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Yves Montmayeur On His Michael Haneke Documentary, Meeting the Director, His Favorite Film & More

Written by on April 26, 2013 

One of the many fascinating documentaries playing at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival is Michael H. Profession: Director (read our review here), which profiles notorious Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. Featuring never-before-seen behind the scenes footage, the documentary looks inside the quirks and mystery behind one of contemporary cinema’s most looming figures. We were able to talk to director Yves Montmayeur and learn how he came to meet Haneke, the challenges he faced in making the film his favorite film from the helmer and more. Check out our quick conversation below, conducted via e-mail, below.

How did you meet Michael Haneke? 

A journalist friend of mine coming back from Cannes Film Festival in 1992 said to me that he saw a movie there which could really excite me. He was talking about Benny’s Video, which was programmed at Director’s Fortnight at that time. Two months later I had the opportunity to see the movie in a film festival in Rennes City. And he was right, I was totally amazed with this movie! So innovative and so brutal! And fortunately, Haneke was there, sitting alone in the film festival patio, dressed in black as usual with his severe way of scanning everybody around. Nobody dared to approach him. People were thinking, like always, that a director who’s able to do a such violent and disturbing film must be mentally disturbed himself. Searching for some German words to introduce myself, he interrupted me abruptly to say in perfect French, “I can guess what you will say! Because all the French I met told me the same expected story. Is it ‘I’m sorry, I studied German at school but I have all forgotten.’ Is that right?”  He was right! It was my first sally from Haneke. I then did a cinema magazine interview with him, and later he came to work in Paris and we became friends.

What led you to start filming behind the scenes materials and how many films did you shoot BTS for Haneke?

When Michael Haneke told me that he will direct a movie in France I thought immediately about filming him here, on set. It was Code Unknown in 1999. It was my first filming experience. I probably became addicted in directing film documentaries from that exciting experience, but I’ve never expected at that time to direct all his other films (except The Piano Teacher and Funny Games US).

Did you ever feel at times, particularly during the interviews, that Haneke was directing you?

Not at all. He’s much more curious to discover your questions, and of course to guess what is the question behind the question. When he doesn’t want to answer to your question, he’s telling you in a front way, as you can see in the documentary.

What was the biggest challenge in making the documentary?

Juggling so many different film formats: DV, HDV, Beta SP, Digit Beta, Super 8. I’ve filmed Haneke for 15 years in so many different places, from Paris to Vienna, North of Germany, Cannes Film Festival; sometimes interviews were in French, sometimes in German. It was a real challenge to edit this materia prima.

Why did you choose to not include the American remake of Funny Games?

For a very practical reason: the producers wouldn’t allow me to film on the set, so there wasn’t any BTS material to use. And the film clips were so expensive that my producers and I decided to skip over this movie.

What’s the best piece of advice Haneke gave you as a fellow filmmaker?

Nothing, probably because he’s not used to giving any advice about filmmaking. In fact, he doesn’t like to interfere in the work of other directors, even with me talking about his own work! But I think he gave me the best advice allowing me to film him at work without any makeup. I mean, I was amazed to see how honest he is with his audience without resorting to any tricks or any cosmetic effects that so many others directors do. It’s a big lesson!

Do you think people unfamiliar with Haneke should see this documentary first or see his films first?

Well, I really don’t know. What I can say is that I hope my film makes you want to see Haneke’s movies or watch them again.

What’s your personal favorite Haneke film?

The Piano Teacher! Usually I don’t like the term “perfect film,” but it is!

Michael H. Profession: Director is now screening at Tribeca Film Festival.

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