The threshold move

Denis Lavant turns the pages of The Mountain

by Anne-Katrin Titze

‪Denis Lavant‬ on Hannah Gross (Susan) and Tye Sheridan (Andy) in Rick Alverson's The Mountain: "A great love story."
‪Denis Lavant‬ on Hannah Gross (Susan) and Tye Sheridan (Andy) in Rick Alverson's The Mountain: "A great love story." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Denis Lavant, having just come back from Upstate New York where he was working on Rick Alverson's The Mountain, starring Jeff Goldblum with Hannah Gross (Michael Almereyda's Marjorie Prime) playing his daughter and Tye Sheridan (Alexandre Moors's The Yellow Birds) her boyfriend, spoke with me about his first experience in making a US feature film.

A Leos Carax and Emmanuel Bourdieu favourite, Denis Lavant, plays a "spirit man, a shaman" in Alverson's latest endeavour, co-written with Person to Person director Dustin Guy Defa (Caveh Zahedi's The Show About The Show) and Colm O'Leary (The Comedy).

Denis Lavant on the cast of The Mountain: "My daughter is named Hannah Gross, who is Canadian and the Dr. Fiennes is the great actor Jeff Goldblum. Very good crew of actors."
Denis Lavant on the cast of The Mountain: "My daughter is named Hannah Gross, who is Canadian and the Dr. Fiennes is the great actor Jeff Goldblum. Very good crew of actors." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

At lunch with the crew who were filming Denis and myself for a documentary directed by Sylvia Vargas Gomez on the great actor, I picked up where he and I had left off as we walked along St. Mark's Place in the East Village.

Anne-Katrin Titze: "The threshold move?"

Denis Lavant: Yes!

AKT: The threshold move is?

DL: The threshold move, you know [he changes his voice into a growl], when you believe it in front of you - paid by from your gut, or your sex - don't believe, my boy! It's a rupture.

AKT: It's a rupture?

DL: It's a rupture of casual wonder.

AKT: These are some of the lines? The film is called The Mountain.

DL: Yes - it's about the elevated masters of the mountain. The initiated on the spiritual mountain, yes.

AKT: So you and Jeff Goldblum are on that mountain?

Denis Lavant takes out pages from The Mountain script to show me.

AKT: Who are you?

DL: Jack.

‪Denis Lavant‬ at intermission in Leos Carax's Holy Motors
‪Denis Lavant‬ at intermission in Leos Carax's Holy Motors

AKT: You are Jack and you are on the mountain?

DL: "She's lovely things." "That's right, boy. Boy, is that right to the heart of it."

AKT: This is very confusing. [We are leafing very fast through the excerpt of the script in both French and English]. You have a séance in there?

DL: Around me are 20 men and women - sitting in the chair, concentrated. I walk in the centre of the circle. [He puts his hands on my shoulders and quotes:] Close your eyes. Let it out of the body. And into the body. And out of the body. And … marimbas!

AKT: Yes, marimbas?

DL: I start to dance like a crazy man. With my daughter on the balcony to see me. Ha, ha! A strange séance . Mais - a very good moment of the film.

AKT: Okay. [I look at the script]. This is the marimbas. I see the marimbas continue. And now the liquor store? This takes place in Usonia?

DL: What?

AKT: Usonia is the place, the village? Or Armonk?

Denis Lavant on Jeff Goldblum: "It's about the elevated masters of the mountain. The initiated on the spiritual mountain, yes."
Denis Lavant on Jeff Goldblum: "It's about the elevated masters of the mountain. The initiated on the spiritual mountain, yes." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

DL: No, not Armonk. It's New Rochelle.

AKT: Usonia is the place where Frank Lloyd Wright had …

DL: Yes, Armonk, nearby. This is a long scene with the hermaphrodite.

AKT: Who is the hermaphrodite?

DL (quoting his lines): "Do you know what a hermaphrodite is?"

AKT: So it's a conversation about the hermaphrodite?

DL: No, no, it's a conversation - there was my daughter [Susan] and a man [Andy], a young man - a great young actor, Tye Sheridan.

AKT: Tye Sheridan, yes.

DL: Oh, you know him?

AKT: I do.

DL: And my daughter is named Hannah Gross, who is Canadian and the Dr. [Wallace] Fiennes is the great actor Jeff Goldblum. Very good crew of actors. My daughter and the young man were lobotomised.

AKT: Lobotomised? So your daughter and the young guy?

Denis Lavant at lunch in the East Village on The Mountain: "I start to dance like a crazy man. With my daughter on the balcony to see me."
Denis Lavant at lunch in the East Village on The Mountain: "I start to dance like a crazy man. With my daughter on the balcony to see me." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

DL: It's a great deception for me. That my daughter was lobotomised. Because I'm a spirit man, a shaman.

AKT: Was that, being a shaman, the idea …

DL: No, no, it's a love story.

AKT: Between those two?

DL: A great love story. My daughter and Tye.

Read what Denis Lavant had to say on Samuel Beckett, Leos Carax and Caroline Champetier.

Read what Denis Lavant had to say on creating and speaking M. Merde, Leos Carax's connection to Céline and tourist cats.

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