On a chilly day in March, the members of Arcade Fire huddled into an elevator at the Olympia in Paris. A forest of violins, horns and bodies filled the space from floor to ceiling, while frontman Win Butler intoned the words of “Neon Bible.” The elevator doors opened, and they sprawled into the concert hall, lights flickering at them in the darkness. Suddenly, a sea of people swallowed them.
This dramatic sequence was captured on film by Parisian filmmaker Mathieu Saura, better known as Vincent Moon. He’s the man behind the lens on the Take Away Shows, a video series hosted by the site La Blogothèque. Since the clip was posted on YouTube a few years ago, almost a quarter of a million people have viewed it. In addition to dozens of Take Away Shows, Moon has also documented the National’s creation of Boxer in A Skin, A Night and filmed the likes of R.E.M., Mogwai, and he did a video for the British techno label Warp.
There’s a warmth to Moon’s work, whether it’s of Zach Condon of Beirut parading through the streets of Paris, or of Annie Clark of St. Vincent performing while sprawled seductively on a bed. By approaching his art with spontaneity and a passion for new ideas, Moon has crafted a distinct niche at the intersection of music and film.
Moon was recently in New York, and he spoke to Prefix about filmmaking, foreign countries and choosing not to make money.
You were just in Buenos Aires for two weeks. How was it?
Buenos Aires is very amazing. There’s lots of stuff happening there. I was filming local bands. Juana Molina is probably the only musician that you’d know. I spent the first week listening, going to shows. And the second week, I began filming. It’s very amazing to dive into the culture for a short time. It’s very intense.
What do you focus on when you film bands?
Of course, the music is the pretext. What I’m interested in is the human interaction. From the beginning, the big idea was a simple thing. The films are not very important, it’s the process that might change things. The contact with someone is extremely important – the simplicity of it, and the human exchanges I had with the people.
You started out as a photographer, studying under Michael Ackerman and Antoine d’Agata. How is filmmaking different?
Cinema is more complex. It has more different elements. I was obsessed with music and with sounds, so it was the perfect match for me. Working with video, I involve people in the process compared to photos. I try to edit my own stuff. On the production side, I don’t work with a production company at all. I’m really trying to experience as much as possible. When I’m on the road by myself, I just find people on the spot. In Buenos Aires, they weren’t people who were sound engineers. I really like gathering the local energy.
What’s your film-making ethos?
I’m trying to keep it very small, very lo-fi and to continue on that amateur level. That’s how I’ve been trained to make films for a very long time. My big passion is to travel and meet people and film them in the same style. I love being on the road, and that’s what I prefer.
Do you make money off your films?
I don’t want to. I would feel very uncomfortable. I think it’s the whole notion of respect for the people I film. I always do a better job when there’s no money involved. I love to do this for the pleasure of the people. I prefer to make money not from my films directly, but from showing my films or workshops. So far it’s working well. I don’t know if I will do this for a long time, but I hope so.