‘IT WAS THE MOST INSANE PROJECT I'VE
Tom Dawson talks to legendary French filmmaker Barbet Schroeder
about the law, Japan and a lost classic
‘ don‘t like being called an auteur'. explains the '67-year-old maverick filmmaker Barbet
Schroeder. ‘I just like jumping between different projects.‘ Certainly the Iranian-born Schroeder has enjoyed a richly varied cinematic career. starting out in the mid-1960s as a producer for French New Wave directors such as Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette (he both produced and acted in the latter‘s fantastical Celine and Julie (z'o Boating). He made a celebrated documentary about the African dictator General ldi Amin Dada some 30 years before The Last King of Scotland. and he has worked regularly in the American studio system. examining the extreme behaviour of characters in the likes of Barfly. Reversal of Fortune and Single White Female. ‘Making a film in Hollywood for me is like bulllighting'. he says with a smile. ‘It‘s like taking on a big bull and seeing if you can make something personal and distinctive.‘
This fortnight sees the Scottish release of 'I'error's Advoeate. another of Schroeder‘s documentaries about a larger-than-life and deeply controversial political figure. in this case radical French lawyer Jacques Verges. who defended members of Algeria‘s FLN movement in their war of independence against France in the l95()s. Verges went on to act as counsel for all manner of dictators. terrorists and war criminals. including Klaus Barbie. Slobodan Milosevic. Carlos the Jackal and even Pol Pot. Through Verges‘s extraordinary career. which included an eight-year disappearance. 'l'error's
Advocate addresses some of the complexities of
international terrorism during the second half of the twentieth century. not least the bizarre alliances between seemingly ideologically opposed organisations.
Schroeder admits that Verges was once his political idol. recalling that he himself ‘was very close to the Algerian independence movement in the early 1960s. I was 20 years younger than him. and while I was a student in Paris. at school and at university. I followed everything he was doing in Algeria. 1 drifted away from politics and became more involved in movies. but I kept hearing about Verges when he started doing the Klaus Barbie trial. He is such an enigma. How could he have gone from defending the Algerian cause to defending Barbie? That‘s the
journey I wanted to find out about.~
Having completed 'Ierror‘s Adi-ovate, Schroeder moved straight on to filming the Japanese thriller Inju. starring the French actor Benoit Magimel. ‘It was the most insane project I’ve ever put together‘. he laughs. ‘We were shooting in Tokyo and we couldn't get the permits to shoot anywhere — at one point we thought we might have to give up the movie completely. I had a crew of l()() people. most of them young women. and they were incredibly hardworking. It was Japanese hours — you work for l() days. 16 hours a day. and then rest on the l Ith!‘
Whilst editing and adding the music to Inju. Schroeder is also planning pre-production on another
American film. which will be scripted by Reversal of
Fortune writer Nick Kazan. He does have one lingering regret however: namely that his Colombian- set drama Our Lady of the Assassins has never been released in the United Kingdom. 'A British distributor bought it. but they won't release it. and they won‘t sell it to anyone. To me it‘s one of the best movies I‘ve ever made.‘
Terror’s Advocate, GFT, Glasgow from Mon 2- Wed 4 Jun. See review, page 47.
THE BEST FlLM 8 DVD RELEASES
* I Served the King of England Silver service and sex in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. Veteran Czech ﬁlmmaker Jiri Menzel delivers up a gem as he enters his eighth decade. See review, page 46. GFT, Glasgow from Tue 3-Thu 5 Jun.
* California Dreamin’ (Endless) Thoughtful and multilayered Romanian culture clash comedy drama set during the NATO intervention of the Kosovo crisis in 1999. See review, page 47. Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh and selected cinemas from Fri 30 May.
* Shotgun Stories Elegiac revenge feud drama set in Arkansas. See review, page 47. Cameo, Edinburgh and selected cinemas from Fri 23 May.
* 'l’error’s Advocate See interview, left, and review. page 47. GFT, Glasgow, Mon 2-Thu 4 Jun.
* Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull Everyone’s favourite archeologist is back. See review, page 46. General release from Thu 22 May.
* Sex and the City The hype has been insane —- go and judge the results for yourself. See feature. page 24. General release from Wed 28 May.
* Heartbeat Detector Powerful French corporate thriller. Out now on selected release.
* Caramel Joyous Beirut beauty parlour comedy. Out now on selected release.
* Cluny Brown The great Ernst Lubitsch's last completed film finally gets a good DVD release. This delightful 1946 romp about one nice young English girl's scandalous relationship with a Czech refugee still feels relevant today. See review, page 62. Out Mon 26 May (BFI).
22 May—5 Jun 2008 THE LIST 45