Compliments, Please’, was released in 2018 and now Taylor is back and gaining more huge and rightly deserved applause for ‘I Do This All The Time’, as well as her latest single, ‘Prioritise Pleasure’. Both tracks are a tremendous affirmation and example of Taylor’s own attitude to her own self-esteem and her rampant individuality. The former is also an uplifting ode to spoken word pop (and self-help analysis). But please, do keep your Baz Lurhman comparisons to yourself.

    In our conversation we discuss her attitudes and career as a solo artist so far, multi-tasking to the extreme,  dealing with the world online, Self Esteem as an art as well as therapeutic project, and how one deals with their own sexual desires for a muppet.

     

    Rebecca, forgive me. When I first heard your solo material as Self Esteem I had no idea you used to be in the wonderful Slow Club? 

     

    Yeah, remember that slag from Slow Club? That’s the year’s tagline. A lot of people don’t realize that. 

     

    How is it for you, in terms of going from being part of a band to now working and thriving on your own solo project?

     

    Self Esteem is a direct sort of solution to things I was unhappy about in a band. Obviously, I’m really proud of what we did, it’s 10 years of my life, I toured the world, really learned a lot, you know? I didn’t go to university, I went straight out of school into a band and had a really weird but amazing time. But I think creatively I found it very difficult to compromise. So that’s why Self Esteem is quite like… there’s the music but then also I’m hyper-focused on the aesthetic and the look and the direction of everything. And the show and just all these other parts that it, that is the art of making. Whereas in a band you’re having to sort of compromise and there are other people’s tastes and things like that. I don’t think I faired very well, mentally. Like I find it really difficult to not be, as a creative, ‘totally seen’. So Self Esteem is all about that really and that’s why I look like I’m having just the fucking time of my life all the time. I loved the band and I love the people I made music with but, fitting into someone else’s idea is, was pretty bad for me (laughs).

     

    I tend to be more drawn towards artists who are perhaps egocentric but definitely like to have control. How do you feel about that in relation to being an artist? 

     

    Well, you see that’s the thing, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think like you’re almost told your whole life, especially as a woman, to be like ‘stay in your lane, don’t show off, don’t think your idea is the best one’. Whereas actually, it’s like sometimes it was and is, do you know what I mean? And it’s society’s structure that made me go, ‘Oh sorry, excuse me, do you mind if I…’ etc. And it stifled me creatively. And I’m not saying what I’m doing now is better, I feel much more realized. Yeah, I guess it’s egocentric but I don’t believe that’s as bad as we’ve been made to believe it is. I think if we all put ourselves first a bit more everyone would be a bit (laughs) happier. 

     

    Now it feels like you really own your own output. Does that make sense and how have you evolved?

     

    I think like just the natural way, like when you’re like 16 and you love bands and you want to just copy it. It’s very different, like learning what your actual  ‘art practice’ is and what’s important to you. I mean, it was very much when I started making music I wanted to be like Tilly and the Wall or Bright Eyes or things like that. And over time I’ve learned what I like to do is fucking sing, rather than just being sweet. I like to perform. I like to move an audience, I like things that feel a little bit like there’s so much music. To my mind, if you’re going to bother making any more, it needs to either say or be something completely new or say something new, or at least take you on a journey. That’s what I’m into. A lot of people like to hear the same kind of thing over and over again and that’s fine as well. To keep myself entertained is the thing I focus on really.

     

    I guess being in a band so young helps you learn these things?

     

    What I learned from being in a band as well is like, you write all these songs and you make all these records and then you’re touring them for like two years and the tour is not as cool and fun as it sounds. It’s really boring and hard and uncomfortable, and you make piss all money for how much time it takes out of your life and how much it disrupts your life. For me, Self Esteem has been about making sure that when I’m doing all this work of touring, and as we all know making not much money, it’s got to be fulfilling. And all this is a bit more interesting for an audience, I believe. 

     

    Prior to this interview, my wife saw me on my laptop watching you get intimate with Kermit. Can you clear this up?

     

    (laughs) And she was like, “Not again. Not with the frog porn again!”

    That was quite a while ago now I shot that. When I was a kid,  when people asked me who I fancied, I would say a frog. I’m bisexual. It was obviously a way of me kind of hiding what I was feeling. But all the way through my life, all the greatest loves of my life have had long arms and legs. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence but yeah the idea was that I can’t put a label on what I am, I’m just attracted to Kermit (laughs). That’s the first thing I took my own initiative and wrote and directed something myself. And it’s weird as fuck, but I love it. 

     

     

    I’ve always had a thing for Miss Piggy so I totally identify. 

    I’ve been following you on social media for a while and you’re admirably very vocal about the amount of crap you get sent to you and call it out often. What’s it like having to put up with all the stupidity and garbage the internet (especially some men) can throw? 

     

    Well, the internet is just a faceless version of what life is like for me as a woman who performs I guess.  I remember turning 14 and the world got weirder and scarier because men started looking at me in that way.  It was a real shift, but I was still a child. So what I get, what gets said to me on the internet is often…. I actually don’t fare too badly. Like, it happens but I think it’s probably way worse if you’re Rita Ora or whatever. I’m not very famous so I think I get away with a lot but men love to sort of comment on my appearance.

    My life has just been people commenting on my appearance. I don’t let it affect me because it sort of proves my point and what I’m trying to say all the time. I don’t hate men at all, I really love loads of them. But that is in the zeitgeist now, isn’t it? The way that I think a lot of men don’t understand the fear that you live in every single fucking day as a woman. You’ve got to make allowances for the fact that some people are just fucking sad. And this gets them really going, and I just think, ‘honey if you need to tell me I look like a slag on the internet, then go for it’. If that’s gonna make you feel better, go for it, because I want to be kind (laughs).

     

    You do still seem to remain positive regardless when it would wear other people down. 

     

    I sometimes get angry and I try not to because you’ve just got to wait for these people to learn themselves and I do think like, you know, with my best mate’s kid, a little girl, I think the world will be a bit different by the time she hits a certain age. The conversations we’re having now and the kind of move, there’s a shift, you know, feminists, or just even fucking awareness of the inequality that’s been happening, you know shit that happens in the news… at least these things are finally being spoken about.

    You only get so far with positivity on the internet, and you give so much of it and what you get back just makes you, or it makes many vindictive and hateful. But it also depends on where I’m at, like if I’m feeling a bit shit anyway or whatever like it sometimes can hit me a bit worse. It’ll be interesting because obviously with the new songs there’s a bit more buzz going on for me than usual. And you know, I’m getting a lot more followers, things are happening more than usual so I’m just gonna see how it goes. My mental health is something that I’ve absolutely devoted my life sorting out.

     

     

     

    I’m no analyst or psychologist but the name in itself, Self Esteem, it does appear you’ve made a very conscious decision to focus on positivity, ’empowerment’, call it what you will,  with this project?

     

    Oh no. You’re totally right. When I was in Slow Club, we used to tour a lot and we spent a lot of time in LA. And I was friends with this band who were these like, real sort of authentic fucking psychedelic punks that made music for making music’s sake. Everyone had these cool names for their projects and I remember being like really wanted to do one myself and I was either gonna call it Sex Appeal or Self Esteem. So, I’ve carried that with me for like, nine years. I needed an outlet so I started just making art under the name Self Esteem and then it just carried on.

    But yeah to answer your question, I had no fucking self-esteem at all and that was what was wrong in my life. But I called it that because I thought it was a cool project name. And it’s actually become really self-fulfilling. In the sort of beautiful way that will be great, you know, in the documentary. I would say three years ago I sort of started with a new therapist who was like, ‘you have no self-esteem, you really don’t love yourself’. And I was like, ‘oh, okay. I don’t know how I deal with that, but let’s try’. I have figured quite a lot of that out and it’s really revolutionized my life personally and also my work.  So it’s hilarious, but yeah, it’s self-fulfilling. But I will still make some music under the name Sex Appeal and see what happens with that. In some format.

     

    Along with the music for Self Esteem I understand you’re also in charge of the choreography and shooting in the videos? How do you manage to juggle all of those (‘I Do This All The Time’ and ‘Prioritize Pleasure’)? 

     

    I lose my shit, I find it very difficult. I do a lot of prep, I’ve sort of learned over the years. It’s often for very fucking little budget. I’m really used to sort of making something good out of not a lot but learned that if you’ve got no money, you need the prep and the time. But if you’ve got loads of money you can whip something together and it’ll have the same result. I pulled all the money that I got from the label to make videos into one and I shot three videos on that one day. So there’s two more videos to come that I shot that day. But I did just a ton of prep. I did not stop thinking about it. I planned it within an inch of its life. I’ve done a few videos that I directed for other people and really enjoyed that experience because I’d had fuck all to do with me on camera and I could like focus. But it’s another one of those things, I think Self Esteem is unfortunately this … I’ve worked with other people, I’ve tried to do other things, I tried to collaborate but think it all just has to come from me and have that really concentrated vision being communicated, really on the nose. And it makes you know, job a bit harder but I’m, I’m also like work’s more fun than fun. I don’t really like relaxing so I’m fine with it. 

     

     

     

     

    You sound like you have a million things you want to do at once and it must be tough?

     

    I’ve always been like this. When I was in Slow Club, it was like I had to wait. My life was waiting to be in the studio, waiting to record, waiting to rehearse, waiting to tour. So all that downtime, I was misplaced in a way and became me just fucking about my twenties, basically. I like to structure my time, I like to have projects. Genuinely, there’s nothing more fun. Like, going to the pub and getting pissed up and coming home, eating a takeaway and falling asleep and feeling shit the next day is like, don’t get me wrong, something I do a lot of. But I don’t love that as much as I love working on something I’ll record or, or create. I guess I’m kind of lucky that at the moment everything I create has a small audience. I could just be shouting into the void and I don’t know what. I think I would still always do it though, do you know what I mean? I think that’s just my lot. And it’s frustrating, I can’t hold a relationship down and I’m a bad friend. I’m really shit, I’ll not remember your kid’s christening. But I can’t help it.

     

    I’m fascinated by artists who treat their work like a normal job, like a discipline. Like I’ve heard Nick Cave say he goes to his office in the morning and just writes till whenever. Whatever works I suppose. I don’t suspect that’s how the process works for you?

     

    I’ve worked with people that treat it like a day job. Sit with the guitar all day. I used to try and be like that, I think I thought that meant you were a real musician or whatever. But again, it’s just another thing, I am 34 now, it’s like I know what works, what doesn’t. I am open to trying new things, but for the most part, I get how I am. And Self Esteem, as a, I think of it as more than the music, it’s an art practice and that is what I hope you get as an audience member or a consumer. It’s like performance art. I think that constant sort of stream of consciousness, to me is interesting and helps you have a fully realized idea of me. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with making sure everyone sees me, but that’s what this is. I don’t sit and go write. But, you know, if, some company said I need a song like this, we’ll pay you this much, can you write it? I’d be like, “Yeah, fuck yeah I love that.” I am still just finding it all out.

     

    You would appear to speak to the outsider, which I love, but is that a fair comment?

     

    As soon as I hit like eight or something I was louder, weirder or my imagination got stranger. There are all these things, especially as a woman, that you’re like ‘oh’. I never had boyfriends. I’ve just felt like an alien the whole time but the difference now is I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and I really, really celebrate that. I think there’s a fuck ton more people than you realize that feel like that. But, many go through the system, and especially as a woman if you’re sort of polite, quiet, pretty, clever, but not too clever, like all these things. I just can’t be asked to conform when it just doesn’t naturally happen. But if it does, nice one. After me trying to reform the system. (laughs)

     

    Rebecca Lucy Taylor, thank you!

     

    The new album by Self Esteem ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ will be available later this year. 

    Self Esteem are also playing live. Find tour dates and venues here