FILM PANIC Q&A: DENNIS COOPER

Dennis Cooper

As a way of introducing you to some amazing people working in the fields of artist moving image, experimental film and alternative cinema, we have concocted a short questionnaire. Today we speak to writer and filmmaker Dennis Cooper. 

1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Dennis Cooper. I’ve written 9 novels (Closer, Frisk, Try, Guide, Period, My Loose Thread, The Sluts, God Jr., The Marbled Swarm). I’ve made 2 films in collaboration with Zac Farley (Like Cattle Towards Glow, Permanent Green Light). I’ve ‘written’ 2 novels and 2 short fiction collections composed of animated gifs (Zac’s Haunted House, Zac’s Control Panel, Zac’s Freight Elevator, Zac’s Coral Reef). I’ve written 9 works for the French theater director/choreographer Gisele Vienne (I Apologize, Kindertotenlieder, Jerk, This Is How You Will Disappear, Last Spring: A Prequel, The Pyre, The Ventriloquists Convention, Crowd). I’ve also written a lot of poetry and criticism.

2. What was the first film you remember seeing as a child?

Walt Disney’s Bambi.

3. What was the last film you watched and what did you think of it?

Annette Dutertre’s Journal d’un montage. Dutertre, a film editor, video-documented the process of editing Christine Pascal’s 1995 film Adultere mode d’emploi. Pascal committed suicide soon after the film’s release. Dutertre, shocked, put the footage aside. Years later she went back to it and spent two decades editing the footage she shot into a feature length documentary. It’s extraordinary.

4. How did you become interested in working with cinema/moving image?

In high school, I was very interested in experimental film and dreamed of being a filmmaker. I took filmmaking classes in college and realized I had no talent or gift for visualizing narrative. So I gave up on that dream. Seven years ago, I met Zac Farley, who is extremely gifted at visualizing narrative, and with whom I have an amazing mind-meld about film and art in general, and collaborating with him made it possible to realize that lost dream, albeit late in the game.

5. Tell us about a film that has had a profound effect on you?

The film that thoroughly reinvented me as an artist and person was Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac. Bresson’s work in general has had a massive impact on me, and that was the first film of his that I saw in the early 1980s.

6. Favourite books about cinema/moving-image/filmmaking?

Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography, Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision, Hollis Frampton’s Circles of Confusion, Amos Vogel’s Film as a Subversive Art.

7. What would be your dream double-bill, two films you’d love to see together on the big screen?

Ryan Trecartin’s I-Be Area + James Benning’s 11 x 17

8. Which filmmaker/artist are you most obsessed with, the one whose work you return to again and again?

In the last few years, I’ve become obsessed with Hollis Frampton. I had loved his films as a teenager and in my early 20s, and I attended a few screenings back then with Frampton in attendance, but he drifted off my radar for a long time for unknown reasons. A few years ago, I re-watched his The Birth of Magellan: Cadenza I, and I was mind-boggled by its greatness. Since then I’ve been watching and thinking about his work constantly.

9. What are you currently working on/what projects do you have coming up?

Zac Farley and I are starting to work on our next film, Room Temperature. I’m finishing a new animated gif novel, as yet untitled. I’m about to go back to a novel-in-progress that I put aside about 6 years ago. Zac and I are finishing the screenplay for a 3-episode television series called Kerstin Kraus that Gisele Vienne will direct for the ARTE channel.

Find out more about Dennis Cooper here: https://denniscooperblog.com

Lancelot du Lac (1974)