As a curator for Other Cinema Digital and elsewhere, I made a point of screening the most obscure and bizarre films I could lay my hands on. It takes a warped, obsessive mind to dwell in the nether regions of cinematic esoterica and an almost Quixotean drive to convince an audience to wallow in your unorthodox sensibilities. My series “Curator To Curator” will be a chance to talk shop with other film and video programmers who specialize in offbeat audiovisual work. This week, I will check in with cinephile-musician-journalist Frédéric Temps.

L’Étrange Festival 2011: September 2-11

Founded in 1993, L’Étrange Festival has become one of the longest-running alternative film festivals in the world. The Parisian event attracts big audiences with a delectable selection of outré indies (Nicholas Refn’s “Drive”) as well as fringier works (Calvin Reeder’s “The Oregonian”).  I won’t be able to make it out to France next week but I had a chance to interview Monsieur Temps about the cultural bouillabaisse they are cooking up.

Your event is not a fantastic, arthouse or horror film festival. What film in the last five years best embodies the spirit and aesthetic of your festival?
– Quentin Dupieux’s “Rubber”: For its disrespectful tone and its ability to turn the codes of the genre movies into a surrealistic essay.

-Chris Morris’s “Four Lions”: For the cleverness of its story and the way it deals with a theme of collective anxiety as a comedy, demonstrating once more that life is only a big joke…

-Bruce McDonald’s “Pontypool”: Because it maintains the viewer’s tension until the end with no big effects. Such an excellent editing and total control have rarely been seen since Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone”.

-Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Valhalla Rising”: Probably the most beautiful ‘zen’ and haunted movie since Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”.

-José Mojica Marins’s “Embodiment of Evil”: Because a movie director in his seventies demonstrates to a whole generation of geeks what it’s like to make a fuckin’ good wild movie!

-Duncan Jones’s “Moon”: Because it proves that metaphysical Sci-Fi can meet with public success.

-Adam Elliot’s “Mary & Max”: For it is an incredibly generous movie as well as a very black and desperate cartoon.

And this year, Michaël R. Roskam’s “Bullhead”: Because this highly accurate movie proves that it is still possible to surprise people with a very strong thriller.

Tell us about the selections in the L’Étrange Musique section. Our American readers may not know “The Bunker of the Last Gunshots” so give us some details about that.

"The Bunker of The Last Gunshots"

“The Bunker of the Last Gunshots” is probably THE most mythical French short film of these last 30  years. First, because it was Caro & Jeunet’s most realized accomplishment before they started directing feature-length movies. The film also showed a whole generation of musicians, directors, and creators that it was possible to accomplish a sort of experimental movie and still captivate the audience. In Paris, in the early eighties, and for a very long time, this film was played with “Eraserhead” as a double bill. Caro made the original soundtrack with his experimental group “Parazite” and we found it exciting to commission a new live soundtrack thirty years later.

Let us assume I gave you $5 million so you could hire any rock band of your choice to do a live score to any film of your choice. Money would not be an issue. What film and band would you choose?
First set: (Sir) Paul Mc Cartney, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp playing on Dwain Esper’s “Maniac”.

Second set: Jarvis Cocker and Andy Partridge playing on any film by Jan Svankmajer.

So $5 million would be a bit too much…

Let us assume you met a group of aliens who has never seen a film before. Cinema does not exist on their planet. Give us a list of five films you would show them.
To tell them what we fear —  everything from Buster Keaton to Kenneth Anger’s “Magic Lantern Cycle”. To tell them who we are — Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”, Ophuls’ “The Sorrow & the Pity”, and Gaspar Noe’s “I Stand Alone”. And to make them laugh — “Avatar”…

Describe your favorite scene from a film you saw in the last 12 months. The scene does not need to be in your favorite film of the year. In fact, the film as a whole may not even be very good. I just want to know about an isolated scene that struck you as brilliant.
In “The A-Team”, there’s a kind of crazy scene where Liam Neeson tries to slow down the fall of a tank into a lake. By shooting rockets, he manages to slow down the vertiginous fall and to redirect the tank. However twisted it may seem, it appears totally feasible. Even in the Bond movies, they never tried this. As I didn’t know the original TV show, my expectations were low. I actually enjoyed it. The film is a good combination of quirky humor and action.

If you could adapt any novel for a feature film, what book would you choose?  Why?
According to statistics, 87% of movies are adapted or inspired from short stories, novels or Comics. Thus, I’d rather try to write something original. Anyway, for the time being, I already try to dedicate myself to my musical productions…

FBI Surveillance Photo: J.X. Williams

I heard you invited the film director J.X. Williams to your festival last year but he could not attend even though you bought him a ticket to Paris. Witnesses claimed he urinated in the aisle of the plane because the flight attendant would not let him use the bathroom before takeoff. As a result, he was arrested for public indecency.  Is there any truth to this rumor?

It’s more complicated than that. J.X.Williams actually was invited to the festival to present the restored version of Kenneth Anger’s mythical and unseen movie “The Story of O”, which was found in Switzerland thanks to the support of Gérard Depardieu and the heirs of the Renault Family (the car manufacturer). Since Kenneth Anger was unavailable and J.X.Williams worked as chief cameraman on the movie back in 1960, he could tell us a lot about it. After picking up the print at the Dublin cinematheque, Williams was arrested during the takeoff of his Dublin-Paris flight. Without Gérard Depardieu’s intervention, things would certainly have turned badly.  In addition to this unfortunate event, Williams’ luggage – containing the precious copy – were not allowed to enter the territory by French customs. Once again, this movie – that everybody kept waiting for nearly half a century – will remain a complete mystery…

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