Regular readers of Hero Culte will have noticed that I have written a few little articles about a German/French co-production called Durch die Nacht mit / Au cœur de la nuit, (aka Into the Night) which is basically two artists or cultural figures spending an evening together on the town. It’s not a “set-up” or scripted, it’s two people hanging out followed by a camera crew – sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve written articles about 3 different shows now (Franco Nero and Fred Williamson; Michel Houellebecq and Calixto Bieito; Alejandro Jodorowsky and Daniel Pinchbeck) and they all happened to be directed by this chap: Hasko Baumann.
The good thing about doing this site is that sometimes people get in touch with me – not often enough for my liking, I’m always pleased to hear from people! When people do get in touch thought it’s usually a very nice experience. Hasko Baumann first got in touch when I wrote the Michel Houellebecq review; it was lovely to hear from him and we’ve been in touch again when I wrote the other articles. In the end, instead of getting all the inside info for myself I thought I should just ask Hasko for an interview for the site. He was kind enough to agree and here it is:
Hero Culte (HC): Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into film making in the first place
Hasko Baumann (HB): I have been a film fan for as long as I can remember. But at first, I didn’t really dare to go into that field because I had no idea how to and the requirements of the film school applications really scared me off. After dabbling in – and totally screwing up – studying law I finally ended up studying film and television. I never graduated though; I did several internships in television production companies and when one of those offered me a job, I just took it.
I started by doing very basic television features mainly on movies, just your regular press junket interviews intercut with movie clips. Very basic. But I was only 28 years old and already talking to people like Van Damme or Tim Burton, so I was happy. I felt ready to somehow integrate my passion for genre films into the work so I started researching for what I thought would be the best and biggest doc on horror films. This was in 2000 so horror still had a bad rep and wasn’t filling cinemas. I found a producer and shot it on a low budget, managing to get a stellar cast. You can see the trailer for Screen Terror
In the end the producer and I fell out. I had no access to the footage anymore. Years later, he hired another director and she turned it into a gender discussion thing. It even got a limited theatrical release! I was quite hurt. But something good came out of it…
HC: What was your first Durch die Nacht mit show?
HB: For the doc, I also filmed with John Carpenter. So when I worked on Durch die Nacht as a producer for the first few shows, I told the production company I usually direct so I’d like to do one myself. And they said, if you can come up with two great guests you get the job. I knew that John was totally smitten with German actress Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) so I asked him if he wanted to do the show with her. He did, and she also said yes, and off I went to LA. The rest is history, so to say.
It was a difficult shoot because you have to get used to the parameters of the show. You have to prepare it meticulously, but you have to allow it to lose control when it starts. We tended to overthink it in the beginning and it took some years to get some routine into it. People in the business still can’t believe that it’s actually real because no one dares to work like that anymore.
HC: I have seen the John Carpenter and Franka Potente episode now and it’s great – they seemed quite sweet together. How John was trying to help Franka find a toilet seat and I can’t believe how much food they were putting away! I also really enjoyed an episode (this one not directed by you) where Crispin Glover met Juliette Lewis. But what have been your favourite Durch die Nacht mit shows? And if you can pick your absolute favourite one?
HB: People always ask me that. It’s really hard to say. There are some that I didn’t direct that are absolutely fantastic. There was one with a German artist, Christoph Schlingensief, and a politician, Michel Friedman. It’s still considered the best of them all – and it was only the second episode! The one with Henry Rollins and Iranian artist Shirin Neshat is brilliant.
HC: I want to see the Henry Rollins one, I’ve not tracked it down yet…
HB: The one with Udo Kier and Grayson Perry is great.
HC: I have seen that one – it was excellent. I love them both, so it was a pleasure to see them together, although I felt a little uncomfortable for Grayson; I think Udo had fallen in love with him, or at least his female alter ego anyway!
HB: And there was a fascinating episode with economists Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald, right when the economic crisis hit. That episode showed how far the programme can be taken.
Regarding my own episodes, which there are 55 of I believe, of course there are those dear to my heart with the artists I love. Williamson and Nero has to be up there.
Brian Yuzna and porn mogul Pierre Woodman, that is a favorite of mine. Intellectual and totally sleazy at the same time! Dolph Lundgren and German actor Ralph Herforth. It was the first time that people actually understood what a smart and charming guy Dolph is. James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner, because it was all just show and it gave me the opportunity to direct it like a nightmare in LA. Glenn Gregory and Midge Ure because I just love those guys and they were amazing. James Gunn and Michael Rooker because they were so funny. But if you look at it just from a neutral point of view, I have to say that the one with Moby and Will Cotton was probably the strongest show I’ve done because it is the perfect mix of interesting and insightful conversation, great locations and lots of visual style.
HC: You know how much I loved that Franco / Fred episode already, but I have to track some of those others down now! For an English person like me it’s such a shame that we don’t get these shows screened in the UK with subtitles for the ones that are not conducted in English. There’s loads I’d like to see but my German is not quite good enough for it. Anyway, who would be your ideal guests for the show if you could have anyone at all?
HB: I would have loved to do one with Stephen King in Maine. But he just doesn’t do this kind of thing. And Falco – remember Rock Me Amadeus? – he would have been absolutely perfect. But he died years ago.
HC: What was your involvement in the Eurocrime! documentary? I see you got a thank you on it. I love those Italian crime films and it was a great documentary, although it just made me want to see more films and re-see films I’d already seen!
HB: Oh, that was just a nice gesture of Mike Malloy, the director. A great guy. I wanted to do the same doc but it was a hard sell. He got wind of it somehow and he’d heard about me because of Moebius Redux. So we got in touch and told each other about our plans. But I just didn’t have the energy he had in pursuing this basically without money. I was afraid I’d end up with another Screen Terror. I would have loved to work with him on it; Mike is just a great, great guy. And he made his film with love and passion. It’s not a Mark Hartley documentary.
HC: My boyfriend just bought your documentary about Moebius but I’ve not seen it yet – how did that come about? Was it after working with Jodorowsky on Durch die Nacht mit?
HB: I was actually asked. Someone important at Arte wanted a documentary on Moebius and I was asked because everybody assumed that I’m a comic book guy. Well, I am but I’m a Marvel and DC guy and I really did not know much about Moebius! So I did some research, wrote a treatment and got the job. It turned into an international co-production and was shown on TV (in different versions) in lots of countries; not least the UK, on BBC4. It also did a great festival tour on four continents. To this day, it’s the biggest thing I’ve done. I actually toyed with the idea of doing a doc on Jodorowsky’s version of Dune after that. I had already talked to Alejandro about it! But after Moebius Redux, which wasn’t easy, I needed a break from those people. And I forgot all about it. Damn!
However, the Into the Night with Jodo came years later. It was unbelievably difficult to get Alejandro to do Moebius Redux. But it was very easy on Into the Night. He mellowed so much after finding the love of his life. We worked together another time, two years ago. He always forgets about me afterwards. What an exceptional human being though.
HC: Because I love Houellebecq so much and enjoyed your show with him and Calixto Bieito, could you say something about that show?
HB: Oh well, the Bieito/Houellebecq show was a gruelling experience for everyone involved except Houellebecq. I have no idea why he agreed to do the show. Calixto came to me after a few hours and asked “What can I do?” And because I knew I needed more footage, I said “I have no idea, but keep on doing it a little longer!” I think Houellebecq actually enjoyed himself. He worked with Bieito, who admired him so much, afterwards. In a way, it was a turning point for Into the Night. Before that show, we often tried to make the shows as entertaining as possible; leave out the lulls, the arguments, the moods. But what makes Into the Night special is the authenticity. There’s nothing fake about it. You have to be honest with it. So after coming back, I looked at the footage and decided to show the evening for what it was. I tried to accentuate the uncomfortable moments, but also find the comedy in it. Some parts I think are very funny; some are unbearable. It paid off, the episode got rave reviews and I think it helped Into the Night to win the German equivalent of the Emmy. The show was never the same afterwards. It’s still puzzling to me how much the Houellebecq fans – and they are hardcore – are siding with him regarding the show.
HC: Well, I’m a big admirer of Houellebecq but it’s impossible to take his side unless you’re just being bloody-minded and biased. What about Franco Nero and Fred Williamson? That was a really fun show.
HB: That was pure joy. Pure wish-fulfillment. I am such a big fan of the Italian genre films of the 70s. So I put everything in there that I could. I was in heaven when the two of them sat down with Enzo. Your article on it was great and spot-on. But you have to understand something about Fred. He is The Hammer. It’s his image. When the cameras roll, he puts on the Hammer show. So he’s always competing with Franco who’s a totally different kind of guy. I’m not even sure if Fred knew who Franco was! But they are still in touch. Fred is in Rome right now and maybe he sits there having a Sambuca with Franco.
There was so much good stuff there, but I had to take some of it out because the show got too long. They were playing billard right at the beginning so that was the first pissing contest rightaway. Oh, and we had this old 70s car for them. When the people who rented it out brought it to us, there were two men following it around in a van. They looked like heavies and they didn’t talk. At all. So I asked the guy with the car who they were. And he said, “Oh, they are there in case the car breaks down.” And the car did break down! Right in the middle of shooting! When Franco and Fred were inside the book store, it stood on a piazza and looked like it was on fire! The two heavies managed to repair it just in time. The first and only time I saw them breaking a sweat. They happily took the bottle of whiskey from the car that Fred and Franco didn’t drink.
I really tried to make the show look like something from the 70s or 80s; lots of lensflare, lots of crash zooms and all that great music from those films. And I think it worked out pretty well.
HC: It certainly did. I’m so jealous you manage to meet all these people from the world of film, music and literature. Next time you’re hanging out with Franco and Fred, put in a word for a Hero Culte interview, please! And let us know what you’re up to in the future as well. Thanks for the interview, Hasko!
– – O – –
After this I just want to see some more of Hasko’s shows. Take a look at these photos Hasko kindly provided (I’ve included his commentary with them):
HB: About Men, a pilot I did which I’m quite proud of because it looked really cool
HB: This is from Bambule, a TV show/magazine I was head of for two seasons (the lady in red)
HB: This is me and George A. Romero and German punk rock superstar Bela B for a show I did: Hotel Bela
HC: I really want to see this one – MUST FIND IT SOON!!!
HB: This is from Ma Vie – Markus Lüpertz, a doc I did on a famous German painter
HB: This is Stanley Tucci taking pictures in the United Nations building, an unforgettable Into the Night shoot
This is me and Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton discussing the show
HB: This is me and Brian Yuzna and Pierre Woodman in Prague for Into the Night
All photos, aside from the Screen Terror screengrab, have been provided by Hasko Baumann and are used on this site with his kind permission.