Directed by Bryan Dahl
A tribute to the painter, Alphonse Mucha with tableau vivant-style recreations of his iconic posters, paintings, and sketches. Designers and models brought to life his visions of women with long flowing hair, beautiful gowns, and pastoral settings. With a score of stirring, powerful orchestral and choral music by Richard Burchard.
Q&A with Bryan Dahl
Q1: Tell us a little about Souvenir Nouveau, Winner of Best Documentary in the festival.
This film is one part tribute to and one part documentary of the legendary art-nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha. For anyone who's not familiar with the term tableau vivant, it means to bring a painting or photograph to life as a kind of performance art. The film provides a brief overview of the life and works of the artist and transforms eight of his most iconic and symbolic works into living scenes.
Q2: Where did the idea for this film come from?
I had always wanted to do an editorial based on Mucha's iconic style- women suspended in time with long flowing dresses and endless serpentine locks of hair. I started this project without knowing anything about his personal history, and I was brought to tears when I began digging deeper into his incredibly inspired and ultimately tragic life.
Q3: What were some key challenges when making this film? How did you overcome them?
Transforming any image into a living moment poses many challenges- Mucha's sense of style, his sense of composition is flawless. Every strand of hair, every fold of fabric, and every vine and flower all flow together in an inescapable current- a perfect unified design. So, striving to achieve this same effect in real time prompted many different explorations of his compositional style. Some of the paintings transform in real time, and some scenes are created first to set up a presentation of his images.
Q4: Tell us a funny anecdote or a memorable moment from making this film.
A funny story. One of the images is taken from Mucha's masterpiece- a series of massive murals depicting the history of the slavic peoples which took him almost two decades to complete. I needed a sword for this scene- a historically appropriate sword. I found and ordered one from Amazon which was supposed to arrive days before our scheduled shoot. Of course, day by day the order was delayed and ultimately to be mere hours late for the shoot. I could not reschedule with either the model or studio and attempted to find another sword in my last hours. By some miracle, I found an online retailer with a warehouse hours from the shooting location, and this retailer happened to carry Masonic ceremonial swords. I've never been more grateful for Amazon's constant delays.
Q5: How did you get into the film industry?
My background in film started as a hobby growing up but professionally through music. As a pianist and opera singer, I always found work filming shows, concerts, dance recitals, and then later began making promotional pieces for production companies and composers. This is how I connected with the brilliant composer of this film, Richard Burchard. My years as a pianist and singer gave me the opportunity to perform with artists who toured with Mariah Carey and sang in the greatest opera houses around the globe. But nothing inspires me more than Richard's music. His endlessly long flowing lines fit perfectly with Mucha's iconic art-nouveau style.
Q6: What films or filmmakers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
I was always most inspired by directors who had both an eye and ear for beautiful storytelling. Directors like Baz Luhrman and Sanjay Leela Bansali who can create such complete and immersive worlds with their films set the examples I always wanted to follow. Like an opera, their films are so filled with beautiful, powerful both visual and musical moments that you can watch them a dozen times and still notice something new each time.
Q7: Do you have a favorite film project that you have done? Why?
Before this film, I was able to work on another project with the composer, Richard Burchard. He premiered a major work for choir and orchestra in Paris in 2019 and invited me to come and film the rehearsals and performances. The setting and occasion was so inspiring for me, and definitely took my filmmaking and ambitions to a new level.
Q8: What advice would you share with a new filmmaker about filmmaking or the industry?
If you are a new film maker you must think of yourself before anything else as a producer- and that is not always a glamorous undertaking. If you are working on a limited budget, producing means you are doing the majority of the monkey butler work yourself: arranging hotels, catering, props, cleaning up everything, staying up late, showing up early, etc. For someone with multiple passions who doesn't want to do the same routine every day, it is an ideal career path, but it is exhausting and humbling.
Q9: Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
My next project will be a colorful overview of different moments of dance history- bharatanatyam, ballet, flamenco, bellydance, and the cultural, political opposition their composers and dancers faced along the way.