Interview with Jean-Gabriel Périot


Which is the philosophy that leads your work?

Making films is for me a way to question the events I don't understand; I work more on trying to express a question than to give answers to the audience.


Your shorts aren´t the typical shorts, they aren´t video art either. How would you define them?

My movies are all in some of "in-between". Each of them is different from the others by its techniques or by its topics, even if there are obviously links between them. So, as an all, my film work is quite specific as is not so homogenous.

In all of them, or in almost of them, I mixed different techniques and different kind of storytelling. And any of them could easily be defined in term of "genre". Some are "animated documentaries", "experimental documentaries and/or animations", "documentary fictions", etc… But at the end, there is no importance to try to define them in those terms. For me, there are just "film". And I define myself as "film director". If I have to specify, I usually say that I make some kind of documentaries.
My idea is always to find the techniques, the "genre" that fit with the questions I want to deal with. My main preoccupation is the way to address my own questioning it to the audience.


Your work doesn´t sum up more than 3 hours of showing in 9 years, but the number of images exceeds the whole work of Eisenstein. Do you agree with this?

Perhaps it exceeds the whole work of Eisenstein, but perhaps not the one of Dziga Vertov…

For sure, as in some of my movies, I works with really fast editing of images, pictures or footages, the amount of materials, images, used could be really large. But with this kind of velocity, it is impossible to make long movies. Even 10 minutes could be too long. So yes, I made less than 3 hours of films, with so many images…


The multiplied images become trivial in the net. Is restoring them to give them a new life part of your work?

My mean idea was not to give a new possibility for the audience to see the images I could pick up on Internet. It is more, but the fast editing of them, to question them as part of series, and not for themselves, to make clear, or to question, the patterns we could find in all off them.

If almost of the image put on the web are quite poor, when we interrogate them as an all, as series, they start to become more interesting. Theirs meanings become wider.


You settle 1000 shots on the same building in your work 200.000 Fantoms. Which is the aim?

When I start to work on this movie, I want to deal with the questions of the memory, or the memories, of Hiroshima. I didn't want to direct a new classical documentary about the atomic bombing. But I wanted to understand why, as European born in the 70's, I didn't know more about what happened there, except the two lines in my history book in the College. And I want to question also the memory of the city itself.

This building is one of the only buildings that were not destroyed by the bomb, and moreover it was the closest to the impact of the bomb. As it was a public building, owned by the city, it was not rebuild or destroy just after the bombing. And few months after the bombing, it was already become the symbol of the destroy city.

In my movie, as I edited the pictures of this building chronologically from its construction until now, we can see that the building never changes after the bombing, but that the city around it was rebuild and became a really big and living city. We can also see that this building was transform in a kind of remembering monument.

The conflict between this unchanged building as a place of remembering, and the arising of modern city around it was for me a way to question in a metaphorical way the problem of the memory of this particular event.


The experience of surfing the net with digital images involves that one image carries us out to another. Is it like this for you too?

As I need thousands of pictures for my films, during the process of researches, I can't use the Internet as I could do when I am jus audience of it. I use simple tools (as Google images) that allow me to have an overview of the images I look for by key words (I made a list of all the words that could be link with the topic I am interested in, and I translate this list in many language). I can't afford to lost too much time in surfing page to page.


What do you think about the web as a tool for your work?

It is just a practical tool. But I use it not to make creation for or about it. It doesn't inspired me at all. In fact, even if my movies don't seem to be "classical" cinema, they are. In any way, they could be considered in the new media field, or as digital art.


Do you consider yourself, as some reviewers name it, “generation youtube”?

Not at all. Nor as audience, nor as filmmaker.

I really do like films, cinema. For me, every film has its own time, its own space, it need to be view from a beginning to an end. And it has to be view for itself. I also really prefer to be in a theater to see movies. To be concentrated on it, I need obscurity, silence, a screen and a good sound.

So, for me, Internet can't be the place to watch movies. Moreover I could say that I am really not interested by almost of the other contents offer on website as youtube. It is a kind of mix of family films, drunk friends movies, amator movies and excerpts of TV programs… There are sometimes good cinema movies on Internet or youtube but they look like a jelly of pixels… And I don't like at all the idea that everything has to be considered on the same level…

The only exception I could make is about the movies or animations made exclusively for the Internet. There, it is possible to see good films. But it is really far from this idea of "youtube generation".

And as I audience I am not at all a consumer of films on Internet, as filmmaker, it is really far from my practice and from my idea of cinema.


In your shorts, we can watch how France is occupied and liberated in 10 min. or how the environment of a monument changes as time goes by. Why do you usually concenter so many images in a few minutes?

As I already talk about, to fast edit large amount of images allow to question them as series and not for themselves. It obviously a way to question the representation, to question the memory of the history (and the construction of the memory of our own present).

But I use fast editing of images for two other reasons.

First I used those accumulations for a narrative purpose. For example in this movie, if I edited the entire story of the world war II in 3 minutes, before the second and quiet part about the public punishment in France, it is to give the context of this event, it is also to question the need for the French people to punish in a so horrible way who they suspect to be "guilty", after so many dramatic events, after so many disasters and horrors. It is finally to translate the fact that whatever the horrible reality of what happened in the world then, it was far from the French people, stinks in their own problems, as we are today not really concern by the dramatic events of the world if they not happen in front of our own doors.

In the second hand, fast editing help me to create emotions. Obviously, this first part of the movie is really violent to watch. It is not violent by the images themselves, even if they are images of violence, but it becomes violent by the editing. And I need this violence to give to the audience a certain pleasure when the editing become "normal", smooth, usual... To resume, techniques allow me to create feelings that are linked to the history I want to tell.

12. Do you use images as a political instrument on purpose?
It is a complicated question, because I could answer on different levels.

The first answer could be than obviously I deal with topics that are political: war, memory, capitalism, work, humanity…

But perhaps, than a more interesting point is that I hope my movies, for the viewer, could be spaces of liberty. My work is about questioning, not answering. TV, Internet, mainstream cinema, etc. are about answers. In most of the films, whatever the media, directors bring us to their own understanding of the world; they explain it regarding their own point of view (or to be more radical, according to the point of view of the upper and dominant class). As audience, we have to agree to the questions, the explanations and the conclusion. In my cinema, I just try to express only my own doubts. Even if as any director, I need to bring the audience with me during the film, I tried to do it with the most of opening. As director, I consider a movie as space to think, I hope it is also a space for the audience to think.

And it seem for me, that actually, to create spaces to think is politically important as we are asked, as citizen, human, to not really try to understand what happen today by our own means.


Do you work on a long-length project?

Since two years I work on a project of a long documentary for cinema. I will make this film only with archives, without any shooting, or new voice over. The movie is about the RAF (the Rote Armee Fraktion, a revolutionary group in the Germany during the 70's), or more precisely, about how the history of the RAF was told. There are so many films, documentaries, TV news, pictures, etc. about the RAF… And there is this particular point: some of the founders of the group were involved in images, as journalists, cinematographer, artists… So in this movie, it will be able to have excerpts of movies from the members of the RAF, before the founding of it, that express their political points of view, their doubts… With this excerpts, it become obvious that to introduced all of them only as terrorists is a problem.

For sure, in this movie, I won't be able to use the kind of techniques I used in the others movies. The editing will be slower, and I will also use the sounds (music but more importantly the voices). It is important for this project to respect the quality of each excerpt.


And you told us during the interview that one of your works has 10.000 shots. Did I understand right? What is the title? Can you tell me about it?

For the movie Dies Irae, I used more than 10 000 images. All of them represent a way (road, tracks, street, etc…) and I edited them as for an animation. Even if all the images are different, the fast editing (and the reframing, coloring and retouching of each of the pictures) allows me to create some kind of visual travel. This travel is a worldwide travel as all the pictures were picked up on Internet. But it is not an endless travel. The final destination is the man destruction.



Tino Monetti
QG magazine - 2009