The Story of the Great Metamorphosis
The Great Metamorphosis was supposed to be a 3 minutes long movie in color with sound and still camera. It was meant to be be both a story and a performance, telling about a woman who transforms through makeup and masks. It was meant to be a “mise en abyme” around the media and the nature of creation in art, as it appeals to different art-forms such as cinema, circus, painting, poesy, drawing, magic, and even music.The focus would only be the girl’s face, and she would alternatively put on some makeup and take it off, each time embodying a different character. At the end, through an intricate change of faces and masks, she would take off the last mask, erase the last makeup, and she would not be the same girl (literally speaking).
To read more about the story I wrote before shooting the movie, please read the script, it is there: https://louviq.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/the-great-metamorphosis/.
Several artist have been influential in this project.
The first is Arturo Brachetti, who is an Italian world famous quick-change artist (he is the best and the fastest in his art). As a child and as a teenager, I went to see his show and it made a really strong impression on me. Not only his performance is absolutely incredible, but also he creates a very poetic world of his own. Each show tells a story, and I think that is what makes him really special. To see a little sample of his work, go here => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCCjk6sFfZA&feature=related
More recently, I went to see Cindy Sherman’s exhibition at the Moma, in New-York, and it triggered again my fascination for transforming artist. Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. To create her photographs, Sherman shoots alone in her studio, assuming multiple roles as author, director, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe mistress—and, of course, model. She inspired me into transforming in front of a camera. And this is how I get the idea of making a movie where I would makeup and transform myself.
Last but not least, I was inspired by the famous French mimic, Marcel Marceau (1923–2007). His name has become synonymous with his art, I could not shot this movie without viewing myself a good number of his videos. In the 1950s and 1960s, Marceau elevated this finely nuanced silent form of art, L’art du silence, as he called it, to a form of mass entertainment. He is the one who really explored the full range of human emotions in “The Mask Maker” and took us through the stages of human life in “Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death,” a performance that had once left an awed critic to observe that Marceau accomplished in “less than two minutes what most novelists cannot do in volumes.” I tried to emulate him (and I also reproduced his own makeup) – only to realize how not simple it was, and how delicate an art he was practicing.
The beginning of the production was a kind of bad running gag. However, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, so it helped me to pursue what turned into a quest. To put a long story short, I had to go to four different locations and actually through three State (at Friendship Heights, then Georgetown, then Falls Church, Virginia and finally to Rockville, Maryland) to actually find an open party-supplies shop. I regret having lost so much time because in the end, that is what I would have needed to come up with what I exactly wanted. Anyway, I finally found all the material I needed: two wigs, a wide makeup palette, fake flowers, five masks, one hat. A mirror that a man ended up offering to me in a framing shop, because they were moving to another location and it was a leftover (told you it was a long story).
Settling my room into a Hollywood studio was another very fun adventure that included creating a screen with an Air-France cover I stole in the plane I came in, finding a tripod and settling it in the good location, borrowing as many lamps as I could and covering them with paper to get a more ‘diffuse” lighting effect. That done (it took me all Friday 27th of April morning), I finally started to shoot. Then it came out I did not have enough memory on my SD card to shoot the whole movie and it stopped in the middle of the geisha makeup. I had to upload the movie on my computer, which took 40 minutes. So I just went outside my dorm to enjoy a drink in the sunny weather, half embarrassed and half entertained by the reaction of people who saw me with a white painted face.
I finished the part where I was acting the same afternoon (after that everything finally went all right) . And I shot the last part, where I needed my friend Agathe, the day after.
As for the technical details, I shot with a DMC-G3 PANASONIC, and edited with iMovie.
Overall, there are several things to say now that the film is completed. First, I must admit I totally failed making a 3 minutes long movie. This, as most of my errors, is due to the fact I did not have film-editing experience (before this year) and did not realize that what I wanted to do would be way too long to be shrunk into 3 minutes. So okay, there are almost 7, but it was heartbreaking to cut something that took me so much time to do.
What I am happy with:
As I told previously, I wanted this movie to be an aesthetic accomplishment. I pretty much succeeded as the transitions are rather smoothed and invisible. At least it is almost impossible for who has not made that movie to say when the girl under the mask is not the same anymore, so I am pretty happy with that final result.
I am happy because I worked a lot on this movie and I finally carried it out despite a lot of problems and wastes of time. Sometimes it was really discouraging, but it was worth persevering because I learned a lot from it, and also I know I did my best, which is self-satisfying.
What I am not happy about:
I did not have enough time to do everything I wanted ! For instance, I had to work too fast for the music, so I could not carry out exactly what I expected it to be; Making the cuts and editing took me so much time… I plan to work back on it to finish it exactly as I wish. I want to use only one music to make it clearer. Actually I think I was too ambitious, and that explain most of my issues.
There is also something I am really concerned about: I reduced the movie at the maximum, but I am still afraid it is to fast and too complicated, and that the public will not get it. If I had to do it again, I think I would make something more simple, with less costumes but more time to explore each of them.
What I do not know:
The second of my goals was to create something entertaining. The game through masks, changing figures and features was meant to be fun, surprising, unexpected. It should amaze the viewer and makes him smile. I want to bring the public into a poetic, magical, surrealist atmosphere. That I do not know yet if I succeeded.
I do not know either if the public will get the “serious” side of this project, because it is also supposed to raise questions about identity, transforming the self, about the representation of women in society, about what is shallow and what is deep inside us. But that I guess really depends on the viewer, and I think that was is good about this movie is that it has several levels of understanding.
Overall, this was an interesting experience and again, I think I learned a lot on it. I did not work on it as on a class project but more as on a real work I wanted to accomplish. This is why I will continue to work on it until it is completed. But anyway, I hope you will enjoy it as it is for the moment!