In the portion in the beginning, when you have the cast sitting for interviews -- were the movies and books you have to the side of the television screen, like Suspiria, Possession, Taxi Driver, your inspiration, or are they hints for what's to come in the film?
Noe: Oh yeah, initially, I didn't think to put those books and VHS tapes onscreen. When we did those casting sessions, they were filmed in the video format of the nineties, which has a ratio of 1:3:3, and my movie was meant to be a Cinemascope movie, with a ratio of 2:3:5, and in my first cut, the cast confessions had a black band on both sides to fill the Cinemascope screen, and it didn't look so good, so I was like, 'Ah, how can I fix this? Do I have to zoom in?' But that didn't work. And then suddenly I thought, 'Oh, let's just put the cast interviews inside a room with lots of books and VHS tapes that I still had in my basement that are linked in one way or another to the movie.' They are inspirations for the movie, sometimes because of their look, sometimes because of their stories. But it was also a way to be humble and say, 'Well, I am not inventing anything, this is the food I have eaten when I was a kid and now I am serving you a new plate made the old way.' A new dish. In French, you say un plat.
Were the actors onscreen ad-libbing or were those scenes scripted?
Noe: I barely wrote any dialogue for this move. We had a three-page storyline, like the one I had for Irreversible, and we created the scenes on vacation. In chronological order. I told all the dancers and the actors that they could use their own vocabulary and their own ideas. Just make it funny, make it touching, and improvise whatever you want. The most I kept was three seconds or one minute of their improvs. And they're not being themselves, they're being the characters. They picked out the name for the characters in the movie for their own choice. And you can see they were having fun because they were laughing at their own jokes.
If I had written a screenplay with dialogue that was in my movie, or dialogue in my previous film Irreversible, I would never have the movie financed. When the scripts are trying to do something daring, it's better not to write it down, it's better to shoot it. Because there's always some guy in some commission or in some agency that you reach to try to get an actor, you run into all these people who want to use their scissors on someone else's work.
How long did the whole movie take to shoot?
Noe: The whole movie? We shot in 15 days. We had one month to conceive it, to cast it, to cast the crew, do the location scouting, do the camera tests, and prepare. The art director had to repaint the school we were shooting in. We had 15 days to shoot it, and then two and a half months to edit it, do the credits, do the sound editing and the sound mixing. So everything has just started at the very beginning of last January, and the whole movie was finished, completed, and delivered to the Cannes Film Festival in May. Actually, I spent more time promoting the movie than doing the movie itself.