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Interview: Director Pablo Larrain On The Unique Aesthetic Of 'No' & Working With Star Gael García Bernal

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 12, 2013 at 2:05PM

We've had the usual rotten start to moviegoing in 2013, but this Friday brings the first truly great film of 2013 in the shape of Pablo Larrain's "No." The third film from Chilean director Pablo Larrain following the excellent "Tony Manero" and "Post Mortem," it again delves into the history of the country during the time when it was ruled by the dictator General Pinochet. But in something of a break from his previous work, the film is a warm and human comedy that follows an advertising executive (Gael García Bernal) who's enlisted to aid the campaign to vote 'No' in the 1988 referendum to keep Pinochet as leader.
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Gael Garcia Bernal, No

Going back to "No," I have to say, I didn't know about the aesthetic going in, but I thought it worked amazingly well.
We were very scared, because in the HD era, you don't go back and shoot with a lo-res, 1980s video.

Where did the idea of giving the film that look come from?
As a spectator of moviegoing, every time I see a movie, I just think that a movie that uses HD, or 35, and it cuts into archival footage, when it comes up, you can tell the difference, and it pulls me out of the film. Since we were going to use a lot of archival footage, 30% of the movie, I was very concerned with how we were going to do this, how we were going to create the illusion. Because movies are illusions. You create a tone, and if the movie's good, you grab the illusion. How were we going to do this, have Gael García on Super 35, or state of the art HD, and then cut to this lo-resolution old video, so people would be in-and-out. And in-and-out is only for sex, man! So we tested, a lot of formats, and decided to use the original cameras, so it would merge.

Were there difficulties involved in working with the technology?
It was a pain in the ass. We used the Ikegami camera, it has three tubes inside, red green and blue, so it creates a very special look, it's not possible to do in post-production. We discovered this during testing. It's an obsolete format, we had to find cameras all over the world. There was a company in Hollywood, that bought twenty old cameras all over the U.S., and managed to get four of those twenty working, mixing up the parts. They'd stop for no reason, and it drove us crazy. But we managed to make them work, and created this strange post-production process. It's a long story, but the technology is so different. The way that they're created, they have absolutely nothing in common, there's not one single device in the whole camear that they have in common with an HD camera. And the post-production workflow is based on the HD system. But we managed.

And what would you say to critics who've called the film 'ugly'?
Well, that's cool. But they can keep looking at HD things for the rest of their lives. If they think it's ugly, then we have very different perceptions of beauty.

It's also the first time you've worked with a big name, in Gael García Bernal. Are you interested in continuing to cast stars, moving forward?
I just want to work with the people that it could be interesting for the movie. I'd love to work with Gael again, but I'm not looking to work with stars just because they're stars. I'm just looking to make the movies that make me feel good, and if those movies for any reason need a specific actor that happens to be a famous person, then so be it. But I could also work with an actor that no one's ever seen before.

And does Hollywood hold any attraction?
If it's a movie that feels right, and makes sense, yeah, why not? I would work here, in France, in India. I want to make good movies, wherever they are.

So do you consider this the end of your Pinochet trilogy?
It's the last one, yeah. I mean, I can't say what'll happen later, but yeah, I'm done with it for now.

Have you started planning your next film?
Yeah, but I think it's bad luck to talk about it. It's good to keep it in the lab until it's ready.

-- Interview by Ashley Clark

This article is related to: Interviews, Pablo Larrain, Gael Garcia Bernal, No


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