The cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, AFC, SBC talks about his work on From the Land of the Moon by Nicole Garcia.
Nicole Garcia’s latest feature is an adaptation of the eponym novel written by the Italian Milena Agus : From the Land of the Moon. While she is no stranger to the Croisette with films like 15 Août, The Adversary, According to Charlie, From the Land of the Moon is in competition for the 69th Festival’s Palme d’Or. For the cinematography of her 8th film, Nicole Garcia called upon Christophe Beaucarne, AFC, SBC and loyal partner of Jaco Van Doermel, Mathieu Amalric or Anne Fontaine. (BB)
Gabrielle is married by her parents to José that she claims not to love. During a thermal cure to heal her kidney stones she meets André Sauvage. He seems to share her desire and the need to love will burst into her. She swears they will runaway together, this time no one will take from her “the most important thing”. Gabrielle wants to follow her dream.
With Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Javie Cámara, Alex Brendemühl, Brigitte Roüan.
The evolution of the image between two dates.
Christophe Beaucarne : The story takes place between 1950 and 1967, in very different locations. So regarding the look the challenge was very interesting. I didn’t want to do a desaturated costume drama. At La Ciotat, even though Gabrielle is sad because she just got married, the look is more colourful than at the beginning of the film. In Switzerland, there are less highlights and more color. From the 1960’s on, the tones are more outspoken. As time goes by we shift the color palette. So when she discovers love, it’s warmer than in the rest of the film.
A bias from the top.
Nicole Garcia didn’t want a mannered picture. For the beginning of the film, set in the Provence, among a family of lavender famers, she didn’t want the light to be too stereotyped, too “Lou cigalou la conta”. (Laughter) So I favoured relatively deep blues, a cold sun, a rather white light. For the interiors, I accentuated the feeling of the south : you can feel the overwhelming light outside and the darkness inside from drawn shades. This first part of the film is less colorful.
Soft and contrasted, we are talking about light of course !
This is the kind of light that I like to use ! In order to do that, I usually use natural light, for instance the reflection of the sky on something white. In Switzerland, I had the hill covered with grey sheets. First, because the grass was giving off too much green spill, but also in order to reflect the daylight. I asked to put up some large frames covered with cloth, not nets, but real thick cloth. Any light that is reflected on this sheet will be very soft. It absorbs a lot, but it’s very beautiful.
The interiors I lit through the windows. Again, I used white cloth to reflect the light. It’s the only way to go in order to feel natural. In digital, every time you use a direct light, you can quickly feel use of a spot light, I hate that !
A banquet scene in natural lights.
We shot the banquet scene over the course of two evenings, using natural light. The light progresses from daylight to nightfall in four moments : the prep by day, the sunset, when lights are coming on, and then the night.
An example of grading and a trick.
We go from 1955 to 1967 in the same shot: Gabrielle is playing piano, we see her from behind, facing the wall. At the end of a 360° pan we are in 1967, she is not playing the piano anymore, but her grownup son is. During the camera move, she sits on the couch and listens to him. I will not reveal the trick… (Laughter) While grading I altered the green of the wall to be more blue and desaturated – for the 1950’s -, but when the camera comes back in this axis, the wall is much more green, more up-front – for the 1960’s.
A second example of grading and another trick.
For all the Seyne-sur-Mer shots, the sand is desaturated and the Reds and Blues are saturated. Like old photographs when only strong colors remain. In Germany, I have found, together with a DIT, a LUT that increased the contrast of the image and saturated some colors. Twisting it a bit enabled me to use it on From the Land of the Moon. In every shot some colours are accentuated.
About anamorphic and spherical during the shooting.
Some scenes are shot with spherical lenses, using a set of Zeiss super speeds. For instance, the 25mm was perfect for car interiors that I couldn’t do with anamorphic lenses or for very wide shots. In the car, you can feel that the texture is a bit different : the focus is different, the perspective is not completely alike, for instance the hand holding the wheel in the back-ground is small… But I am the only one that notices it… (Laughter). Finally, I think it’s a perfect match… In wide screen 6K, it’s really beautiful.
Shooting on a windsurfing board.
It’s possible, with anamorphic lenses, to move on a river with a Stab One. It’s really efficient. I also used it on a car or a trolley.
Again a story of white sheets and my last secret trick.
I use a piece of white cloth to create a back-light on an actor that still will work while he moves… I use a Source Four, a kind of follow spot in HMI or tungsten. I’ll put up a piece of white cloth on the wall and I’ll direct the light of the Source Four on the sheet. It avoids hanging up a spotlight, it’s faster, and by just by rotating it on the stand you can follow the actor’s movements.
From wishes to reality.
Nicole and I have tried to make the film both romantic and psychologic. Her reference was Splendor in the Grass by Elia Kazan. Before the shoot, she would talk a lot of her desire to combine large exterior sets and dark confined interiors. With the look I tried to support her wishes as much as possible.
1st Camera Assistant : Luc Pallet
Key Grip : Stéphane Thiry
Gaffer : Jean-Pierre Lacroix
Color Grader : Fabien Pascal
Camera : TSF Red Dragon camera and Hawk V-Lite, V-Plus and Zeiss super speed sets.
Grip : TSF Grip
Electrical Equipment : Ciné Lumières de Paris (TSF)
Post-poduction : Technicolor
(Interview by Brigitte Barbier for the AFC)