Meeting with the Austrian filmmaker around his Happy End, broadcast on France 3 after Parasite.
Cannes Film Festival 2021 will begin tomorrow, Tuesday July 6, so the television is banking on the flagship films of its previous editions. France 3 program like this tonight Parasite, by Bong Joon-ho, which received the Palme d’Or for the 2019 edition, then at 11:15 p.m., Happy End, a drama of Michael haneke screened on the Croisette in 2017. First had met the filmmaker during his Cannes presentation. Flashback.
First : Happy End works a bit like a treasure hunt and …
Michael Haneke: A what ? A “treasure hunt”? What is that ?
Let’s say that, in a rather playful way, you ask us to research the nature of the film as it progresses …
And you only reveal it to two-thirds …
Yes, that’s pretty nice, isn’t it? What amuses me is playing with your intelligence. When I go to the cinema it gives me more pleasure to have work in front of a film than if I am given everything on a set. Otherwise it’s TV.
Inside this first game there is another one, which consists of truffling Happy End fairly explicit references to your film.
They tell me that, yes. It wasn’t conscious, honestly. It is true that the character of Jean-Louis Trintignant looks a bit like the one he played in Love… but pfff, it’s just that I’m still dealing with the same subject. My universe is very limited, ahaha. I’m kidding but it’s true. On TV we find a theme in a meeting room and we make a movie of it – that is to say we dig a silly cliché from start to finish, what a bore. I only speak of what I know because I like precision, so you can have the feeling that I am repeating myself. Never mind. We also criticized Bergman or Bresson for that, I think it’s a quality to have a universe.
Well, the film being a comedy it still clashes quite a bit within your work.
Ahah, yes I am told that too, that the film is funny. It makes me very happy.
Wait, wasn’t it on purpose?
Yes, yes, a little, it’s still a joke, but not only I hope.
Happy End: Haneke in minor mode
When you add the compilatory side of the film to its farce side, you have the impression of hearing you say to your heirs: “You can always try guys, I will always remain more singular – even when I copy myself”.
Ahahaha. It’s funny your idea but I never cared about it. I sometimes hear journalists say about the films of my young colleagues “it looks like Haneke”, it’s perfectly uninteresting, all because they make films in still shots and they like sequence shots. .
Do you still agree that you have behind you a hell of a horde of followers, more or less good for that matter?
Yes maybe, but you have to detach yourself from that, as I tried to detach myself from the influence of Bresson for example. I actually give classes in a film school and the first thing I tell my students is don’t make a Haneke movie. It only gives zero things. Like when everyone wanted to make their film à la Cassavetes at one point. But once again we have to stop saying that directors who like fixed shots make Haneke, it’s too simplistic.
Wait, your style is not characterized only by the use of fixed shots anyway …
What else, tell me?
Already there is a rather cruel form of misanthropy …
Misanthrope? Oh no, I refuse. I like people. All of my actors will tell you how much I love them. I do dramas, I talk about dark things like Ibsen or Strindberg. We talk about the sin of guilt, that’s the strength of the drama.
Yes but we can bring it to a form of lyricism too …
Of course, but today everything is saturated with a completely artificial grace. It’s a lie to calm people down, to tell them that everything is fine: that’s contemptuous, that’s misanthropic. If we take the drama for what it is, then we have to piss people off.
In his way of pinning a bourgeois family from the North of France, Happy End reminds a little of hardcore Desplechin …
I don’t know his cinema. I saw a movie years ago, but I can’t remember the title. There was Amalric in it …
Man, he’s almost in all of his films. Are there any films that interest you here in Cannes?
Yes, Lanthimos. And also Ostlund.
Hey, filmmakers whose films are said to “look like Haneke” …
Well I find that flattering.
For them ?
Ahah, but not for me!
Jean-Louis Trintignant: “I shot in 130 films, that’s at least a hundred too many”