With ‘The Smell of Us’ out this week, we take a look back at our feature with Larry Clark’s screenwriting prodigy Mathieu Landais in Wonderland Winter 13/14.
Luca wears plaid shirt and denim jeans both by Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren, t-shirt by Dolce & Gabbana and shoes Lucas’ own. Theo wears wool jumper by Gucci, trousers by Balmain and boots by Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane.
Lucas wears coat and trousers by Margaret Howell.
Taken from Wonderland Winter 13/14:
When searching for new talent, Larry Clark has always trusted his intuition – and street cred – over a solid resume. After meeting Harmony Korine, then aged 21 and skating his day away in New York’s Washington Square, he asked him to write the screenplay for his debut feature length, Kids.
It is probably the same dose of attitude – paired with hushed sensitivity – that he perceived in young writer Mathieu Landais, aka “Scribe”. The 25-year-old poet from Nantes, France, was swiftly put in charge of the filmmaker’s upcoming French feature The Smell of Us (his first foreign language picture, due to be released in early 2014), after a chance meeting. Whilst Clark was looking to explore familiar subject matters – youth, drugs and much debauchery – under a Gallic light, he sensed he needed an expert guide to youthful Parisian specificities, tastes and problematics.
“This isn’t about doing a French version of Kids,” says Landais about the film, which follows the life of a group of four young skaters (Diane Rouxel, Lukas Ionesco, Hugo Behar and Theo Cholbi) struggling to find meaning in the urban fauna, played by local novice actors at the exception of Michael Pitt. “The film is very much about Paris and about now,” he ads, sipping on a glass of red wine. Dressed in tight- fitting dark clothes, midway between goth and a dandy, the delicate young man possesses a certain sense of sophistication and style, typical of European boyhood but miles away from the director’s rugged muses. The two men met (almost) by accident in 2009, as Larry Clark was preparing a retrospective exhibition at the city’s Musée d’Art Moderne.
A mutual friend had secretly introduced the director to Scribe’s work – and insisted the latter came to pick up his notebooks filled with poems at Clark’s hotel. The filmmaker liked Scribe’s style – highly sophisticated but raw in content. It introduced him to a depiction of France he was unaware off. The two developed a friendship, painted the town red, hung out in dive bars, watched skaters at the famous hang-out of Alma Marceau on the capital’s Right Bank. Clark asked Scribe to try and write a few scenes for a new project he was working on, and eventually took him on board full-time. “It was slightly surreal. There I was, a little writer from the provinces, and Larry Clark suddenly introduces me as his screenwriter,” he reminisces. “Rapidly, we both discovered an old man and lost teenager within ourselves.”
In the film, skateboarding becomes the backdrop to an exploration of love, money, communication (or lack off) in the age of New Media and recession. “The theme of skating – one dear to Larry and somewhat present in France too—, but layered with local considerations, cultural references and contemporary maladies.”
The impact of technology on everyday life has been a long-standing preoccupation Clark’s, Landais adds, and he found the time was ripe. The film scrutinises the paradoxical role of the Internet – replaying and replacing basic human encounters, while facilitating other improbable aspects: on one hand, it portrays its actors buying drugs online and on the other, making it impossible to have a real-life discussion.
“You see the kids spending their day doing absolutely everything on the Internet, but unable to make a phone call because it’s almost too intimate.” The notion reaches a peak when two of them sign up to an escort agency – only to shy away from seeing their girlfriends. “It’s the irony of New Media: it facilitates the worst in us, and creates a distance from what’s essential. It defines your role and relationship to others, yet ostracises you.”
The film also explores the state of desire and consumption of young adults having grown up in a recession, with little prospect of a career and easy money. Although the group are seen buying things frenetically, they seem to have lost their enthusiasm that should have gone with it. “We are almost post-consumerist, a youth that buys stuff online because it is bored but no longer believes in the myth and narrative behind the goods, because it has lost faith in ad-men.”
This hyper-connectivity goes hand in hand with a sense of hyper-awareness: they all show a certain lack of idealism, yet a knowledge that the problems they read about don’t affect them directly. “9-11, the war in Iraq – these are all things they found out about in the media, but that don’t affect them directly, tucked away in socialist Paris.”
Instead, the actors amble around town, bored, in a town that is neither Compton, nor Amélie, nor Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Drugs are at hand’s reach and recreational, and as for skating, it becomes a metaphor for empty journeys. “Paris is more about avoiding questions of money…” Landais continues, “…faking that you’ve got more than you do, replaying a sophistication that is expected from you.”
The film proved to be a personal journey too, as did his relationship with Clark. The pair became the “Best of friends and the best of enemies, forcing each other to speak, to come out of our shell. It is always about working out your place in life – figuring out what to leave behind and, more importantly, what to take with you.”
Lucas wears jumper by Sisley, denim waistcoat by G-Star RAW, trousers by 3.1 Phillip Lim and shoes Lucas’ own. Diane wears leather jacket by Yang Li, jumper by adidas SLVR, jeans by Levi’s and shoes Diane’s own.
Hugo wears leather jacket by Lanvin, jumper by Kolor and trousers by Alexander Wang.
Words: Alice Pfeiffer
Fashion Editor: Nicholas Galletti
Photographer: Joe Lai