In Mademoiselle Kenopsia, Denis Côté reunites with his accomplice Larissa Corriveau for the fourth time. The filmmaker’s fifteenth feature film, this drama cleverly combines fiction, documentary and essay, while happily flirting with genre cinema.
After A Summer Like That, launched in Berlin last year, Denis Côté wanted to “trip with his friends”. Following the suggestion of a collaborator, the director – who wanted to film abandoned places in the style of Tsai Ming-Lian in Goodbye, Dragon Inn – went to Saint-Hyacinthe to visit the Precious Blood Monastery. In his eyes, this place is a playground where he can shoot a film without a script (or almost).
“I always use the word “game” in my films,” says the filmmaker, met during the Montreal International Documentary Meetings (RIDM). It’s not a good idea to say that, but that’s what I’m claiming. The entire film is a game of cat and mouse with the viewer to whom I say: “Trust me, I’ll heat it up, and maybe there will be some humor.” It’s a big play with form, but that doesn’t take away the fact that there are slightly deeper subjects. »
“There is a constancy in Denis’s cinema which is formal research, a phenomenological research on cinema, on its language,” explains Larissa Corriveau, whom Denis Côté directed in Répertoire des Villes Disappeared, Hygiène Sociale and Un Été comme That. “In my opinion, this film is the most explicit on this subject. What Denis asked me was to occupy a space-time with something absolutely not defined. For me, it became a kind of research into occupying a cinematic space-time. »
In Mademoiselle Kenopsia, Larissa Corriveau wanders in anonymous settings of which she seems prisoner. On the phone, she engages in monologues where she expresses in particular a pressing desire to know what the future has in store for her. Listening to him speak like this, one is forced to wonder if Denis Côté’s muse has become his alter ego and that Mademoiselle Kenopsia is his most autobiographical film.
“I often hear it about my films because not being explicit about my life, there are people who like to think that it’s hidden underneath… but you’re still right,” admits Denis Côté. Yesterday, we talked about it at the Q
A final film he shot while he was below 12% kidney function. Before receiving a kidney from a friend. Before you turn 50. “When you leave with a film where I like to say there was no storyline, what’s left? I don’t mean end-of-life anxieties, but as you live with death, it colors the film. Yesterday, I watched him and I didn’t find him so dramatic because he is playful with the audience, but there are unconscious autobiographical energies of someone who advances through illness, his relationship to time, to space that I sent on the character. »
“The idea was to create a figure more than a character,” explains Larissa Corriveau. I didn’t have to play anything, but rather be a living presence in spaces that also come to life. Working with Denis is intuitive, it’s never intellectualizing. There are never concepts put forward in his films, but ideas of paintings, time, landscapes that we try to embody. It’s like we’re discovering things as we go along. I don’t ask him a lot of questions during filming. »
Perfect balance between fiction, documentary and essay, Mademoiselle Kenopsia seems to have been designed as a testament film. “There is that, and I would add a little bit of post-pandemic creaming,” says the director. Even though I came out exhausted from A Summer Like That, I couldn’t hold back from doing something else very free, but the body wasn’t following suit. We had just had two years of a relationship with space, time and each other that was different. I never put that on paper, it’s not a pandemic film, but the film is colored by it. I wouldn’t have made a film other than that because I had put the energy into going to different locations. »
The filmmaker also points out that, for several years, his cinema has not been physical, and that in Social Hygiene, A Summer Like That and Mademoiselle Kenopsia, which he calls his illness films, the characters move little or are frozen.
“I saw the film a fourth time yesterday,” says the actress. It seemed very obvious to me that there is something in this film of the act of resistance, of artistic reaction to a rhythm that the public demands culturally more and more by our generalized attention disorder. It’s as if there was a hostage-taking, very kind, on the part of the filmmaker, to impose on us a rhythm and an immobility which means that the slightest little creak of a door or the slightest change of shot will make us startle because we are attached to something we are waiting for in a rhythm that is really slow. »
“I get caught up in all these horror cinema regurgitations, but I’m never going to fall into it with both hands,” swears Denis Côté. You don’t have to embrace things entirely. You have to touch on genres and themes all the time. That will always be what I will do. »
“This woman, or this person, is very alert for the slightest noise, for visitors. She clings to everything the outside world gives her as signals, but at the same time, it’s as if she was thrown out of that world. You spoke of the character as an alter ego, but the more we talk about it, the more I tell myself that it is perhaps the portrait of someone who is present, who observes and who bears witness to time, but who cannot do nothing else. Perhaps that’s what being a filmmaker is…,” concludes Larissa Corriveau.