Denis Côté Planets in Open Space

Daria Lisitsina interviews Canadian director Denis Côté.

Denis Côté

Canadian filmmaker, Denis Côté, winner of last year’s Berlinale Alfred Bauer prize for VIC AND FLO SAW A BEAR, grabs the nearest chair, and, wearing an unusual combination of cowboy gear and sleek glasses, says: “Let’s do this.“

Are you happy with being labelled as an art house director? At home, in Quebec, Canada, people see me as the difficult, cerebral “festival guy“. You hear that and you’re like: “urgh, really?“ So I thought: Okay, I need to reach a bigger audience’. CURLING, for me, was my most commercial film. VIC AND FLO SAW A BEAR was also a commercial film. But you still have to be yourself. I am obsessed by one thing: cinema – as a medium, as a language. I’m obsessed with the narrative: how you build things, how you destroy what you’ve just created. I am not about changing the world. I do not have strong issues to address. I’m watching all those “social“ films, but I can’t make those films.

What about JOY OF MAN’S DESIRING, your film at the Berlinale this year? Surely, that has a strong socio-political context in its depiction of monotonous, de-humanising factory work? But that doesn’t really come from the film. The film itself is an open space. As you can see, I’m not trying to shove anything down your throat. I’m not trying to make heroes out of workers; I’m not trying to demonize the bosses; I’m not trying to make an anti-capitalist allegory. I was trying to reach objectivity…but that’s impossible. I think there are two types of cinema: cinema that is imposing, and cinema that is proposing. Most of my films are open spaces, clashes between documentary and fiction. I want to stay myself and, being from French Canada, I have strong ties to art cinema from Europe. I’m happy to come from such an original cultural background and I want to preserve that special French-Canadian sensibility. Guys like Tsai Ming-Liang, Béla Tarr – they are planets. They are not connected to any world around us. I like to make planets, Denis Côté planets.

What is a Denis Côté planet? It’s more of an aesthetic planet. I see myself as someone who is obsessed with reality, but I don’t want to film reality for what it is, meaning: I’m not a real documentary filmmaker. I like to use the reality around me and make it my own.