Obsessive-Compulsive Political Filmmaker: Jean-Gabriel PÃ©riot
first time I saw Jean-Gabriel PÃ©riot's work was at Detmold International
Short Film Festival in 2006. EÃ»t-Elle Ã‰tÃ© Criminelleâ€¦ (Even If She Had Been a
began innocently enough as a super-condensed history of World War II: men
in mustaches, helmets, aerial bombing, tanksâ€¦all to La Marseillaise. The time speeds up from 30
frames per second to 30 frames per year; the song overlaps with itself,
time collapses into an echo chamber with a tolling bell. The thick sound
soup blurs both heroics and atrocities, before it opens again to a scene of
the 1944 liberation of Paris.
Shocking is too mild a word: women
paraded on the streets, slapped around, their heads shaved, swastikas
painted on foreheads. These women were accused of consorting with the
enemy. The French must have thoroughly hated the Germans â€” and everything
connected with them â€” by then. Leni Riefenstahl writes of her grave mistake
at the end of the war in her Memoir: She stayed in Berlin, working, waiting for the
French to arrive. (The French had been her best audiences before the war
and had always treated her well.) Instead of being "liberated" as
she had hoped, she found herself in the hands of the most hostile captors.
After the Detmold festival, I met
PÃ©riot in Ankara, Turkey, where I saw more of his short films, including Dies
Irae â€” a
"road movie" made entirely of still images pulled from the
Internet that rushes headlong into the gate of Auschwitz â€” and he gave me
his DVD, which included Nijuman no Borei (200,000 Phantoms), a time-collage of Hiroshima
before and after 1945 composed entirely of archival photographs.
your training in visual arts?
Not really. I did university in
media (communication) and audiovisual. But it was useless, as we had not a
lot of practice, and unfortunately poor theoretical courses. I learnt my
work in internship. I had the chance to spend one year and a half working
in Centre Georges Pompidou in the audiovisual service. I learned everything
were doing one-shot, one-take live pieces just a few years ago, like a live
performance on camera. Have the Internet and other technological advances
prompted your move into this super-imagist phase?
Simply, when I did my first works, I
had no computer. So I couldn't edit, or did it poorly. My works changed
when I got my first computer.
In the same period when I was doing
my first one-shot video works, I did several installations dealing with
archives. To have a computer at home allowed me to make my first archives
video (21 04 02). In fact, I never was into "filming," but more into
editing. So as soon as I had a computer, I stopped using a camera. The
process for 21 04 02 was to use all the pictures I have at home, so I scanned
them â€” a long process.
The Internet made the process easier
and faster for my next films. I didn't have to scan anymore to obtain
digital pictures; I just had to pick them up on the Internet. But we have
to remember that only few years ago, to find good quality pictures, in
terms of compression, was not so simple. Moreover, I never used only one or
two pictures, but needed thousands of them.
said that you don't use film to make your pieces, but have you ever worked
in analog video?
When I started to work, digital film
technologies existed already, but they were rare, and it was expensive to
use them. I learned and worked with analog material. It was luck, I guess!
Even if you have a lot of useful tools with digital technologies, you need
to be rigorous to use them. It is not true that because you can do
everything you want that you can do it well. Analog editing forced us to
think about the project and the editing before starting to work. Yet even
now, I always prepare my editing beforehand.
video seems particularly well suited to the demands of making works like 200,000
and Dies Irae. Would these pieces have been impossible without digital
In fact, technically, it could have
been possible to do those kinds of works in analog cinema or video. But
surely it could take years to do it, and with not such precision. Digital
editing allows a kind of swiftness too complicated to obtain with analog
anyone offered to develop a new software for you?
No. But I am not sure that would be
Final Cut Pro and Photoshop the main tools you use?
Yes! As I know them really well, I
can do whatever I want. So I don't need to use other tools like After
Effects or more complicated software.
sound collage is so beautiful. Is this also achieved with Final Cut Pro?
And can you tell me more about you + music?
Probably the work with sounds is my
favorite part of the filmmaking process. Even if I like the editing for
itself, the music, the sound editing, the sound mix are so creative.
I have no real rules to work with
it. Sometimes I work on an existing music, as with We are winning don't
forget or Under
and in fact there are no-sound works as well. But usually, I need to create
sound spaces for the films, and in that case there are two processes: I
have some money to make the movie, or not. If yes, I like to work with a
sound editor, in a real sound studio. I prepare everything quite well in
Final Cut, but the precise work on sounds and music is done with the sound
editor (Xavier Thibault, with whom I always work). If I have no money, I've
done it myself. And for that, I only use Final Cut, as I don't know how to
use other sound software. In fact, Final Cut is quite poor for sound
editing and sound mix. But I manage!