Lora Mure-Ravaud • Director
“The theme of desire is at the heart of all my projects”
- Already raking in the awards for her film Blackjack, Lora Mure-Ravaud spared some time for Cineuropa in anticipation of the film’s screening at EFPs Future Frame
Lora Mure-Ravaud’s Blackjack (Valet Noir) comes to its screening at the European Film Promotion’s Future Frames programme in Karlovy Vary with an impressive pedigree, having already won the Best Swiss Short award at the Kurzfilmtage Winterthur in 2017. A careful and impressive use of the short form, Blackjack is as beguiling as it is compelling in its portrayal of an androgynous croupier and the encounter she has with the man in the hotel room next-door. Cineuropa spoke with the director about the inspiration behind the film and her filmmaking approach.
CIneuropa: Blackjack seems to be a film that plays with genre – it’s a film about identity, it’s a crime thriller, it’s a love story, but it’s also none of those things. Did you set out with the intention of playing with all these elements?
Lora Mure-Ravaud: I didn’t set out with the intention of playing with genre. Genre films involve rather precise codes and I don’t yet feel ready yet to direct a movie of this kind. These different elements came to the film in a variety of ways. The theme of desire is at the heart of all my projects. The gender theme comes courtesy of the main character and her environment (which is inspired by a real person), my focus was more on filming her than talking about gender issues. But I did have a ‘desire scene’ in mind - a physical encounter which takes place in an unsafe environment - and that’s how the ‘crime thriller’ element emerged.
Sophie Demeyer’s unique look in the lead role is crucial to the success of the film. Was it difficult to find your actress?
The film was inspired by a real-life androgynous croupier named Leila. I wrote the whole film around her and couldn’t imagine making it without her playing herself. I learned shortly before filming began that she wouldn’t be able to make it. Finding a new Leila, a new face, a new desire, was a real challenge. I eventually met Sophie, who’s a ballerina. I had to re-write the movie a little bit, as Sophie is obviously not the same as Leila - she carries a different energy and offers another form of androgyny. In the end, though, this change was for the best because I do agree, Sophie really does carry the movie.
How did you approach the shoot? The film seems to have a certain roughness and urgency about it, but also moments of great formality. Did you ever improvise or was it all set to a very rigid storyboard?
I think every sequence requires its own phrasing. For example, in the bar scene, given that the actors were partly improvising, the camera had to be very free in order to capture the right person, the right expression, the right sentence at the right moment. On the other hand, some of the one-shot sequences (such as the first scene of the movie), followed a very precise storyboard and the actors’ movements and timings had to be highly choreographed.
The film seems to make perfect use of the short form – it’s about brief moments of connection, small intimate meetings that have huge importance. Do you find short films to be restrictive or liberating?
I really like the short form and I don’t find it restrictive at all. I feel very close to this format because I prefer to talk about a specific situation and stretch out the moment, rather than building up storylines and developing characters’ journeys.
What will you be working on next?
Next year, I’ll be developing two projects. I’ll be working on a documentary/fiction film in Rome with Ondina Quadri, an Italian actress. An artistic residency at Villa Maraini allowed me to develop this project over the course of a year, and I want to make the most of this opportunity by experimenting a lot and being very free in the process, because I’m also producing the movie. I’m also at the very beginning of the writing process for a feature film, in which the Swiss producer who produced Valet Noir is also involved.
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