Recommending: Charles-André Coderre

written by Lou Touyarou

Originally from Quebec in Canada, Charles-André Coderre is an analog film director and is known for his film experimentation. Experimenting a lot with film development techniques, his work really has a unique atmosphere to it.

“I film myself the vast majority of my images. I mainly work in 16mm with my Bolex camera. I alter the footage in various ways afterwards. For some projects, I collaborate with friends who are directors of photography such as Yann-Manuel Hernandez and Isabelle Stachtchenko for instance. In addition to this, in some specific cases I use archival footage, like in my latest short film "Reminiscences of 15 Musicians in Beirut attempting to re-imagine the Egyptian classic Ya Garat Al Wadi" or in live film performances such as Bangkok Loops or Jerusalem In My Heart.

If you are waiting for a traditional story line to unfold in front of your eyes while looking at Charles-André’s work, let me make it clear early on: most of the time, it’s not going to happen. Looking at Charles-André’s work is accepting to be swept away by the association of images and sound. It is beautiful and unpredictable and is definitely not something you watch quickly for 2 mins while doing the laundry. Those films are an experience, letting the artists take you on a trip, and surrendering to their universe. It is just you and the artwork, seeing what it makes you feel.

“In the past years, I have been very interested in the chemical alteration possibility of the celluloid film. I am thinking in particular of Bill Morrison's Decasia entirely created with decaying old found footage. This film marked me a lot during my university years. I was so moved by those nitrate film deteriorating over time. Then I discovered Phil Solomon's cinema that reproduced the same kind of effect and feeling by using chemical solutions. So I quickly sought to create this kind of alteration (I am also thinking of Jürgen Reble’s films).
In my current project, I am more focused on the rhythm of the film, on the images themselves. In other words, I am more concerned about the film editing and the relationship between the images (could be the contrast, the color, the camera angle) and how it could be visually powerful and unique. I have this real interest to create silent films with a few images or frames only to push forward this aesthetic idea.”

This unpredictability really made me wonder how much of this is actually “wanted” or “expected”? How much is left to surprise or accidents?

“It varies on each project but I want to remain open to accidents and discoveries during the complete workflow (shooting, film processing, chemical alteration, etc.). However, I always have a canvas before starting a project. For example, I know which techniques I will use for a particular film but I don’t really anticipate the ending result.”

There is also a strong feeling of intimacy coming out of those films. Being able to perceive the actual film roll in front of your eyes gives you the impression you are watching a film specially made for you. “It’s not properly thought out.” tells me Charles-André when I ask him about this feeling of intimacy. “However, I did most of my films alone or with a very small crew. This is where I believe that sense of intimacy comes from. It might also come from the way I work with the film, filming with the same camera each time, hand-processing the film, using various DIY alteration techniques, etc.”

Going through Charles-André’s work you can also find a feature film, “Deserts”, that is quite distinctive from his previous work. “Indeed, Déserts is quite different from my other films for many reasons. First of all, it’s a narrative feature film co-directed with my friend Yann-Manuel Hernandez. We were most of the time 7 people on the shoot (including the actors) – still a small team for a feature film but bigger than my other projects. We tried to experiment with the narrative as well as with the form. It was really a unique experience where we tried several things. It was not easy but I learned a lot from this project and hope to direct more feature films in the near future.”

If you have encountered Charles-André’s work before, it is probably through the project Jerusalem In My Heart. Associated with the musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, this project is a series of live performances. While Charles-André is projecting his own work, Radwan takes care of the live music.

“Jerusalem In My Heart is a fundamental project for me. I was involved with JIMH from 2014 to 2019. The images were produced specifically for those live performances. The live touring and the performances greatly influenced my perceptions of editing, filmmaking and life in general. I would add that being around a musician like Radwan Ghazi Moumneh has pushed my film work further.
We had such great moments on tour. We spent a lot of time on the road together, we discussed music, politics and movies (he’s a real cinéphile). He has a very assumed and strong artistic approach that influenced me a lot. I have great admiration for his work and his creative process. He’s an artistic reference for me.”

Charles-André is not at the end of his musical collaborations however, and has recently worked on the video clip of “Machination”, a song by Powerdove.

"It’s not the same kind of collaboration with Powerdove because I am not working with them live and their music exists before my images. I approach music videos like I would approach a film. I think it’s important to preserve a rhythm that exists between the images itself and not only focus on the relationship between the images and the music. I am not really interested in the traditional music video form.
I often think about the work of the American filmmaker Paul Clipson who has collaborated with a lot of musicians during his career. His films have their own signature, their own breath. They’re not music videos despite the fact they're basically images with a soundtrack. It’s a big inspiration for me."

Charles-André's passion for experimentation does not look like it is fading and hopefully means we get to see more of his work in the near future. “There is so much to learn. I don't know if I would speak of renewal, but rather of deepening a technique, a research that I have the impression could last forever.”