French Helmer Claire Simon Goes from Duras to the Female Body for Next Film (EXCLUSIVE)
French director Claire Simon is putting the spotlight for her next documentary on the steps of life from birth to death for the bodies of women.
Simon, who was at the San Sebastian Film Festival with her latest film “I Want to Talk About Duras,” starts shooting this week at the Paris public hospital, Hopital Tenon, in the city’s 20th Arrondissement.
With “This Body of Women” (the literal English translation of the title) she plans to trace all of the female health cycles from birth to death.
“I’m doing a documentary about women’s bodies in a hospital in Paris. It’s all the [medical issues] around gynecology, like giving birth, abortion, endometriosis, IVF, cancer. It’s about all the stops of life but only for women,” she says.
Simon did some preliminary filming in July and hopes to be finished by November.
“It’s an incredible institution with top scientists. There are as many immigrants as French people, and everyone is treated equally,” she notes.
This prolific filmmaker seems to never stop working, and also made a documentary in a village in the South of France whilst she was writing “Duras” last year. “It was just about men,” she says.
She wrote “Duras” in the spring of last year, and filmed some of it alone last summer and then in January.
It’s a dialogue-heavy film starring Swann Arlaud as Yann Andréa, a man who is 38 years younger than his famous writing partner, Marguerite Duras.
The basis of the film is audiotapes turned into a book of a conversation Andréa had two years into the Duras relationship with French journalist Michele Manceaux (played by Emmanuelle Devos).
“The challenge was to make a film about conversation and that it wasn’t just discussion or talking heads. It’s more of an introspection in this film. It’s more about listening and talking than real conversation which could be arguing about who is right or wrong,” says Simon. “You see she is filmed much more than him.”
When writing the script, she figured out how to meet the challenge of filming this extensive dialogue. “What’s different from a documentary is that if you film a conversation you can cut, but that’s the great luxury of fiction that you know your shot will be complete.”
Simon wrote during lockdown. “I had broken my heel so I was crippled. I was locked down before everyone else,” she says.
What did she like about Duras? “I loved Duras,” she says. “She’s a very good portrait maker. She gives a good portrait of men and women. She’s a feminist but as curious about men. She’s haunted by her childhood in Cambodia and Vietnam. It’s always about her. It’s her great strength.”
As for Andréa: “He decided his life is more on the edge of normal because he wants his life to be worth it, in a way. He wants to accomplish immortality. He’s in love and he wants immortality,” says Simon.