Why did you want to explore disappearance, disintegration?
Disintegration is a metaphor for memory loss. In order to talk about the neurological degeneration of a painter, I looked for pictorial examples in art history that would enable me to transcribe that state in film. Dali’s The Persistence of Memory was my starting point. The soft objects on the Catalan painter’s canvas are deformed and are “flowing” towards the ground. For my film, I reversed the process. Objects are deformed and are transformed into droplets that float up into the air. This choice not only gave the film a surreal angle but allowed the final scene to take on a poetic fantasy that offsets the painful separation of two loving people.
How did you achieve the graphic effects that allow us to see the material melt and crumble?
As in my previous films, using any technic is good if it enables me to convey my ideas. In Mémorable, an animated film, stop-motion and computer-generated images were used. This choice means a rather long and complicated post-production phase which doesn’t always match with my last-minute ideas.
How did you write the sequences, and in particular, the dialogues that also depict disintegration? Did you base this on actual testimony?
Louis, the main character, hides his memory lapses by using ironic humor. He fools the people around him. Or so he thinks. I’ve witnessed this behavior in rather proud patients who don’t want to lose face as a way to protect themselves. This humor is crucial for me. It enables me to address a rather heavy subject by injecting a bit of lightness. Writing the sequences came rather naturally. Similar to people who get the giggles at a funeral, I wanted the text to be as unpredictable as possible and to clash with the images. The goal I was looking for was not only to defuse the violence of a scene but to destabilize the viewer as well.
Do you paint?
No, I paint very little. In terms of the fine arts, I do mainly sculpture. And by the way it’s thanks to that that I discovered the world of animation. In 1995 someone asked me to make characters for an advertisement. I stopped working with bronze and stuck my hands in clay.
The progression of disintegration is also recognizable through the painting in the film, Louis’ painting. Why did you want to reinforce the impact by exposing the evolution of his artwork? Is it for the simple pleasure of a mise en abyme?
Not just that. The scene with the “paintings” allows the spectator to go back in time; by seeing the early paintings the spectator realizes that this elderly couple was also once young, beautiful and very much in love. This sequence is also to honor the painter William Utermohlen. This painter was instrumental to me. Suffering from Alzheimer he continued to paint self-portraits despite the progression of his illness. His paintings are shocking. They provide us with the patient’s own view of his neurological degeneration. His work convinced me to tell the story of Mémorable not from the exterior by from the interior, through the patient’s eyes and feelings.
Louis seems at one point to want to disappear himself rather than see the world around him disappear. What interested you in this sequence?
His loss of autonomy. It’s getting harder and harder for him to do things. He thinks he’ll find an end to his misery through suicide. However, he doesn’t even have the capability of committing this irremediable act.
Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
My loyal partners, the producers of Vivement Lundi! and France TV have left me complete freedom over the last 20 years in the choice of my subjects and in the way I execute my ideas. I doubt that such freedom would be feasible making a feature length film.
What are your works of reference?
There are many. However, be it paintings or cinema, they all had a big impact on me at the same time in my life — during my adolescence. I was stunned by what I least expected: to be completely subjugated by a work I didn’t understand. How many times since I was 13 have I gone to the movies to try to understand colonel Kurz in Apocalypse Now or the space traveler David Bowen in 2001, Space Odyssey.