TIFF 2018 Interview: Renée Beaulieu
“I wanted to make them a subject — a subject of their own sexuality.”
Can love and desire be separated? Are they even one in the same to begin with? This is what writer/director Renée Beaulieu explores in her stunning film Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin (Les salopes ou le sucre naturel de la peau).
Too often in film, women are the objects, the playthings. Or if they are sexual beings then they’re also sluts (ahem, wink) or whores. Les Salopes doesn’t accept this fate for women. Beaulieu’s main character Marie-Claire is an academic, a wife, and a mother. It could be said that she “has it all,” but she wants more sexually than what her marriage provides and doesn’t feel like she should have to ignore those desires. It’s empowering to see a woman on screen with complete agency over her body. How often do you see a sex-positive message for women, right?
Les Salopes is fascinating and complex. Nothing fits into a box and there are no easy answers. If anything, watch it for Brigitte Poupart’s absolutely mesmerizing lead performance. She deserves all the awards for this one.
Renée Beaulieu was born in Quebec, and is a professor of film studies at the Université de Montréal. Her films include the shorts Qui (08), Coupable (10), and Le Vide (11), and the feature Le Garagiste (15). Les Salopes ou le sucre naturel de la peau (18) is her latest film. (from Press Materials)
You can see Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin (Les salopes ou le sucre naturel de la peau) at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, screening as part of Discovery on September 9th at 12:00PM.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with filmmaking.
Renée Beaulieu: At a very young age I had a keen awareness of the passing of time, the mysteries of human experience, and I was emotionally hypersensitive. With this baggage—if not this burden—writing and subsequently cinema became a way of life that allows me to search for answers to the mysteries of life, to manage my emotions, to better understand them by putting them on the stage and finally take the time. Indeed, a film is a still image, a human experience, lingering with intensity for 90 minutes is a way to stretch the time, extend, improve, explore.
Tell us about Les Salopes. Where did the idea come from?
RB: While doing my doctoral thesis I studied the representations of men and women in Quebec’s popular cinema and the gap between real life and cinema really struck me, as well as the under-representation of women. I simply wanted to respond to this false representation, rectify the presentation of women from my own point of view and try to overcome this inequity. So I made a film that reverses the stereotypes of women’s representation. As for sexuality, it comes from the fact that it is the main role women have in cinema, the role of sexual object; I wanted to make them a subject—a subject of their own sexuality.
It’s rare to see stories with women embracing their sexuality (I’ll even admit it was challenging for me when I was watching!). Were you conscious of the current behavioural/societal expectations put on women as you were writing and making the film?
RB: I think it’s dangerous to talk about «the expectations of women», I think we are more diverse than it seems, but I’m very conscious about my expectations and goals and I believe others think like me.
The score/sound is particularly striking. Can you talk about how it was created?
RB: Thank you for noticing. I studied how scenes of sexuality were presented in popular cinema and I noticed the prudishness of the sound effects. And I dared to present more realistic sounds, more intuitive and more present. I treated them with less prudishness. I opted for a frontal approach, both for the visuals and for the sounds.
About the music, I took a natural approach: breath, skin sliding, animalistic sounds. I love the music created by David Thomas.
Can you tell us about some/all of the other amazing women who worked on this film?
RB: I can certainly boast of the great commitment of Brigitte Poupart, lead role, and her generosity. Her disarming nakedness and her very uninhibited portrayal of sexuality make it possible to go from a scenario of intellectual significance to an incarnated and inhabited film with meaning.
I also want to talk about Katou played by Romane Denis, a young actress with a powerful game, touching in her vulnerability and its contradictions. At the same time inhabited by her desires and disturbed by the social pressure which tries to make her believe that the young people, the children are asexual.
Then, of course, Mathilde, Nathalie Cavezzali, a woman who seems amusing, unobtrusive, audacious, but who is completely subject/ slave to the traditional model of the woman who must be in a relationship and who has to start a family.
A last word about Sofia, fair and powerful Charlotte Aubin, who conveys so well the confusion between the romanticism of the love with her search on the skin and the brute power of the desire, which is not easy for women to own.
Tell us about why you are a feminist and why it’s important to your filmmaking.
RB: I’m feminist because I’m absolutely convinced that we are all just all humans and that from this point of view we are all equal in the sense that we have the duty to share power and wealth, the same human rights and the access to pleasure… As long as there are people that believe that some humans by their gender, race, religion, sexual identities, sexual orientation are above the others and are entitled to other rights, more power and more pleasure, I will be feminist, anti-racist and terribly arrogant and determined…
Who are your favourite women working in the film industry?
RB: Katherine Bigelow because she manages to break through the most closed boy club.
What’s the best advice about filmmaking you’ve ever received?
RB: Jump and you will find how to land…
What are you working on now/next?
RB: I have several projects on the way, and the one that excites me the most is a project that looks like Les salopes or the naturally wanton pleasure of skin in its radicalism. A radical film in its production and content, it is called Contact and speaks of Nietzsche, death, drive, and identity. The main character is a very young woman of 18 years.
If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be?
RB: Donald Trump, Kim Jung-un and Vladimir Poutine…
What are your three favourite smells?
RB: The smell of summer
Eau de Rochas