New visions of auteur cinema. Interview with Alessandro Borrelli

There is more visual art or cinema? The seventh art, playing with images and time, often captures the attention of the public in a more extensive and wide way of the so-called plastic arts. Yet the two fields are not so far, especially when cinema becomes able to relate with and through images, even more than through the story.To understand a little more, and to investigate the relationship between cinema and art, we went behind the scenes of La Sarraz Pictures, a young and already-known film producer house from Turin which counts works of the highest level as Le sette opere di Misericordia by De Serio brothers and La sapienza by Eugène Green. Alessandro Borrelli, film producer of La Sarraz, told us about his relationship with art and the authors, with the attempt to produce real art works, looking together for meaning and beauty.

Tell me about the history of La Sarraz Pictures? How did it start? How did you develop your own personal research in cinema?
La Sarraz Pictures was founded in 2004. From 1996 to 2004 I worked in film, first as director and screenwriter, then, for other companies, as assistant and then producer. When I started to make my first self-produced short films, as often happens, I invented a “name” for the “company” that produced them and I called it La Sarraz Cinematografica. The name was inspired by the Chateau de la Sarraz (not far from Lausanne), in Switzerland, where in 1929 Eizensteijn organized the first congress of “independent cinema”. Reading today the acts of that Congress we discover how the problems are identical today, they have only changed some technical aspects. In 2004, I decided to keep the same name, replacing Cinematografica with Pictures. The company was founded on the basis of my previous experiences with other Italian production companies, both as a writer/director and producer/assistant. I did not like the way I approached the work in the past, the relationship between Author and Producer, so I thought  that rather than complain about what I did not agree and love, it was better to create something that develop projects differently. I do not know if I have succeeded. The main intention was to put at the center, not only the story, but also the author, with whom I tend to develop a process that does not stop with one title, but go further, if possible. It has not been always possible. The vision of the author is important, its approach is not only narrative, but also and above all stylistic, because we believe that originality is only a small part of the “history”.

In your case the attention for cinema strays often in contemporary art. An example of all is your successful collaboration with De Serio brothers. How do the two art forms relate, in your opinion? What are the points of contact and those that separate them?
I do not know if it’s a coincidence, maybe not. Going back to my motivations and intentions once I decided to work with other authors, then yes, there’s probably more fertility in the author that has developed his own path starting by a major training and artistic enjoyment. With De Serio brothers we began a fruitful collaboration that has lasted for many years now, mutually respecting the boundary of the two areas, “contemporary art” and “cinema”.

La Sapienza - cour_1.42.1 - copie

La Sapienza di Eugène Green (foto appunto dell’edificio di Sant’Ivo a la Sapienza a Roma, di spalle due degli attori protagonisti Fabrizio Rongione e Ludovico Succio)

Foto Alessandro Borrelli

Foto Alessandro Borrelli


 Sette opere di misericordia di Gianluca e Massimiliano De Serio (in primo piano l’attore Roberto Herlitzka e in secondo piano l’attrice Olimpia Melinte) 

 With them we have only developed films. While, of course, the contamination in style concerns more their path than ours, I have to admit that sometimes it resulted from projects developed initially for documentaries like “L’esame di Xhodi” and “Bakroman”. In those cases the filmmakers worked with the material developed for the film and then translated for Contemporary Art, in video installations. The imagery and visual may have important relationships for both film and contemporary art, in my humble opinion, however, they must be well separated from the point of view of the editorial development and also commercial, because what the cinema “asks” is really far from what a work of contemporary art requires. It is natural and obvious that the fields affect each others, above all in the “framing”, on the timing of the development of an action… The fact that many artists “born” as artists passed permanently to the movies, or vice versa, it’s really good: it is an opportunity for a mutual enrichment, where may originate new ideas and proposals that give new points of view. The history of cinema is full of examples of “reciprocity”, just think of great masters like Bunuel or the whole ‘”avant-garde” of the early’ 30s of the last century, when cinema was still searching for an identity, an artistic identity that still has not found and never will, always living the schizophrenic double identity of “art of images” and “entertainment”, where the image reduced to the essential narrative is on the mere service of the story. Nowadays these identities are defined by the places of consumption: the art gallery and cinema. So, unfortunately, sometimes fortunately, it happens to see art in the cinema and cinema in the gallery. Contamination is a stimulating way and needed to be followed, to ensure that these two universes can interweave and offer new ideas. We have a lot of recent examples, think of, for example, Peter Greenaway, who still continues to experiment in film visual art forms, or Steve McQueen. I think of the ambition of the late Derek Jarman in bringing the art in cinema, without wanting to “transform” it: his “Caravaggio” remains a masterpiece, also thanks to the stunning photography by Gabriel Beristain. I think that a separation between “video art” and “cinema” is inherent in the process of production and creation. The “cinema” necessarily involves the collaboration of many artists who work with the sole purpose of making a movie. Video art is instead linked to the very subjective production process of the artist, who sign the work.

What are you favorite visual artists? Tell me the name of an artist or a contemporary art work, and then one more historical, that strikes you.
There are many artists I like. There are however times when you have in mind images of one rather than another. In this period, to name a living artist, I feel very close to David Hockney, I like his way of combining contemporary technology with the process of creation. If I think of past periods, I am a great lover of Flemish Art.

Personally, do you go to museums or exhibitions? What are the most beautiful exhibitions you’ve seen recently?
Unfortunately no, I do not go often. I often say that I’d love to see an exhibition, that I definitely will go as soon as I can, then overwhelmed from work, time passes and the exhibition ends. There is another thing that sometimes retains me to go to see exhibitions: the crowd. I can not stand the idea of having to make a long line and having to watch the show without concentration and the calmness it deserves. Right now I want to see the exhibition of Henry Rousseau in Milan, because his naive art brings me back to my childhood. I am also curious to see the exhibition in Genoa on Germans of the early 900.

Do you own art works? If I am not too indiscreet, may I ask if there is any work that you have purchased or that someone have given to you to which you are particularly fond of?
The only art works of art that I own are the films that I produce! I do not own pictorial art works of great value, or art objects, however, I really love the aesthetics of the image of some of our films. And if I chose to produce them it is because I met the artistic path of authors that intrigued and stimulated me. A film as, “La Sapienza” by Eugène Green, for example, presents a visual style and a cinematic approach very different from “Sette opere di misericordia” by De Serio brothers, but I find that both are not only simple “films”.

How does it work the relationship between art and industry, today? In what way and to what extent the two realities can now work together? I am referring to the film industry, but not only that.
To answer this complex and interesting question might not be enough the space of an essay or a treaty! Trying to be synthetics, I think you have to always have in mind the goal of any production environment, remembering also that all industries, even the largest and most powerful in the world, born of something that was little more than an idea, perhaps a dream. So I think that we have to protect the handicraft, we must safeguard experimentation, because without them there won’t be any industry. I firmly believe that culture can and should also be an industry, but never forget that at the basis of it there is a process of creation and development that need to be encouraged,  especially in the field of culture and creativity. To take a very simple example, films and art works of authors or established artists can generate a industry, but how can they succeed and reach the numbers if there is no chance to grow, to experience? In addition, the replacement or the addition of new creative ideas must be continuous and not producing serial objects, so we must invest heavily in research and bet on new talents. Too many times we believe that it is enough to copy or follow a given model, and we are seriously wrong.

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