Carte blanche to Denis Côté

Denis Côté © Denis Côté

Film series

The expression “carte blanche” first appeared in the 15th century as a lovely synonym for “free initiative”. In the 17th century, giving carte blanche became more of a cause for concern about granting someone full power. Today, I receive this carte with both honour and a sliver of anxiety, determined as I am to explore German cinema – an art whose every era I hold in high esteem.

When I was 18, there was Caligari. Then in my mid-twenties, there was a Herzog retrospective, and I devoured about thirty Fassbinder films. This led my heart and soul to the present moment, having to choose eight titles – only eight! – for you (and a little bit for me). How cruel. Being allergic to anything too obvious, I scoured the margins, far and near, with no golden thread in mind, hoping to treat movie lovers with unique gems.

Ulrich Köhler, author of the fascinating Bungalow and Windows on Monday, is not often screened. Celebrated this year in Cannes, and a first for this Carte blanche, In My Room (2018) presents the post-apocalyptic, romantic and survivalist journey of a great man-child.

I could not ignore my friend Thomas Arslan, a major but discreet filmmaker, who will come to Montreal to tell us about his experience. From his work, I chose the absorbing melancholy gangster film, In the Shadows (2010), which also pays a precise and stylish tribute to Jean-Pierre Melville’s cinema.

Christian Petzold (Barbara, Phoenix, Transit) alone exports a large part of contemporary German auteur cinema. Yella (2007) mixes tonalities and dissects the smallest intimate mechanisms of a woman determined to (re)build her identity. Featuring the great Nina Hoss.

Valeska Grisebach’s immense Western (2017) could not be overlooked. It is a great film about contemporary Europe and has only been shown twice on the big screen in Montreal. Let us rectify this injustice!

No Fassbinder films, Denis? Didn’t I say I was allergic to the obvious? More seriously though, let’s indulge in at least one unavoidable title: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) by Werner Herzog, a strange and true story – a crazy film of bewitching slowness that largely contributed to the great Werner’s sulphurous reputation.

With Werner Schroeter’s very rare Willow Springs (1973), the third weekend of the Carte blanche will be strange and romantic or it won’t be. Lost in the Californian desert, Malina’s uncompromising author created a low-budget film that was unusually cult and feminist. Three voracious ladies (succubi?) await men in an improbable hacienda in the middle of nowhere. Featuring the sublime Magdalena Montezuma.

Because I’ve simply never seen it, I’ll be the first in line for Ulrike Ottinger’s famously eccentric Ticket of No Return (1979). Sometimes you have to treat yourself!

To wrap-up with a punch, we resist narrative desires and trust the formalist Heinz Emigholz, master of architectural and sensitive cinema. In the museum-like and cerebral 2+2=22 (The Alphabet) (2017), Emigholz confronts interior and exterior worlds by filming the creation of an album by the electro krautrock group Kreidler. At the same time, he walks his static camera through the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia. Repetitive and quite a trip for the more experienced.  – Denis Côté

Denis Côté © Denis Côté Denis Côté

Denis Côté, born 1973 in New Brunswick, launched nihilproductions in the 1990s and has directed at least fifteen short films. He was a journalist and film critic before directing his first feature film, Drifting States (Les états Nordiques) in 2005. His next film, Our Private Lives (Nos vies privées) in 2007 was presented in numerous international film festivals. Carcasses (2009) was presented in the section Quinzaine des réalisateurs at Cannes while Curling, his fifth feature film, received the Best Direction Award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2010. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Vic+Flo ont vu un ours ) won the Alfred Bauer Prize/Silver Bear at the 2013 Berlinale. The unique films of Denis Côté have been presented in over 350 film events and 20 retrospectives around the world. His latest film, Répertoire des villes disparues, willl be released February 15, 2019.