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Armand Rovira • Director of Letters to Paul Morrissey

"Pop culture is inside of me"


- The Spanish filmmaker and teacher Armand Rovira attended the 34th Valencia International Film Festival Cinema Jove to present his risky, cinephile and fascinating debut film Letters to Paul Morrissey

Armand Rovira • Director of Letters to Paul Morrissey

Following the presentation of Letters to Paul Morrissey [+see also:
film review
interview: Armand Rovira
film profile
at the latest edition of the Seville European Film Festival, and its various trips to the D'A Film Festival Barcelona, Marseille’s International Documentary Festival, Black Nights in Tallinn and Novos Cinemas, Pontevedra International Film Festival, to cite just a few of the events the film has taken part in (and another twenty, there or thereabouts, will be added to the list by the end of the year), Armand Rovira’s first feature film was screened this week at the 34th edition of Cinema Jove ahead of its release in Spanish cinemas, scheduled for September this year. We sat down to breakfast with the director in Valencia.

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Cineuropa: You direct Letters to Paul Morrissey alongside Saida Benzal. How did you divide the work between you?
Armand Rovira: As it was filmed over five years, from the second year I had the idea of inviting friends to take part in it too: I spoke with experimental directors in Barcelona whom I’d trained alongside, but at this point, it was only words, nothing more. So, Saida, who was writing the script with me, decided to direct the first letter. She worked on the dialogues with me, but the character creation and the dreamlike images were all my own doing; Saida also has a small acting role in her piece.

How did you get to where you are today, before happening upon these cinematic letters?
I studied film in Barcelona in the 1990s and when I was 19 years old, I directed a short film which was selected for the Sitges Film Festival. In 2002 I shot another with Joaquín Jordá, who was a good friend of mine, intitled La purificación excremental, which followed a similar path to its predecessor. Then, I made television programmes in Majorca; in 2009, I shot a short film in 35 mm, ¿Qué será de Baby Grace?, starring Álex Angulo in the lead role, and in 2013 I started work on Letters... And as a teacher, I’ve been delivering editing lessons for 13 years now, in Madrid.

At the latest Abycine-Abacete International Film Festival, you presented a short film, Hoissuru, which went on to form part of your first feature film...
To use a musical metaphor, that short was the single and Letters... is the LP. In the feature film, the Hoissuru segment lasts longer than the short does, and it provides other points of view and camera angles. The sound editing is also different, and the letter is addressed to the protagonist’s mother, whereas in the film, it’s sent to Morrissey. The other pieces in Letters… are freer in their narrative style; this one, however, also works as a short: that’s why we decided to try to push it forward while I was finishing the editing on Letters...

It’s quite a statement to film in 16 mm and in black and white, as is the case with Letters…
It’s an ongoing thing in my work, because I filmed my shorts on celluloid, but I also wanted to pay homage to Morrissey. I had to do it in 16 mm because that was the format Andy Warhol mainly used, while Paul’s famous genre films on Dracula and Frankenstein were filmed in 35 mm. So that format and that type of experimentation is actually more closely associated with Warhol than with Morrissey.

Yes, Morrissey used saturated colours in his trilogy...
Exactly. But my film is more along the lines of Chelsea Girls, which they made together, in black and white and presented in a split screen: I make reference to this in Letters...

With its sporadic religious connotations, your film also brings to mind the work of Bergman, Tarkovski and Dreyer, even if your god does reside in the Factory...
I’m a real cinephile, but I don't tend to idolise people, even if Françoise Hardy does appear in my film. I feel deeply rooted in pop culture, which I grew up with and which is inside of me. Letters... resembles many films, but at the same time, it’s unlike any other; and it might make you think of Persona or The Seventh Seal. Its offering is so cinephile in kind that these parallels are inevitable.

It also contains a certain degree of humour...
I like humour. When I started studying film - which was thanks to Paul Morrissey because I was fascinated by his films when I saw them for the first time - I discovered other “underground” directors with a great sense of humour, like John Waters and Russ Meyer. In oneiric films, there’s a tendency towards sarcasm (as demonstrated by David Lynch), which emerges quite naturally without overshadowing the pain: in my film, that black humour arises in the segment featuring the lady of the Factory, formerly an actress.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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