It’s almost impossible to describe Leos Carax (or Alex Christophe Dupont — the name he was born with). He stopped watching films regularly at the age of 24 and is never on the lookout for the next story.
We would have called him a French film-maker, but he insists he’s only "someone who makes films sometimes". His filmography may even prove that point.
Carax’s most-recent film, Holy Motors (2012), followed a short film he made in 2009. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. At the Mumbai Film Festival 2013, Carax talks to us about the purpose of cinema, 'learning' how to make movies and why every project of his just might be his last.
How did Holy Motors happen?
I hadn’t made a film for 10 years for money and casting reasons. I suddenly decided I had to make a film right now, (because) it’s been too long. I imagined this one and made it fast. Usually I am slow.
You were a film critic before you started making films; is that true?
I was never really a critic. I did it when I was 18 for six months because I had just arrived in Paris. I was trying to make films and it was a way to see lots of movies and meet people who made them. I don’t think I was good at it.
Why did you stop watching films after your first two movies?
From 16 to 24, I had seen so many movies for education that I felt I had seen enough for a century. I don’t need to (watch films) anymore.
Why do you watch movies in the first place?
At that time, to study cinema. It was a miracle for me that cinema exists. To be alone in the dark with that huge thing... it felt amazing. I usually went to the cinema alone. For me, it was not a thing to do with your friends. I liked that vision… of being an orphan in the dark, but protected by something bigger than you.
You said you quit school at 16. What is your view on academic learning for film-makers?
I don’t believe in it. I don’t think there is anything to learn about cinema except watching films, and having the desire to make them. You can learn the technical aspects in two days. And you’re not supposed to know everything about film-making to make a film. When I started making them, I didn’t know anything about the technical aspects. Since I’ve never studied films, I never felt like a film-maker. I am someone who makes film sometimes. Each film is like the first and last one on my mind.
Ideally, what would you like your films to do to your audience?
There are very few people who are touched by films. There can be many who like them. A film should change someone’s life, if it doesn’t, it isn’t interesting. Some films changed my life… by understanding the world or beauty or falling in love with an actress. My films never make it big at the box office, but they’re shown all over the world. They exist in time and space, which is different from a blockbuster that exists right now in a big way and doesn’t change anyone’s life.
But those box-office results drive many industries, including the Hindi film industry.
Well, cinema was born that way… it was born as an art and an industry. You have to fight the industry all the time. You cannot be like a painter alone in your room. Don’t do it alone. I’ve never made a film alone. Nobody makes films alone. You need to get at least two-three people with you. Right now, I have no one. I have to start all over again.
What’s your next film going to be?
I wish I knew. But I don’t know how a film starts; if I did, I would make more. Sometimes, it’s an image or just a feeling; that’s how Holy Motors started. I am not a storyteller, so I am not looking for a good story. I am looking for a vision. I am always afraid I’m never going to make another film. Right now, it’ll be a miracle to make another one.