Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent

French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello will be the subject of a complete retrospective beginning later this month, and will include a sneak-preview presentation of his latest film, Saint Laurent. The six-day event, I Put a Spell on You: The Films of Bertrand Bonello (April 29 – May 4) will also feature a presentation of work from Bonello's recent exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Bertrand Bonello, Résonances.

Bonello's Saint Laurent will launch the retrospective April 29, with the filmmaker and star Gaspard Ulliel in attendance. In the film, which screened at last year's New York Film Festival, Ulliel portrays Yves Saint Laurent, depicting the often tumultuous life of the iconic fashion designer between 1967 and 1976.

“Bonello has himself said that Saint Laurent isn't so much a biopic as a fiction film centered around the figure of Yves Saint Laurent, or perhaps around the zeitgeist he embodied,” observed the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Director of Programming Dennis Lim. “It's a remarkable portrayal that achieves a psychological complexity reminiscent of Marcel Proust—Saint Laurent's favorite author—while connecting him to the artists with whom he shared an affinity, including Andy Warhol and Luchino Visconti. With its stunning cast and impeccably curated soundtrack, it's a film Saint Laurent himself likely would've appreciated, at once sexy and dense with ideas, moving and uncompromising in its ambition.”

“Gaspard and I had the same idea, that the character we wanted to create had to be 50 percent Saint Laurent and 50 percent of Gaspard,” said Bonello at last year's NYFF about creating the film. “I wanted something of him, so it’s not only an imitation but it’s something more incarnated.”

The series comprises all of Bonello’s feature films, including his rarely seen directorial debut, Something Organic (1998), about a married couple struggling to navigate their relationship while also caring for his elderly father and their terminally ill son. The Pornographer (2001), meanwhile, is about an aging filmmaker trying to reconnect with his estranged son while working to complete his erotic masterpiece. In Tiresia (2003), a Brazilian transsexual works in the red-light district of Paris and develops the gift of prophecy. On War (2008), featuring an all-star cast including Mathieu Amalric, Asia Argento, Léa Seydoux, and Michel Piccoli, is the story about a film director whose career crisis leads him to join a cult. And House of Pleasures (2011) looks at life in a Parisian brothel at the turn of the century.

A trained composer, Bonello approaches his movies like pieces of music, allowing competing tonal elements to collide and rearrange themselves in bracing configurations. The result is a body of work that consistently pushes viewers into new and surprising territory.

Added Lim: “Each new Bertrand Bonello film is an event in and of itself. Part of what makes Bonello's work so thrilling is that, with some exceptions, world cinema has yet to catch up with his unique combination of artistic rigor and ability to distill emotion from the often extravagantly stylish, almost baroque figures, places, and events that he portrays. He already occupies a singular place in French cinema, and we're excited that our audiences will now have the opportunity to discover a body of work that is unlike any other.”

Bertrand Bonello's The Pornographer

The selections from Bertrand Bonello, Résonances will offer audiences a glimpse at the full breadth of Bonello’s transfixing work in other media.

Among the works will be a single-screen version of the installation “Remix,” which reworks Bonello’s films House of Pleasures, Something Organic, On War, Ingrid Caven: Music and Voice, Cindy: The Doll Is Mine, Tiresia, and The Pornographer, by crafting a new soundtrack to accompany a seven-part simultaneous split-screen comprised of footage from the aforementioned films. “Remix” will be presented in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center’s Amphitheater.

On display in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery in the lobby of the Walter Reade Theater will be “Films Fantômes” and “Autumn Mists.” “Films Fantômes” combines two sequences of silent images from unrealized projects—rushes from Madeleine d’entre les morts (a reworking of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, starring Alex Descas and Isild le Besco) and images from The Death of Laurie Markovitch as well as screen tests of actress Kate Moran—with Bonello reading a text explaining his theory of “ghost films” in between the two sets. “Autumn Mists” consists of four versions of Dimitri Kirsanoff’s Brumes d’automne, its images left intact but with four new scores by the musicians Paul Devred, Richie Hawtin, Diana Soh, and Bonello, yielding four radically distinct audiovisual experiences.

[Screenings will take place at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 West 65th Street). Tickets and a discount package for the series will go on sale Thursday, April 16. Single screening tickets are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. Visit for more information.]

Bertrand Bonello's On War

I Put a Spell on You: The Films of Bertrand Bonello films and schedule follow:

House of Pleasures / L’Apollonide: Souvenirs de la maison close
Bertrand Bonello, France, 2011, 35mm, 122m
French with English subtitles

“I could sleep for a thousand years,” drawls a 19th-century prostitute—paraphrasing Lou Reed—at the start of Bonello’s hushed, opium-soaked fever dream of life in a Parisian brothel at the turn of the century. House of Pleasures is, among other things, Bonello’s most gorgeous and complete application of musical techniques to film grammar, his most rigorous attempt to sculpt cinematic space, his most probing reflection on the origins of capitalist society, and his most sophisticated study of the movement of bodies under immense constraint. A shocking mutilation, a funeral staged to The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” a progression of ritualized, drugged assignations and encounters: Bonello captures it all with a mixture of casual detachment and needlepoint precision.  
Thursday, April 30, 6:45pm (Q&A with Bertrand Bonello)
Monday, May 4, 7:00pm

Ingrid Caven: Music and Voice
Bertrand Bonello, France, 2014, DCP, 95m
French with English subtitles

Bonello seized on the idea of making a cinematic tribute to Ingrid Caven when he first heard her sing at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, but the portrait he eventually made finds her exploring a more expansive range of performance styles and moods. A former member of R.W. Fassbinder’s cinematic troupe—the two were married for a brief stretch in the 1970s—and the ostensible subject of a fictional biography by Jean-Jacques Schuhl, Caven spends Bonello’s movie singing a rich repertoire of songs, some of them traditional ballads, others non-verbal, and still others verging on abstract performance art. Ingrid Caven: Music and Voice is a showcase for a truly sui generis musician—a sort of cabaret singer for the 21st century—and a respectful tribute to one artist from another.
Saturday, May 2, 4:30pm & 9:30pm

On War / De la guerre
Bertrand Bonello, France, 2008, 35mm, 130m
English and French with English subtitles

For his return to feature filmmaking after a five-year hiatus, Bonello recruited an all-star lineup—including Mathieu Amalric, Asia Argento, Léa Seydoux, and Michel Piccoli—and made this nutty, exhilarating symphony about an artistic community in revolt. Amalric plays a filmmaker who suffers a career crisis after a shoot gone wrong leaves him holed up in a coffin overnight, and Argento appears as the mysterious leader of the hedonist, revolutionary rural cult he joins as a means of escape. On War, from its treatise-like title down, is a fascinating detour: thus far, the closest that Bonello’s theater of cruelty has come to full-on farce.
Friday, May 1, 6:30pm (Q&A with Bertrand Bonello)
Saturday, May 2, 6:45pm

Bertrand Bonello in Antoine Barraud's Portrait of the Artist

The Pornographer / Le Pornographe
Bertrand Bonello, France/Canada, 2001, 35mm, 108m
French with English subtitles
Bonello emerged as a major filmmaker with this ambitious, tragic meditation on what would become two of his recurring obsessions: the use of sex as economic capital, and the post-’68 state of political radicalism in France. Jean-Pierre Léaud, in a variation on his role in Olivier Assayas’s Irma Vep, plays an aging filmmaker struggling to adapt to a new mode of cinematic production—but in this case, his favored genre is pornography. He’s hoping to reconnect with his estranged son and, at the same time, complete his erotic masterpiece despite the interventions of a crude producer. His inability to realize either hope is, in Bonello’s eyes, a kind of national failure. A film of tough love and great intelligence, The Pornographer laid the groundwork for many of Bonello’s later achievements.
Thursday, April 30, 4:30pm & 9:30pm (Introduction by Bertrand Bonello at the 9:30pm screening)
Saturday, May 2, 2:15pm

Portrait of the Artist / Le dos rouge
Antoine Barraud, France, 2014, DCP, 127m
French with English subtitles

Bertrand Bonello stars as “Bertrand,” a filmmaker approaching his next project with a peculiar obsession—monstrosity. Convinced it should be the central theme of his film, he fixates on the notion of monstrous imagery, visiting museums and even hiring a mysterious art historian (played simultaneously by Jeanne Balibar and Géraldine Pailhas) to help him find the painting that best embodies the idea (considering works by Francis Bacon, Caravaggio, and others). But to his shock, the mania consuming his mind begins to manifest itself in his body as a monstrous red stain takes shape on his back. A disquieting yet fascinating (and funny!) mixture of body horror and character study, co-starring Barbet Schroeder as a physician and Joana Preiss as Bertrand’s wife, Barbe.
Monday, May 4, 4:15pm & 9:30pm

Saint Laurent
Bertrand Bonello, France/Belgium, 2014, DCP, 150m
English and French with English subtitles

Bonello’s latest feature focuses on a dark, hedonistic, wildly creative decade (from 1967 to ’77) in Yves Saint Laurent’s life and career. Over the course of the film, the couturier—convincingly embodied first by Gaspard Ulliel, and later by Visconti stalwart Helmut Berger—becomes a myth, a brand, and an avatar of his era, moving through a string of hothouse ateliers and nightclubs whose centers of gravity all seem to realign around him. Bonello’s primary interest here, however, is cinema’s potential to capture and warp the passage of time. Saint Laurent is a kaleidoscopic torrent of lavish excess, retrospectively pieced together with a Proustian form of fast-and-loose association—and a delirious twist on the modern biopic’s rules and limitations. An NYFF52 selection. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Wednesday, April 29, 7:00pm (Q&A with Bertrand Bonello and Gaspard Ulliel)

Bertrand Bonello's Something Organic

Shorts Program:
Bonello’s reputation rests largely on the remarkable string of features he has produced in the past 15 years. But it’s in his short films, arguably, that Bonello has given the most free rein to his skills as a regional filmmaker, a humorist, and a personal essayist. The shorts included here, most of them very seldom screened in the U.S., range from autobiographical reverie (Where Are You, Bertrand Bonello?) to emotionally charged chamber drama (Cindy: The Doll Is Mine and Where the Boys Are).

Cindy: The Doll Is Mine
Bertrand Bonello, France, 2005, 15m

Les Inrocks called Bonello’s beguiling tribute to Cindy Sherman “a short masterpiece that weaves its way through cross-currents with electrifying fluidity.” Asia Argento plays both Sherman and her blonde subject, who engage in a game of cat and mouse over the course of the film in the photographer’s studio—an interaction Bonello captures in a wily series of shot/reverse shots.

Where the Boys Are
Bertrand Bonello, France, 2010, 35mm, 21m
French with English subtitles

The Connie Francis song that gives Bonello’s recent short its title also gives the movie’s characters—a group of teenage girls in a Paris flat, dreaming about the well-built men doing construction on a mosque across the street—one of their primary points of emotional connection. Bonello’s most direct look at the significance of race, class, and faith in contemporary Paris, Where the Boys Are is also one of his finest studies of how love—and longing—affect the young.

Where Are You, Bertrand Bonello? / Où en êtes-vous, Bertrand Bonello?
Bertrand Bonello, France, 2014, digital projection, 17m
French with English subtitles

“Why don’t you make films like Peter Jackson?” Bonello’s most recent short, made on the occasion of his recent retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, finds the director in an unexpected, gratifying mood of introspection. An autobiographical essay film structured as a letter to the director’s young daughter, Where Are You, Bertrand Bonello? weaves clips from Bonello’s films, excerpts from his scripts, pop songs, and snippets of original footage into a lyrical, reflexive cinematic self-portrait.
Sunday, May 3, 2:45pm & 6:45pm

Bertrand Bonello's Tiresia

Something Organic / Quelque chose d’organique
Bertrand Bonello, France, 1998, 35mm, 90m
French with English subtitles
Paul and Marguerite have been married for five years. They live in Montreal—he works the night shift at a zoo, she wanders around without much direction, and they both try to stave off the cold. His father, an aging Greek immigrant, needs constant care; their son, terminally ill, lives in a hospital ward. Bonello’s rarely screened first feature, anchored by a pair of remarkable performances by Romane Bohringer and Laurent Lucas, starts with the basic materials of the domestic drama and rearranges them in invigorating, startling new configurations. Even in 1998, Bonello’s eye had a calm, curious lucidity entirely its own—whether observing the hanging of dirty laundry, the movements of a caged tiger, or an orgy in the snow.

Screening with:

The Adventures of James and David
Bertrand Bonello, France, 2002, 11m

Bonello made this laidback comedic short—about a Canadian DJ’s visit to his brother’s new hair salon and the quarrel the two men get into over what is it exactly that makes a good cut—between The Pornographer and Tiresia, but the movie turns out to be closer to the territory of his first feature: an affectionate, charming ode to a little-seen corner of life in Montreal.
Friday, May 1, 4:15pm & 9:30pm (Introduction by Bertrand Bonello at the  9:30pm screening)

Bertrand Bonello, France, 2003, 35mm, 115m
French with English subtitles

This lyrical and disturbing modern update of the myth of Tiresias is perhaps Bonello’s richest and most elusive work to date. Tiresia—played in the first half of the film by Clara Choveaux and in the second by Thiago Telès—is a Brazilian transsexual working in the red-light district of Paris. Recovering after being kidnapped by an obsessive male aesthete who, disgusted when her hormone treatments start to wear off, blinded her and left her for dead, she finds that she has developed the gift of prophecy. There follow a series of revelations—including the real identity of Tiresia’s abductor—that push Bonello’s politics of the body to new, provocative depths.
Sunday, May 3, 4:15pm & 8:15pm