FILM DIRECTOR, ACTOR AND ARTIST LISA GORNICK TALKS TO JANE CZYZSELSKA ABOUT HER LATEST FILM AND LIVE DRAWING SHOW
The filmmaker and artist explores her inner man
With her groundbreaking films Do I Love You? (2002) and Tick Tock Lullaby (2006), films she describes as notebook narratives, Gornick has characteristically led the audience through a thoughtful journey as she grapples with the vicissitudes of lesbian life in 21st century Britain. Her latest film, The Book Of Gabrielle, a comedy, is released this month alongside a series of live- drawing shows about regret, and a new book.
DIVA: Is it coincidence that your new drama comedy is being released alongside a show about regret?
LISA GORNICK: There was a time during the making of this film that I got depressed. It’s funny, I can talk about my “inner penis” easily but saying I got depressed feels harder. I was losing my mother – who has since died – and also at the same time I was in a way losing myself. Since all my work is an honest exploration of myself, I found it hard to finish the film. During the film edit, I was commissioned by UCL Art Museum to make a new live drawing show. Asked what it was going to be about, I came up with what I was feeling at the time: regret. They loved the idea and I realised regret was a subject that resonated, so I persevered. However, the regret lifted and the film materialised.
Describe The Book Of Gabrielle in a sentence.
What happens when a lesbian wants to be a man and then meets a man who makes her change her mind?
Tell us more!
This is a comedy about Gabrielle who is writing a graphic book about sex. She meets Saul, an older novelist who also writes about sex, the writing of whom she absorbed since she was a child. He gets off on her being a lesbian, she wants to explore her inner man through him. Do they unblock each other or get in each other’s way? I like to represent life, which is messier than neat narrative. This film asks, what is a story? What is narrative? And ultimately it asks, is our future female?
You star as the titular Gabrielle, as you have starred in all your films. What was different this time around?
I’ve always liked first-person storytelling: off the cuff, lateral investigation. I do it with my live drawing shows and it was my aim when I started out in filmmaking too. This film was quite hard to make, though, and it got quite serious, despite it being a comedy. Perhaps this was as a result of how I felt at the time and so my performance is quieter than my more bubbly previous films. If I look now at the rushes, there’s a stillness to my performance that works but at the time felt really weird.
The film follows Gabrielle’s quest to discover who she is in a patriarchal society. How much does it mirror your own quest for self-knowledge?
A lot of my work is a rage against patriarchy. All my three features are self-portraits but not autobiography. They’re drawings of who I am, not realistic photographs. So with this film I know I have a man within me. I also know that man has ways about him that I would detest in a real man. That’s the nub of the film in a way, exploring our inner men, even if they’re outrageous.
That brings us neatly to lesbian sex, which in movies can be rather hit or miss, don’t you think?
The Book Of Gabrielle is a lot about sex but with hardly any sex scenes. I am in a quandary about sex scenes. I’m not sure I like them but that makes me want to explore them. It’s such a sensitive, intimate thing to portray and it’s been done so terribly, often by ridiculous men whose imagery I have to wash out from my head so I don’t take it to bed with me.
Finally, what can audiences expect from the live drawing event and other offshoots of The Book Of Gabrielle?
Alongside asking myself, who is my inner man, when I made this film, I was also asking myself what is cinema now? The Book Of Gabrielle aims to explore this through film, a live drawing show, a web series and a book that all interact with each other.
“The film is about exploring our inner men, even if they’re outrageous”