See the Sea

DIRECTOR: Francois Ozon
PRODUCERS: Francois Ozon
SCREENPLAY: Francois Ozon
CAST: all new actors

Best Film at this year's New Directors/New Films Festival, the 52 minute See the Sea trumpets the arrival of a compelling new talent in French cinema--31 year old Francois Ozon.

On the hideaway holiday island of Yeu, the peacefulness of Sasha, a young mother awaiting her husband's return, is broken by the arrival of Tatiana, a unsmiling backpacker who persistently asks to camp outside her cottage. In her loneliness, Sasha becomes more interested in her odd visitor whose demeanor gradually becomes more ominous as she insinuates herself into Sasha's home. With its stunning cinematography, See the Sea provocatively uncovers the dark and sinister undercurrents swirling beneath curiosity and attraction, ultimately challenging our assumptions about desire, identity and motherhood.

See the Sea plays with Francois Ozon's short film A Summer Dress, which is a virtually unheard of practice in the history of U.S. distribution. On summer holiday with his boyfriend, Frederic's encounter with a stranger of the female persuasion on the beach further complicates his already ambivalent teenage sexuality.

The following exchange is from an indieWIRE interview with Ozon in New York during the New Directors/New Films festival and again at Cannes where he declared of his fellow filmmakers, "There's not enough risk-taking."

iW: Do you consider your film intellectual?
Ozon: No, I don't think so. I hope that there will be different levels of reading it. That it will trigger a reaction from any kind of audience, an audience that is not very informed about films. And of course, someone who is very informed will have a different reaction, recognizing influences right away. But the horror and the fear and the suspense works on anyone.
iW: Now are these two films playing in France the same way they are here?
Ozon: Yes.
iW: That's extremely rare in America. I can't think of an example where two short films are distributed together. I do think that the French industry is much easier on their filmmakers than we are in the States.
Ozon: Cinema really has the status of an art form in France, and although there is a commercial aspect, it doesn't take over everything. People know they have to make money on a film, but that isn't the primary concern right away. It's not merely a commercial enterprise.
And there is a redistribution policy within the CNC -- when a commercial movie makes a lot of money, part of this has to be reinvested into new movies. So, this is pretty strict. In a sense, movies keep on being reinvested in other movies, so movies can keep getting made.
In American cinema, it feels quite remote from me. Filmmakers look like they are quite controlled, and that some freedom is lost, so I am not looking forward to that or working under those constraints. But at the same time, I am fascinated with Clint Eastwood or Stephen Frears who've managed to do something really personal under the constraints of major companies.
iW: But you said earlier that you were influenced by American directors? How and who?
Ozon: By classic American directors, like Hitchcock. And the film directors who came to work in Hollywood like Max Ophuls and Jean Renoir. Also, I like Tim Burton, too. Because he managed to render such a strong universe in such a constrictive environment.
iW: Your film "Sea the Sea" feels like the work of an experienced director -- very powerful and yet very minimal.
Ozon: I try to use the fact that my lack of means be turned into a strength, and to turn what would appear as a financial constraint into good ways to make short cuts in a narrative. That ended up making a more powerful effect than if we had more money in the beginning. I have a reputation of being cheap on filming. But it is because I want to use that lack of means to be extreme with it and turn it upside down and make it into a force.
iW: And what about being compared to such experienced directors as Chabrol or Hitchcock?
Ozon: These are two filmmakers that I like very much to be compared to, but more exactly, the themes might be closer to Chabrol, but the form closer to Hitchcock.
iW: There is a frankness about sexuality in your film?
Ozon: I find that sexuality is . . .This is where the challenge as a director becomes stronger, because there is always the question about where to put the camera, at what angle and where to set it. It's actually more fun to shoot a sex scene than lover's dialogue.
iW: One particular camera choice is interesting behind that tree [where a sex act is hidden from the viewer.]
Ozon: It's more the suggestion and the sensation, than up-front. More to suggest feelings and emotions.
iW: You create more in the mind of the viewer, both in the sexuality and the suspense?
Ozon: That is one my goals. To leave enough room for the audience to make its own movie and to fill in the blanks in the narration. So that there would be two films, the one that is on the screen and the one that you make in your own mind.
iW: And you're shooting another film?
Ozon: it's taken from a story and it's about two criminal teenagers.
iW: I sense that there is a brutal element in all your works?
Ozon: Yes. What I am interested in is violence and sex, because there is a real challenge in rendering the strong and powerful, as opposed to the weak and trivial. I like something that asks moral questions.


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