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Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon • Directors

The science of movement


- We met with the colourful couple, partners on stage and in real-life, who are united by their boundless passion for the burlesque, as their second feature is released in theatres

Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon  • Directors

Cinergie: We knew that you were burlesque theatre and film actors but we didn’t know you were dancers too! Your performance is impressive. Is this a glimpse of what audiences see on stage?
Fiona Gordon: Yes, in our shows we always include a dance and I really don’t know why we didn’t incorporate one in Iceberg [+see also:
film profile
. We’ve made up for this lack with Rumba [+see also:
film review
interview: Charles Gillibert
interview: Dominique Abel and Fiona Go…
film profile
! For the music, we chose Cuban rumbas of the 1960s. It’s sensual and physical music. It alludes to the couple and we wanted to explore the phenomenon of the couple in this film. We’re not dancers but we like to move, and it’s a challenge for us to pretend to be real dancers!

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What is your working method? Is the film developed on stage, creating situations that you then include in a film or do you write a conventional film script?
Dominique Abel: We constantly alternate between the stage and the writing process. When we have a scene that holds together we try it out in order to be sure of its "comedy" impact before including it in the script. Our 15 years of experience as physical actors on stage feed into our writing.

We create a series of boxes, as we say in comic-strip parlance, but we don’t write the content of the box. For example we write: "The couple can’t sleep because the following day they’re taking part in a competition and are very nervous". That’s the theme, and within this theme there are lots of performance possibilities, and we don’t need to write any more. It’s a very particular form of writing, because we know in advance when Fiona will be funny, but we’re never completely sure until we’ve tried it out.

The same applies to me and Philippe Martz; we’ve learned, through perfecting our performance on stage, what type of stories we need. We’re not going to impress people with the complexity of our films or with outstanding scripts but with the style and movement. We have to find stories where we can incorporate lots of movement. What is paradoxical about our performance is that we need to rehearse a lot so that the movements blend in with the rhythm, but this aspect mustn’t be obvious to viewers. We absolutely have to recover the spontaneity before filming.

There’s very little dialogue in a burlesque film and this isn’t a recent development. It’s the reason why burlesque found a place in silent film. With the advent of sound, we saw speech replaced by a strange sound, as for instance in Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot. How did you deal with this issue?
Fiona Gordon: We don’t have to try not to speak, it comes naturally to us.

Dominique Abel: When we improvise, we don’t prevent each other from talking, we just use the amount of dialogue we feel like using. In our comic register, the body is an essential element.

But you don’t rely on sound effects or music to enhance the images.
Dominique Abel: We don’t use background music. In our films, everything is simple and minimalist: the setting, images, movements and sound as well. When we use music, it’s for a reason; either for a dance or another purpose. Our relationship with film has nothing to do with realism; we would never use a sound in order to give the impression of reality. We come from a more theatrical world; we’re used to imagining situations and if a sound is present, it’s because of its musicality. We could compare the soundtrack to our films with the clear-line drawing style in comic strips. Hergé said he would never draw a telephone on a desk if the telephone wasn’t going to ring. The same applies to our work, in the composition of the image and sound.

To see the video of the interview, click here.

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