The 4000 Blows

Frédéric Xavier Liver
Timeless Awards: Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?
Frédéric Xavier Liver: Ah, I would say there is not much to say about me, this is my first film project, my background is in visual arts where visual production and performative art have fed this last decade. To realize my latest project, The 4000 Blows, I needed to work with a new media such as video, and filmic writing emerged as evidence to respond to.
TA: How did you find out about our festival? What made you register your film to it?
FXL: I was looking for an event where I could present my work, a festival that could welcome it. The 4000 Blows is a hybrid project, it has no conventional narrative, more akin to art video than cinema, and Timeless festival seemed a caring place to express myself.
TA: You have submitted your film to Best Diary film category. First, I need to quote my conclusion: “Your film is what we like the most: has unique artistic value, is hypnotic, meditative, with strong visuals, great sound and has been shot with filmmaking bravery of being pretty out of the mainstream. There is no such a genre as Diary Film but since we, as the festival, named it (following Jonas Mekas book, we admit), we also find your film as a perfect example and fit to it.” Now, I need to ask what made you think your film is a Diary Film?
FXL: It was thought of this way from the beginning, an extremely personal project in which I wanted to tell my own story, to tell about a specific moment, I spent a lot of time with this idea in my head, before that I spent a lot of time without doing much. Then I worked day after day on learning this choreographic work, so distant from myself, which led me to rewrite it in this way. A series of notes and photograms in an unspecified time that finally lead to a unique moment of performance. The construction of the film is similar to an intimate diary, the kind you write when you are alone and then you close it in the drawer. All the work of writing and then filming (and training for the dance performance) was done in this way, without external gaze.
TA: What is your reflection about Time and Memory – main topics of our Festival? How does these themes translate into the cinema? And your cinema, in specific?
FXL: Time and memory are somehow at the heart of the idea of an intimate diary, going through our memories day after day, we build a story out of each reading. I always had a fascination with questions of time and memory, in some of my previous works like NO KAWARA, a series of wooden tablets engraved with the date of the day but 20 years from now, the question of the diary takes on a new dimension by transporting the present and the action of the day into a wider and longer perspective opening it up to a projection of the near future. But this is not cinema... in my last film The 4000 Blows time is suspended and all that should be learning time is translated into a long wait, time that is sometimes necessary before we are able to move our lives in a new direction.
TA: What was your first idea? How did you expand it, step by step? How did it grow into your film?
FXL: The idea for the 4000 Blows was born like evidence one summer day. I wanted to learn a dance step while I was walking, and soon after, this idea became the ambition to learn a solo work from the “contemporary” dance repertoire. Boléro seemed to me to be the most suitable at the time, I told myself that, for a one third of the choreography, you don't move too much... Then came the ordeal of moving from head to body and how to make yourself accessible. The writing was quicker than the learning, the filming and getting involved the most painful.
TA: Why Dušanka Sifnios? Why dance? And, why film? Why film about you?
FXL: I have watched every version of Bolero for hours, days and weeks, but it is also true that when I saw Bolero danced by Dušanka Sifnios, I knew that it was the version I wanted to refer to, somehow, I wished I could be like Duška and her unfettered way of dancing this work. Although it is the original version, written for her by Béjart, strangely enough it is not the best-known version to the public, many other versions are beautiful, but none like hers.

Why dance? I wanted to get myself involved, I wanted to be able to try to move myself as much as possible, and I saw nothing further from me than to put myself on a red table and dance.
TA: How does your creative process look like?
FXL: More or less a matter of complete diving, and a continuous obstinacy until a fixed objective is exhausted.
TA: What equipment were you using for filming?
FXL: All considerably basic, I filmed with a camera and a single lens on a tripod, without any camera movement. Currently I am using a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, and I have been working mostly with a Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 lens.
TA: How about the postproduction?
FXL: On the postproduction side I have been working on Davinci Resolve for a while, there are no effects, even if I wanted to experiment with them at some point, but finally they did not find a right place in this project. And there is a small layer of color grading but nothing advanced.

The most interesting process in post-production was thinking about the original music for the film. I asked a good friend of mine, the composer and percussionist Sebastiano de Gennaro, to help me. We decided that the music would be written for the finished film (with the peculiarity that the music is written to dance to, but I did not dance to any music). It was an interesting process and Sebastiano's work was tremendous. You know, working on and trying to forget Ravel's Boléro at the same time was difficult.
TA: Can we see your film somewhere? Is it available online?
FXL: The film has been presented and awarded in some independent film festivals, and it is now visible (for the most curious) in an online video magazine d-normal-v-essay (http://d-normal-v-essay.floatingprojectscollective.net/video-zine/issue-3-presencing-becoming?page=4#the-4000-blows)
April 2022