Morgan Simon • Director
by Fabien Lemercier
- Interview with young French filmmaker Morgan Simon, whose debut feature, A Taste of Ink, was awarded at San Sebastián
Morgan Simon, who studied screenwriting at La Fémis before making a series of acclaimed short films, talks to us about his debut feature, A Taste of Ink [+see also:
interview: Morgan Simon
film profile], which received a special mention in the New Directors section at San Sebastián.
Cineuropa: Where did the idea for A Taste of Ink come from?
Morgan Simon: From the world of post-hardcore music, which I am very familiar with, and the idea of the difference between what we can be on stage and off. Then there were the more personal themes of emancipation and the need to steer things in your life for it to change. It made the film somewhat Oedipian.
Tattoos, a post-hardcore singer: the film is built on very strong visuals and sound. How far did you want to go in this direction?
There are always contrasts. We experience the post-hardcore music live, so really with the character, but there is also a lot softer music: salsa and acoustic pieces. I knew I wasn’t going to hammer the audience with post-hardcore music for an hour and a half. But it’s a cathartic form of music. Studies have shown that it has soothing powers, as it drives away the dark and gloomy. But I had to find contrasts for the main character, for him not always to have this assertive, explosive energy. There are also moments when he’s calm, and these ended up being perhaps just as powerful as those during which he’s on stage.
Beyond the father-son conflict, the film explores the abyss separating two generations.
It’s a patriarchal vision against a new form of masculinity that’s less virile, or which is still quite virile but allows its weaknesses to be seen, which was definitely not so much the case with previous generations. For example, in À nos amours by Pialat, everyone goes quiet when the father enters the room, there’s something very pompous and sacred about it. I think this more traditional father figure is starting to disappear from modern life. A Taste of Ink is a film against the patriarchal side of French society.
There’s a sort of cat-and-mouse game between father and son.
This is the heart of the film; a son who just wants his father to tell him he loves him, and ends up receiving this love from his father’s girlfriend, in a relatively unusual love triangle. It was a bit risky, but I tried to portray it utterly sincerely and in as simple a way as possible to never look like I’m passing judgment or taking a moral stance.
The narrative line of the film is relatively subtle. Why this firm stance?
I strive for screenplay purity. If you watch Ozu’s films, Jeff Nichols’ two first films or even Rohmer’s films, they have very simple narrative lines, which allows them to dig a lot deeper into the relationships between the characters and their feelings. That’s what I look for: every scene should move the film forwards, and we go straight to the point.
Do you feel like an integral part of a new generation of French filmmakers?
There was perhaps a previous generation for which not a lot was going on visually: everything was very grey! Then, all of a sudden, there was Julia Ducournau and Yann Gonzalez, for example, punchy and asserted in staging and artistic direction, filmmakers who have no compassion for the stories they tell, but who do so very sincerely. A Taste of Ink does, without a doubt, have a punchy side to it, but it also contains a lot of warmth. It packs a gentle punch!
You studied biology, then screenwriting at the Fémis, before moving onto direction. What did this journey teach you?
Discovering the world of cinema through making films for my biology studies certainly influenced my relationship with it. For me, it was never a dream. It happened, I worked and went where the pleasure of doing things and trying to express my thoughts without compromise took me, even if it’s not always simple or accepted. During my biology studies, I was also very interested in Darwin, in evolution, and in the way that everything around us is tied to our fate. It makes us feel humble, thinking that our lives could have gone either way. And when you look at a forest, for example, you think it looks very peaceful, but when you really look closely, you see that there are wars raging between the trees, crawling under the earth, that it’s all chaos. It changes your perception of things and influences what I do today: looking at things from another angle and not trusting appearances.
(Translated from French)