Laurent Courtiaud and Julien Carbon are both incredibly friendly, and I say that with all the more scruples I had written my review of the Nights the Red of the Executioner Jade, even before you have met for the first time, during a memorable premiere at the New Latina, on a background of a Dry Martini-bodied… The following interview was conducted the day after the film’s release in cinemas, a output that you’ve probably missed out because of an operating unfairly minimalist (but it is also what makes the charm of the genre), and I offer it to you today on the occasion of his recent output, in Blu-Ray/DVD. While our interview was not supposed to at the base last a quarter of an hour, the two directors and myself have had the chance to talk for almost a whole hour ; and the fact deserves to be underlined, because the interviews that extend are not commonplace…
Carbon and Courtiaud articulate their start in the middle, their years of hard, their passion for the cinema of hong kong and, inevitably, their love for their great master, Tsui Hark.
Let’s start very simply : how did you meet ?
JC : We met in the 90’s in Belleville, in the Chinese quarter. There was a videoclub that rented pirated cassette recordings of movies from Hong Kong, and as it was totally illegal, they hired very rarely French… Laurent and I, we thought we would each be the only French to go there, until the day that we crossed. We started to discuss, and then we became buddies.
LC : Julien had just co-founding the Butterfly Warriors, the first magazine on Hong Kong, and I had bought the first issue, so I knew his name.
And when you set out to write the scenarios together ?
LC : We first worked on our own for 5 years. Julien worked for Jean-Pierre Dionnet on Channel, and I was a multimedia designer and teacher to Louis Lumière. We were going regularly to Hong Kong, at our expense, to meet the people who made the movie that we liked and try to talk about it here, to communicate our enthusiasm and our interest.
As journalists ?
LC : Yes, you wrote to full-of ducks : Screens, Mad, Impact, Cinéphage, First… no one else was talking, then we knew John Woo, Tsui Hark and Wong Kar-wai since the late 80’s.
JC : You know, in ‘ 91 John Woo came to Paris with Chown Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung and Cherie Chung to turn Once A Thief [” Partners ” in French, editor’s note], and there was nobody ! We were the only ones to go on the shoot. They were filming the scene in the beginning with Leslie, on the Pont des Arts, and there was no French journalist who came to see it. They did not know them, and that they were not interested. And at the time of Days of Being Wild, Julien was the first in Hong Kong, and then when the movie was released on cassette in there, we showed to the French distributors, it does not interest him. We said, ” Wong Kar-wai… this is the shit ! ”
The same people later fought to buy these films, at the time they will say ” but it looks like a bit of a sub-Antonioni “. We heard distributors say about The Lovers, Tsui, ” bah we don’t buy from the operetta eh. “After of course all of these people here are completely changed in attitude and they appear as the great defender of asian cinema.
And it is journalistic writing, which has led to the writing story ?
LC : We had the desire to write, and since a long time. I had studied film in this aim, but it ran a little around the pot, so we started to write together, a first scenario. There was an attempt to show off a little in France, but we said “it is a genre film, it is done in the United States or Hong Kong, but pasici “. At that time, in ‘ 94, was practically that Besson who had done a genre film… Finally, Christophe Gans had been Crying Freeman, but it was in English and filmed in Canada, so it was not really the demonstration of the opening on the genre cinema French.
It has at least shown the way to follow : to do something cool, it is necessary to change the country.
LC : that’s It : we went to Hong-Kong, at the occasion of a meeting with Tsui, and it was handed to him 2 stories that we had written, to tell us if in his opinion it was something that we could sell there. We returned in France, and he reminded us 2 weeks later to tell us that he had read the stories and there was one that appealed to him. He asked us if we wanted to come to Hong Kong to write it for him… we said yes !
You have to really feel that you’re at a turning point in your life when Tsui Hark thee, announces that he wants to work with you, right ?
JC : Yeah, as much as it was a period where our multiple trips by passion we had put in financial situations terrifying… I was forbidden banking and Laurent was downright pursued by bailiffs. When Tsui takes a decision, he takes it quickly and it goes quickly, so we had 15 days to be in Hong Kong. So we left everything behind us, we took our suitcases and we left. We worked on the script in 3 months, and then he asked us to do another thing, then it was extended for 6 months, then 6 months, then we decided to stay. 15.
And you know the rest : the price with Johnnie To for Running out of Time and collaborations with Wong Kar-wai, but what catches the attention a little more in your films is to see that you have also worked on japanese animation, with Lupin III and Golgo XIII…
LC : Yeah, but it was for Tsui also.
JC : It was at a time when he was preparing his Van Damme, he tried to present projects a little in all directions to the stranger… He had already been in co-production with Toho [a big box of prod jap, editor’s note] to the Wicked City, so he was in good relations with them.
One of Yoshiaki Kawajiri ?
JC : that’s It, but the version that Tsui has done in film, it is a bis absolutely mind-blowing, with Tatsuya Nakadai disguised as a pig on a plane out of cardboard, it’s crazy, but this is… weird. This thing had been produced by the Toho, and as he was always in a relationship with them, and he wanted to present several projects, including Lupin was one of them. The Toho also wanted to adapt Golgo, so we started to work with Tsui, it was a full script, but his vision was very different from that of the comic strip, and it is for this reason that Toho has refused to produce… When we started to work on Golgo, we spruced up all the episodes, and it was all over, but in fact the truth is that Tsui don’t much like Golgo. It is a killer macho, very silent, that from time to time hits a bathe with a girl and after going to fill contracts… it not understand the trick of the outlet for the guys who work at the office and need to relax a little by reading it. Ca pleased him not, so he wanted to make a Golgo more feminist …
But it was more Golgo, in this case.
JC : Yeah, it was more Golgo. It was funny, so fucking well, it was more of the same character. Then we presented a Godzilla, when they revived the franchise, because it was the dream of Tsui to make a Godzilla, but in the end it is Kitamura who had it.
LC : at that time, Tsui was also in contact with Warner, and as they knew not too what to make of Batman saw the direction it was taking, they were open for a Robin or Nightwing… But Tsui doesn’t even care about Robin, he wanted to do a Batgirl, so we wrote a Batgirl, but the Americans have said ” yeah it’s cool, but we what we want is Robin… “
So in the end a lot of projects that have not resulted…
JC : Yes, but it is what it is to be a screenwriter and development, and anyway when you work for Tsui it develops always a dozen projects at the same time… It is finally on all the work that was done with him, the only thing on which one has our name on it is Black Mask II, while there was no script, just a first version that has absolutely nothing to do with the finished film… If it is generic it’s just because it was him slip a hand in Thailand during the filming
LC : In reality, it was Ringo Lam who had to perform, and Tsui, had only produce. This is when Tsui has put wrestlers in the film and started to change some of the stuff Ringo of a sudden said, “aaah-uh I think I have a swimming pool or something like that, finally I’ll be free for the next 6 months, hi guys !” and he left. Then Sony Pictures, who had put money on it, demanded to have writers in the u.s., and ended up kicked out. Ca we annoyed them, but it is the rule of the game… So it is they who have made the current scenario, and just when Tsui has started filming he said ” anyway I don’t like the scenario of Us, come, we are going to rewrite it “, but it was too late. The scenario was not very good, but it was not necessarily the fault of these guys. Tsui had given them directions that were hardly manageable, barjos, and additionally it changed everything as it was turning, it was anything total. But it was funny, because you see it every day of the elephants that crush cars, and Traci Lords…
JC : He [me] knows not Traci Lords, he was not born when Traci Lords was working…
LC : He heard about it anyway, it is documented, it is a professional !
But, after having spent 15 years working only as script writers, what is it that drove you to pass the course and to carry you-even The Nights Red instead of just selling the script ?
LC : In 2007, we had just spent 2 years wasting our time on a French film. In fact it is a French producer, Eric Neve, of the bats, which we had proposed at the beginning, in 2003 or 2004, to write a French film which will be shot in Hong Kong. He knew that they had won a prize, he had seen films of Johnnie To and said it was the films that were not expensive… So he called us and asked us if we were interested in doing a polar French who happen to Hong Kong. We wanted to achieve for a long time, and it was the occasion, so we told him ” Only if we realize it. “If there’s a French film, which turns and which is made in HK, it is we who take care of it or person, or in any case they will do so with others. The project started to climb, money has been raised, it had to be with Romain Duris and Marina Foïs… things are put in place there, little by little, it went far enough, since ¾ of the budget have been removed, the actors that I have just mentioned had given their agreement, so it was not dreams, and then it is broken the mouth at the last moment.
JC : Like a lot of French projects
LC : One of the main reasons was that Neve realized that the idea to make a French film in Hong Kong how Johnnie To, it was good, but it meant to go on-site, working at the hong kaise, send the money and the slip to the Chinese who are going to do all their stuff in Cantonese…
JC : And in addition there was the fact that we don’t have shot images before to reassure them. It is also proof that even if you have a route in Hong Kong with directors prestigious, for these people here in France, it’s worth nothing.
LK : we Were told ” But Running out of time, who has seen him ? “Then they said” oh listen to in France may be little people, but it has been No. 1 at the box office in China pop, so there’s more people that Bienvenue chez les ch’tis… “
But yet at that time John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam had already made stuff in the Usa…
LC : Yeah, it was coming.
JC : It was coming, HK was already released, all of that, the movies were available, the situation had already changed, but for the people…
LC : THERE was a big difference between the people who make the film in France and the journalists or technicians, who are people more passionate. We met some big producers, you see…
JC : at that time, we had a surreal encounter with Claude Berri, who was to write down what they all want : a thriller with stunts done by hong kong citizens, but with French actors in it. The idea had surely been blown off by other people, and when he spoke of the people of Hong Kong with whom we had worked, that he did not, then that was one of the biggest French producers, and that all these movies were already available in France. So we said, either it remains in the system, we leave 3 years to re-start a project by saying that the outcome will be can be as nebulous as the first time, we climb our own box. And the opportunity presented itself when one has found private investors in Hong Kong, who were ready to follow us to make a film. This is how we started to climb up The Nights Red.
LC : Then we found a little bit of money, and we got to work with Carrie because it is a very good friend of our partner in the company, Kit Wong.
And Carrie Ng, it is already a good argument to raise funds in Hong Kong.
LC : Yes, it is still an actress that has a strong reputation, so that helps. We spoke to Alexis Dantec’s French Connection, that you knew because at the time it was part of the people who were willing to invest on the film, which was not done. And it is him that we proposed to make a coprod, to raise money to Canal + in box French Fright, provided that the film has French character and 50% of the dialogues in French. At this time, it was just the idea of a thriller fetish a little perverse with Carrie in killer super lookée in the middle, a film with very beautiful women… All the ingredients were there, but nothing was written yet, so we embarked on the writing, knowing that we were going to try to play a little bit to play on the treatment of the face-to-face West/Asia, since it was a mandatory step to have the money. But it was interesting, then that’s the thing about the B also, you are playing under stress, it is necessary to do the best with the cards that it gives you …
And therefore, the presence of French actresses in the cast so it is purely an economic constraint ?
JC : in The beginning yes, but really for us it was interesting, because after the success of Tiger and Dragon, we were more often asked to develop these stories of Westerners who arrive in HK, or the reverse. In The Nights Red we tried to keep all the clichés of the mysterious East that we expect to see, but take a little timer, this is never the case in these films there… We knew that the film would be built around Carrie, and she would have opponents, and even if we had to include a French, it was not seen as a constraint, because as it happened well before the start of the writing, one could build the film around.
Precisely, this side series B is one of the great strengths of the film, and there has been more of a dir – John Woo or Tsui Hark, not to mention – who are less good with more money. What would have changed if you had more budget ?
JC : I think that if we had more money, the project would have been the same at the aesthetic level, but there would have been a little more action, that it would have been to pay. It would have been better if there had been more in, even more beautiful.
LC : It would have been exactly the same treatment, the same quality, it is no reason, but after we built the project in relation to the budget that we thought we could have, so if we had had a little more money, we could have made things move a little more, we would have put more action… We had already planned to put it, but we could not because our French actress could not hold it, we had realized from the beginning of the shoot with her that he was going to have to take an angle more fixed, more laid back. It was realized that it would not be enough physical, graceful and interesting to be able to deal with Carrie, so it was not worth it. So if we had had a little more money it would not have necessarily changed much of that side, and if we had much more money we would certainly have made a different film completely. Maybe a wu xia pian or a fim with a car chase or a gunfight… It is things that interest us, but it is useless if you can’t do them in an interesting way.
Saw that you were of frequent collaborators of Tsui Hark, why not get involved in the project ?
JC : Because it’s really the last thing you would want I think… How shall I say this ? For us it is like a father, someone who is very important in our lives. But this is also someone that is very hard and very directional in the work, and whether it produces your movie, it’s more yours… If you want to defend the idea in front of him and he is not agree, you know who will win.
LC : He has no patience. It is a great master, and it is the head. He wants to control everything, such as Wong Kar-wai, and it is a good thing, now that we have the product our movie and we saw how it went at the various stages, we understand why these people here are also demanding and also tyrannical: because it is the only solution for the film looks like anyway that you want. But if Tsui is on the shelf, he comes to see you, and that you have the misfortune to shoot a scene in a way that he will not, he pushes you and he makes his way. This is why we have, therefore, preferred to do in our corner …
In the hiding place ?
JC : Nope, not in hiding ! We had told him, and then he sustained us and everything, it was very nice. I think he is rather proud of the fact that there was a démerdés all alone. We know of the close collaborators of Tsui, who wanted to go to the and have had a lot of problems of understanding with him, he wants not that it happens to us, because we love it too, we admire him, too… even if obviously it would take a lot of things, certainly full of advice and very wise, we also know that his way of acting is that you can not be a master among you : if he lands on the plateau all the world is brought to attention-to-you, it is a slaughter.
The late Nights Red seems to say that all is not finished… It’s just an impression ?
Of course not, it was built already like that, the fact that it would go away in the end it is called a suite, and when we designed the character, with its waterproof, it was really to make a figure of serial japanese, or a kind of Bob Morane for adults, with a Miss Ylang-Ylang very sexy…
Exactly, Carrie Ng is quite sensual in your movie, without that it is explicitly sexualized to the death… Saw that she had made his weapons in movies tend sexploitation, you have not been tempted to undress ?
JC : we talked a lot about it with her at the beginning. We knew we wanted to write a film for her, and it was the desire to create a silhouette graphic of girl in the cloak, Sasori. We wanted to make a character immediately recognizable, with a weapon special… The idea was to present the attributes of a person that will return in other adventures, from the beginning we had planned it. We very much like Carrie, and even if its category III are very fun, it goes very well up the ramp to review today. Naked Killer, this is not great, it is not a great movie.
LC : and Then it is quite vulgar.
JC : It is quite vulgar, and it is precisely this that we wanted to avoid. Carrie is a beauty, very sensual, more feminine as the beauty of chinese usual. We had discussed just of the Naked Killer because the character of the Nights Red is quite equivalent. We wanted to create the link between the two, like a beautiful Naked Killer, that there is the side thing of this kind, but that it be shown really very beautiful, at the peak of his beauty, as in Naked Killer and in a lot of category III it is treated in a vulgar way…
LC : We wanted to do the In the mood for love of the category III. Modestly.
JC : Well, we wanted it to be very nice, as it is to his advantage, and found the nobility, subtlety, and then the next cruel and at the same time very sexy Pei Ti in intimate Confessions of a courtesan in chinese, Chu Yan. All that she was completely in it, and until we do the movie, although it has already explored not bad this kind of roles, she had not pushed like that.
So one last question sensual : the bed of suffocation, which is very good, you have done what ? You share it, you have it resold at a club on SM ?
LK : Why would you care ? You want to come try it out ? It has been disassembled, it is in a warehouse, but we kept it because it is a machine that is nearly 1 ton so, unfortunately, we can’t walk around with, or move in with us. Ca we avoided we need to argue about who was going to keep it in any case… It was necessary that it works at all levels : the canopy that rises and descends, it’s a trick really in the metal engine in order to avoid that it vibrates and that there is really the feeling of weight that comes crashing down, and then the suction system to achieve the suction effect and vacuum packaging, that really works.
JC : it was a long design, because just as the surface of the bed is very large, needed a vacuum very powerful to get a good graphical effect. Was particularly important that the silhouette remains well-drawn, by the suction. This is the design work that has been most long for the construction team, because we spent almost a month to prepare. And we tried ourselves before putting the small Japanese in it… To be sure it is not dangerous.
LC : Each of our tour, snorkeling…
JC : It was a lot of laughter from the team.
There are videos of it ?
LC : Yes there is, we will see if we put them in the extras of the DVD, because it’s not super glamorous…
JC : Me when I am in it, it is a bit Casimir, it is less nice than when it is Japanese.
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Band-annonce (VOST) | The Nights Red of the Executioner Jade