Director Rodolphe Marconi follows up a trio of well-recieved features (“This is My Body,” “Love Forbidden” and “The Last Day“) with his first documentary, “Lagerfeld Confidential.” “Confidential” takes a deeply personal look at Karl Lagerfeld, the pony-tailed fashion titan. Created out of 200 hours of digital and Super8 footage, Marconi discusses everything from Lagerfeld’s love life to his relationship with his mother. He even manages to film often feared Vogue editor Anna Wintour gushing over Karl’s greatness. After screening earlier this year at the Berlin and Cannes film festivals, “Lagerfeld” opened at Film Forum Wednesday via Koch Lorber Films and will follow with other cities.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?
I began [working] as a ballet dancer, but had an accident when I was 16. So I began a career as an actor. When I was 23, I decided to make a short film. When I was 23, I decided to make a short film. It won the Palme d’Or in the Short Film Competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999. So it was easy for me to make my first feature film when I was 24. But I’ve made three feature films now and I wanted to take a break. That’s why I made this documentary, which I decided to make alone, without a crew.
Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?
I would love to act again, but for that you are dependent on other directors casting you. I once produced a film that I shot in Italy, and I don’t ever want to produce again! I really love being a director.
How did the idea for “Lagerfeld Confidential” come about?
I have always been fascinated by Karl because he is photogenic, funny and very intelligent. I waited ten years before calling his publicist to ask if I could make a film about him.
Could you elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences, as well as your overall goals for the project?
When I began the film, I didn’t set out with a fixed outcome in mind. I just wanted to be as close to Karl as possible. This experience was very different for me – I’ve made three feature films, but this was my first documentary. I didn’t want to know the rules. I wanted to feel my way. For the cinema, my American influence is definitely John Cassavetes. But for this documentary, I had no reference and no influence. The screenplay came about through the editing. There was no pre-existing screenplay.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for “Lagerfeld”?
I began the film by myself, with a camera and a microphone. This was a decision that I made before beginning the film, not to have a crew that would get in the way of my filming, preventing me from having private access to Karl. I shot without thinking too much about the result, without knowing that the film would even find distribution. After two years of shooting, I found a producer who allowed me to edit and finally finish the film. During the shooting, I spent 50% of my time working on the film and the other 50% trying not to get fired by Karl.
What are some of your all-time favorite films?
“A Woman Under the Influence,” John Cassavetes. I was 15 when I saw this film, and I was overwhelmed by the actors. The way Cassavetes films his characters, looking for or missing each other. I could relate very much to Gena Rowlands, who needs so much love in this film – I felt very much like her.
“The Unbelievable Truth,” Hal Hartley. I was very young when I first saw this film in the 90s. It was the discovery of another world, another culture. I remember this girl who is looking for something without knowing exactly what. In fact, I must say I love lost characters in films.
“Lonesome Jim“, Steve Buscemi. The story is wonderful, the direction is wonderful, and more than anything, Casey Affleck is incredible.
What are some of your recent favorite films?
“The Notebook,” Nick Cassavetes. I love this film. I must say, Nick inherited from his father the talent for directing actors. I cried throughout the whole movie. I am calling everyone I know to meet Nick Cassavetes, because I want to act in his next film.
What are your interests outside of film?
I listen to music all day long. I take a lot of photographs. I collect art books and photography books, and I smoke too many cigarettes.
What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
I will never give any advice to anybody. I think that you can only learn by doing.