Five questions to the director of photography of Xavier Dolan's series

As a filmmaker, André Turpin gave us Un crabe dans la tête and Endorphine.

Five questions to the director of photography of Xavier Dolan's series

As a filmmaker, André Turpin gave us Un crabe dans la tête and Endorphine. As director of photography, he multiplied advertisements (more than 500), worked with Louise Archambault (Atomic Saké, Familia), Philippe Falardeau (Congorama, C'est pas moi, je le jure!) and Denis Villeneuve (Un 32 avril sur Earth, Maelstrom, Fires).

For 10 years, he has teamed up with Xavier Dolan on all his projects. A professional love at first sight born on Tom at the farm which continued on Mommy, Only the end of the world, My life with John F. Donovan, Matthias and Maxime. All the actors say it, the pair are beautiful to see working behind the camera. Because the director of photography occupies a key position to put into image the intentions of the director, the emotions of the actors, to report a reality beyond words. In The night when Laurier Gaudreault woke up, the duo surpasses itself again.

Since you are working on the image of a project, how do you read a script?

I must confess that I am a slow reader. But my first reading is a bit amateurish. I read the story like a novel, completely detached from the notion of image. I want to understand the quest, the philosophy. If the casting is done, I put faces. I love what Xavier does so much. I am attached to his work, to its development. The time when we talk to each other the most is in the van, when we are scouting, visiting places, doing technical visits. We talk a lot during the day. This is the moment when I enter his head, when I try to understand his vision.

How do you and Xavier discuss the visual invoice?

We can try to put words on the kind of texture we want, but that means nothing. Saturated, soft, silky, raw, we need to have common visual references. Xavier makes a “look book”. It is both intense and impressive. It can be 200 pages and it's got everything in there. He is a great lover of art and photography. Everything is categorized by sections. The director is the God of aesthetics. Xavier always has a clear idea. The sets, the costumes, it feeds me a lot. But the main thing is done when setting up the scenes. We do two days of tests with the actors in the real sets. This is where we work on the light, the focal length, the distance, the close-ups.

Everyone who has seen Mommy remembers the square image. What did you allow yourself to experience for the series?

We shot in super 16 rather than 35mm. A day that is too sunny takes on some sweetness with the 16 mm. It makes everything sparkle. Xavier was right. I think it's the first time he's filmed a gory scene (when he vomits). For the scene of his fall, we designed a special rig so that the camera rotates like a turnstile in a playpen. In the last hospital sequence, in the corridor, the eras overlap. That too is quite new. He fought for the elements of nature. Creating the rise of the wind, the rain, the lightning, it is very expensive. It's pure Xavier, very Shakespearian.

Xavier never minimizes the power of the image to convey emotion.

This is what I appreciate about his cinema and what we find with Laurier. Most TV fiction is based on dialogue. This is the easiest tool to advance the story. Music is the easiest tool to convey emotion. Xavier does not limit himself. He invests a lot in form. It touches not only by the emotion of the actors, but also by the cinematography, the technique, the assembly. It is very complete.

Xavier's works often put forward worn, bruised people. How do you manage to magnify them?

I am an interpreter. Xavier is the real cameraman of the film. The main question is the point of view. Do you put yourself 5 feet from the actor with a 32 mm or 20 feet with an 80 mm? It changes the shape of the face. The angle has a psychological effect. Film from above crushes, from below makes you grow. There is the photogenic nature of the actors. Lighting can tear someone down, make them more vulnerable. We first light up a scene, a mood, a time, an atmosphere, then a face. We adapt to the actors. Then there are the special effects, the make-up. The character of Anne Dorval is shed differently when she is 20 years younger than when she is on her deathbed.

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