Morning Interim – Episodes 3 and 4 [2017 Portugal, United Kingdom]

João Paulo Simões

João Paulo Simões

Halfway through the successful series of short films for his anthology “Morning Interim”, I caught up with film maker João Paulo Simões to talk about the latest episodes and also take stock of the series so far. As ever, he was forthcoming in answering my questions for another exclusive interview.


A halfway interview with João Paulo Simões

A still from "The Beast" (1975)To what extent has the Polish-French auteur Walerian Borowczyk’s ‘The Beast’ influenced ‘Morning Interim’ series?
I consider Borowczyk’s La Bête a crucial influence that goes beyond the surface or aesthetics. Like Morning Interim, which evolved from unfinished material shot with the purpose of being part of a sequel to the feature film Antlers of Reason (2006), the Sirpa Lane scenes in La Bête (1975) were also originally conceived to be part of Borowczyk’s anthology film Immoral Tales (1973). So I guess both projects share that same “salvaging of unused material” approach. I think this can contribute to a very specific formal outcome, which can translate as having elements that pulsate with their very own energy and identity within the overall narrative. But, I must say that La Bête has been a far more direct influence in Antlers of Reason. Aside from the few brief references made in the film, I semi-consciously borrowed specific concepts, such as the materialisation of fantasy into the reality of the central character’s life and the primal connection she, as a young woman with a blossoming sexuality, has to Nature – itself embodied in the beast-like figure of the antlered god Thalus.


From Morning Interim, Episode 3 [2017]The ‘Morning Interim’ series is turning out to be a mystery thriller by drawing elements from ‘exploitation films’ of yore but you’d given it an entirely distinct treatment. Placing it somewhere between an unapologetic Jean Rollin and a Lynchian drama, are you consciously building a new ‘genre’ for the age with this series?
It is certainly (and hopefully) an exercise in broadening the scope of the web-series format, which itself is a liberated by-product of a digital age. It’s fair to say that I am channeling all the mythological subtexts and suggested narrative strands of Antlers of Reason into a considerably experimental approach. The eight-episode format provides it with a definite structure (with its own self-imposed set of restrictions), but frees me creatively to pursue other ideas that can alternate between the abstract, the minimalist and the atmospheric. In many ways, the majority of the web-series that one finds out there still operate within conventional broadcast rules, with minor adjustments to cater to the immediate satisfaction of the digital age. I can’t think of anything more ‘pornographic’ than that. So to make something that would, ironically enough, feature sexually-explicit elements, but would adopt a sense of nostalgia for both the analogue and a foregone era of Cinema seemed to me an irresistible proposition…


A still from "Morning Interim" Episode 3 (2017)Here you are, a director making ‘European’ films whilst living in an England that has a distinct film-making heritage of its own. Was that a choice, and if so, is that because Britain, for all its much-talked about ‘Britishness’, still remains a veritable melting pot where different ideas find space and thrive?
It’s definitely been a permanent “fish out of water” situation, I must say. Whilst Britain has, so far, enabled a variety of cultures to settle within its cultural barriers, its filmmaking traditions have remained rooted in a constant reassertion of their identity. I find the approach of social realism incredibly tedious, to be honest. That said, the reality of a Northern England (and a lot of what it evokes, as filtered through my foreign eyes) has been pivotal in the formulation of a lot of my projects. Antlers of Reason would’ve never existed without it. And, by default, neither would’ve Morning Interim.
Still, what many would consider “creating in isolation”, I choose to look at as “being left to do your own thing”.


João Paulo Simões in "Morning Interim" (2017)While Episode 3 (Re-enactments) injects conventional plot elements to an otherwise cryptic first two episodes, Episode 4 (Further Illicit Diagrams) not only introduces a new character named ‘Fern’, but also hints at a different side to Jay aka Thalus. Is this going to turn into a morality tale of sorts..?
That is a very interesting question. The morality tale aspect reverts, once more, back to the film that originated it all, Antlers of Reason. The episodes of Morning Interim though, shift between what you define as cryptic and a plot device that takes the shape of personal investigations that unearth a dark Past (and the shadows it continues to cast over the existence of certain characters). We are driving towards a specific destination – that is ridden with guilt and loss and certainly tinted with personal moral dilemmas.


Alexandra Patriarca in "Morning Interim" (2017)Now, to the star of Episode 4 – Alexandra Patriarca plays ‘Fern’ and this episode largely focuses on her intimate encounter with Jay. I’m also surprised to hear that this is Ms. Patriarca’s first film.
Alexandra is one of those rare cases of someone who can effortlessly inhabit space and, with her gentle presence, extend a moment outside its time limits. This is rare to find and can’t be taught in acting classes. It’s intrinsic to who she is, as an individual.


Alexandria Patriarca and João Paulo Simões in "Morning Interim" (2017)The episode features perhaps the most explicit and dare I say ‘passionate’ sex scene in the series so far, notwithstanding your character’s (Jay/Thalus) largely passive and ‘robotic’ nature – the passion is entirely from Ms. Patriarca. Could you shed some light on how you came to cast her for the role?
Once I identified that very special quality about her, my mission became to preserve it – and never to corrupt it. She’s actually one of the most coherent and earnest people I ever met. With great humility she accepted my challenge and ‘donated herself’ to the project – a beautiful act of faith and trust.


What was Ms. Patriarca’s reaction to performing explicit sex for camera, and that too on her film debut? Was any of the crew present during the shoot?
There was never an issue. Her personality and aforementioned presence really suits the minimalism that I wanted to bring back (and improve upon) from Episode 2 – Illicit Diagrams become Further Illicit Diagrams, after all. I’ve developed a way of working that keeps production elements to their bare minimum. Only those essential to the scene in question are allowed in.


Luisa Torregrosa from "Morning Interim" (2017)Something tells me Fern isn’t just ‘another’ victim of Thalus, but without giving away any plot points, could you confirm if this is not the last we’ll hear from her in this series?
Very far from it. Although one could argue that she’s constricted to a film world of a specific era (the 1970’s), the importance of her role will unfold in upcoming episodes. Whilst the Mystery Woman (played by Luisa Torregrosa) is instrumental in bridging crucial gaps in the Present, Fern’s identity and ambiguous relationship to Jay will be gradually revealed as the transitional stepping stone of the Past.


A still from "Morning Interim" Episode 3 (2017)I’ve so far enjoyed several aspects of this series from a film-buff’s point of view. There are ‘atmospheric’ touches scattered throughout, like in the start of Episode 3, which surely is a nod to David Lynch/Carlos Reygadas. Some characters and place names even have direct references to films from the past. I also like the concept of film within a film that’s already within a film. The insertion of a clip from a supposed 1975 film titled ‘Ninho das aguias’ (Eagles’ Nest) does not only look convincing – it also doesn’t clash with the rest of the narrative. Is this your homage of sorts to Seventies and Eighties cinema?
Glad to hear that. Very much appreciated. The goal was precisely that: to bring a sort of analogue-transmutation to proceedings, in the way the footage of that fictional film is treated to evoke a very specific type of 1970’s Cinema.
It’s not wrong at all to call it an homage. It’s a throwback to a way of doing things that simply got lost, as your priorities become surreptitiously defined by others. There was just something very genuine and pure about a lot of those films – regardless of how explicit and supposedly exploitative most were. But, its insertion in the episode poses certain fundamental questions that could be pointing towards a “pretty meta” reveal, when it comes to the character of Jay.


A still from "Antlers of Reason" (2006)What can we look forward to in Episode 5? Any new or legendary faces we can expect to see?
Episode 5 is currently in production. Again, there will be a return to more traditional horror elements and Nature will come to the foreground once more. It’s entitled “This Place, That Time” and, in conjunction with the subsequent Episode 6, will give a face to the hidden forces and interests at play. It will center mostly on new characters, but their introduction will help make sense out of a lot that we’ve seen so far.


Streaming Link for Film | Become a Patron
Morning Interim, Antlers of Reason and other works by filmmaker João Paulo Simões are all available on The Vault of Alternative Cinema. You can also support the project directly on Patreon.



The Nudity: Luisa Torregrosa, João Paulo Simões, Monica Calle, Erica Rodrigues, and Alexandra Patriarca
The third episode (Re-Enactments) features an explicit sex scene between Luisa Torregrosa and João Paulo Simões. The fourth episode (Further Illicit Diagrams) features yet another explicit sex scene between mature Monica Calle and João Paulo Simões. Erica Rodrigues also appears nude in a brief scene. However, the highlight of the episode will have to be a gratuitously explicit sex scene between newcomer Alexandra Patriarca and João Paulo Simões – something I also touched upon during the interview. The found projector-with-footage effect used in the scene, whilst not as convincing as shooting it in 8mm directly, is effective enough in conveying the feel given the budget and resources. Recommended Viewing..!

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More Marina for your reading room…

Having been reluctantly drawn out my hole, here’s a bit of (slightly late) news. Photographer Thomas Karsten has just self-published his own Coffee Table edition of sensual nudes of a stunning-as-ever Marina Anna Eich titled:

Marina Anna Eich

black white and naked

Marina Anna Eich - black white and nude

Marina Anna Eich: black white and nude © Thomas Karsten.



While as sumptuous as the previous edition, the new book, to me at least, is a whole lot more creative (unless my self-induced exile has made me see things differently).

Creative and sensual: Marina Anna Eich, black qhite and nude

Creative and sensual – from “Marina Anna Eich: black white and nude” © Thomas Karsten.


There are more for preview here: Thomas Karsten Photography
The book can be ordered by directly contacting Thomas Karsten.



New WTP Film:
In a slightly related topic, it’s thrilling to learn that WTP Film are finally coming out with their next film after a gap of few years. Titled “The Taste of Life”, it features Antje Nikola Mönning in the starring role. Ms. Eich has only a short on-screen role in it – understandably so, considering the enormous workload of managing and coordinating with the fifty-strong team and crew. The film is in post-production and its release date would be announced soon. We can’t wait..! 🙂


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Using failures as stepping stones: “Nome Próprio” [2007 Brazil]

Murilo Salles co-opted author Clara Averbuck’s alter ego Camila from her groundbreaking novel (Máquina de Pinball) for his drama “Nome Próprio” [Eng. Title: Camila Jam].

Leandra Leal in "Camila Jam" (2007 Brazil)Set in São Paulo, the film begins with Camila (Leandra Leal) being kicked out of the apartment by boyfriend Felipe (Juliano Cazarré) following a flaming row between them – apparently she’d ‘cheated’ on him and he wants her out of his life. Camila’s shame, outrage, and vulnerability is underscored by the added detail of her also being completely naked when the eviction happens.

Leandra Leal in "Camila Jam" (Brazil, 2007)Camila wants to be a writer, and whilst waiting for her inspiration, keeps herself engaged socially by maintaining a blog where she’d also built up a following. After a friend in whose apartment she found shelter vacates and leaves unexpectedly, one of her blog fans comes to her rescue and offers her a place a stay.

Leandra Leal in "Camila Jam" (2007, Brazil)But Camila also doesn’t want to be just any writer – she craves for poetry and intensity in everything she does, and she seeks them wherever she can, regardless of the people she might hurt, or despite unfailingly getting hurt herself. Her resourcefulness and chutzpah allows her to dust herself off after every little calamity and and keep chasing that elusive something she’s looking for. As she herself admits, “Sometimes they break my legs, they kick me in the face, and they stomp on my fingers. I survive. I’m scarred too, but I make the most of each and every one of my scars.”

Leandra Leal in "Nome Próprio" (2007, Brazil)Leandra Leal makes the film special by her unforgettable no-holds-barred portrayal of Camila as an intense and worryingly unsatisfied woman. And of course, the credit for that can justifiably be shared with the director too for helping Ms. Leal bring this character out of her. Watching the film after nearly a decade and with a bit more ‘mature’ eyes certainly helped me discover nuances I had missed earlier. I’m aware of some films from elsewhere that touches on similar topics, but the intensity seen in this film is certainly unique. Needless to say, this little gem is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link [NTSC]


The Nudity: Leandra Leal, Rosanne Mulholland, Ricardo Garcia, and Gustavo Machado
Leandra Leal appears nude in a number of scenes, most of which are also long and intense. Rosanne Mulholland plays Camila’s best friend Paula and appears nude in a post-coital scene with Leandra Leal. Ricardo Garcia and Gustavo Machado appear briefly nude during their scenes with Camila. The film also features one of the more ‘intriguing’ sex scenes not often seen in mainstream cinema. A drunk Camila taunts, teases, rejects, and challenges an equally drunk Rodrigo (Ricardo Garcia) in a scene that oscillates between rape and seduction for over 8½ minutes – a scene that I’d also love to discuss with readers in the comments section.

Leandra Leal, Rosanne Mulholland, Ricardo Garcia, and Gustavo Machado in "Nome Próprio" aka "Camila Jam" (2007, Brazil)

Leandra Leal in scenes from “Nome Próprio” aka “Camila Jam” (2007, Brazil).


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A film review: “The House” [1997 Lithuania]

Sarunas Bartas:

Sarunas BartasAs one of Lithuania’s foremost auteurs, Sarunas Bartas is known for his poetic, brooding, and contemplative cinema that allow themselves to be interpreted variously based on individual experiences. If some critics are eager to brand his work pretentious and self-indulgent, it is perhaps because the films might appear opaque to casual viewers. While his films feature no formal narrative and no directly expressed opinions, one could yet detect meaningful undercurrents if they’re willing to immerse themselves in his slowly-meandering stream of visuals. By ‘slow’, we’re talking Béla Tarr and Theo Angelopoulos ‘slow’. His visuals themselves; be it the grandest of Tarkovskian outdoors, the decaying rooms, or the sympathetic wrinkles on a sun-beaten face, are nevertheless stunningly captured in all their glory and fans of cinematography will find it very hard to not like his work.


“The House” (1997)

The House (1997)In a way, “The House” (Orig. Title: A Casa) makes a departure from Sarunas Bartas’s earlier films in that it is un-apologetically allegorical. It is also less ‘accessible’ than his earlier films because it relates more closely to local history. The fact that there are very few words spoken in the film also encourages us to over analyse every scene and look for clues. It works better if we don’t.

"The House" (1997)The film begins with a view of a mansion that had certainly seen better days, and a male voice is heard reading from what could be a page from a diary. He opens up to his mother on things he had always wanted to talk about, but never managed to during his previous visits. He confesses to having imaginary conversations with her and receiving her (imagined) replies, the way it used to be during his childhood. We’re taken indoors where a disheveled young man (Francisco Nascimento) wakes up in a room surrounded by fluttering decorated pigeons, and that’s just a couple of minutes into our two-hour film.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi from "The House" (1997)As he goes through each room, we witness groups of people and animals who don’t originally belong in the household seeking refuge there, about which the protagonist isn’t too perturbed. We see a lonely woman (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) unresponsive to calls for attention by a different man next door, but instead entertains herself by enacting her backstory using finger-puppets.

"The House" (1997)We see an elderly couple join others for dinner but go back upstairs their separate ways. We see a room filled with naked children, and one with naked women caressing our protagonist. And before the revelation that happens at the very end, we see fireworks around a decorated tree in one of the rooms, with half naked men and women going around it in costume, while fireworks are also let off over the frozen lake outside…

"A Casa" (The House), 1997Bartas’s personal film engages us with little other than sumptuous visuals until the very end, but it leaves us engaged more vigorously after the final credits start rolling. While the eponymous house most definitely signifies Lithuania itself, we are left to our own devices to freely interpret who the ‘mother’ is and what everything else represent. Whether one sees this as cinema at its very best or at its most pretentious, it is certainly worthy of a challenge and an opinion. And who knows, if approached with the right frame, one might also find it illuminating. Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Egle Kuckaite, Greta Sapkaite, and others
As the review indicates, there are several instances of nudity from younger residents in the house featuring children and teenage girls. The individual scenes feature Egle Kuckaite attending dinner in the nude, and Greta Sapkaite observing herself in the mirror. She appears again in the scene where the protagonist is caressed by several young women.

Egle Kuckaite, Greta Sapkaite, and others from the Sarunas Bartas film, "A Casa" aka "The House", 1997, Lithuania.

Egle Kuckaite, Greta Sapkaite, and others from the Sarunas Bartas film,
“A Casa” aka “The House”, 1997, Lithuania.

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“Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams” [2017 Portugal, United Kingdom]

Ever the experimenter, João Paulo Simões loves to play with form and narrative in his films, and his ongoing anthology, “Morning Interim” is one such exercise that has generated interest from not only the art crowd, but also fellow artists in Portugal. His collaboration with veteran Portuguese actress Monica Calle in his second episode “Illicit Diagrams” was intriguing as well as fascinating. When I approached Simões for an interview, he was only too happy to share his thoughts.


An interview with João Paulo Simões

João Paulo Simões

João Paulo Simões


Olga Fonseca in "Antlers of Reason" (2006)“Morning Interim” – could you tell us how you came up with the concept?
Morning Interim was originally conceived at around 2007 as part of a trilogy, of which “Antlers of Reason” (2006) was the first. But despite its encouraging reception, the project remained in financing limbo and other commissioned work began to get prioritised. I still wanted to revisit specific strands from “Antlers of Reason”, as it began to open up a greater scope for exploring something bigger and deeper, and to delve into a more frightening mystery. As an episodic series, I felt I could now recreate ritualised reflections of equally personal scenarios.


Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Who is recording the ThalusCam? Will we get to see the people behind it?
The name is in reference to the fictional antlered god of pagan worship, Thalus. It’s been conceived, in the series, as a voyeuristic device that punctuates the stripped bare narrative. But it will be revealed as an underground analogue network that hijacks digital signals. A bit like the old days taking revenge on the impersonal nature of this world we all now inhabit. Yes, we will get to see who and what is behind it. Sort of half-the-way through the series: Episode 5, to be more specific.


Monica Calle and João Paulo Simões in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)You’d managed to rope in Monica Calle – still amazing after all these years in cinema, for the second episode of “Morning Interim”. Do you hope to feature similar high-profile actors in the remaining series?
There are a handful of roles to be cast still and I always want, first and foremost, to give the right role to the right person.
Yet, as a film buff, I do like to bring in a sense of heritage that an actor’s previous work immediately conveys. We have Anulka Dziubinska (from the 1974 exploitation classic, “Vampyres”) on board. I’m currently in talks with Emmanuelle Escourrou (of “Baby Blood” fame) whom I directed in the pilot episode of “Where Her Dreams End” (a 2011 series that never got picked). And I just re-opened negotiations with an actress from Walerian Borowczyk’s “La Bête”, which was a huge influence on “Antlers of Reason”.


Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)How did you convince Monica Calle to get involved in the film? What was her initial reaction?
I believe Monica watched a behind-the-scenes video, at first, in which actress/co-producer Luisa Torregrosa describes the creative process. Only then did she watch the first episode. She told me she was very taken by the minimalism; by how it all comes across so unmediated and singular. But what impressed her most was actually how the intimacy was handled.


Monica Calle in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Was Monica Calle comfortable in participating in the explicit sex scenes, and was she concerned if it might affect her already significant mainstream film career?
She only went as far as to express how raw and therefore exposing the scenes were. But once she committed and mutual trust was in place, there was never any issue. You have to put the Portuguese avant-garde approach into perspective here. Despite (or precisely because of) its conservative Catholicism, creative individuals do tend to navigate incredibly daring waters. Monica’s stage output is probably the boldest being made in Portugal. And still, despite its experimental, visceral or explicit nature, she wins mainstream awards. For years, many often wondered when the two of us would work together. It has finally happened.


Erica Rodrigues in "Morning Interim: Illicit Diagrams" (2017)Most of the sex scenes depict sexual acts in elaborate detail, but they’re nevertheless ritualised rather than spontaneous. Was this a technical limitation, or are you trying to say something through this?
The ritualisation is not just deliberate, but crucial. The idea has always been to elevate such moments to mating rituals. Something purer, more animal and natural (hence the explicitness), but that rarely happens away from the cold gaze of the hidden cameras of the ThalusCam network. Going back to your second question, the key here is the “recording”. The notion that private moments in time are crystalised, mirrored and juxtaposed – with an ulterior motive.


Though this site focuses predominantly on nudity as it appears in the integral version of films, the scenes themselves often enter into the sexual realm, as if it is almost inevitable. Is it because directors are merely trying to keep up with society, or are filmmakers themselves setting the agenda?
That’s a very interesting point. And I think it ties in with the way in which progressively more honest and therefore explicit depictions of sexuality have been incorporated into both independent and mainstream Cinema.
My perspective is that the art form has matured sufficiently now. As far as “setting the agenda” goes, I really think that every film that is made is a reflection of the times in which it was produced, but I do believe that films also shape the cultural discourse. They feed off each other.


Are people more obsessed and worried about sex these days than at any time in human history?
There’s a growing appetite for depictions of sexuality, for sure. The level of obsession is up to the individual and I reckon the impulse to gaze is as old as the human race itself, but there is a greater thirst for seeing images that reveal more and more. Again, it’s the digital age we live in. The immediate accessibility of explicit content generates a taste for it. You have to feed “the retina of the mind’s eye”, to borrow a phrase coined by Cronenberg.


What can we look forward to in the third episode?
Episode 3 will bring back the horror element to the foreground. Luisa Torregrosa’s Mystery Woman will return and Nature will also take a big part. It’s entitled “Re-Enactments” for a reason. The notion of actors playing a role within a role is part of the deconstructive quality that I intend to bring to the form, to the narrative and to the actual rituals.


How has your crowdsourcing progressed so far, and how many episodes have you lined up for the Morning Interim series? Have you considered making the series into a full-length feature?
The idea to turn the project into a series was a means to rescue it. The pilot episode was enabled and partially funded by Spain’s Torregrosa Producciones, but we didn’t know where to go from that point – despite being immensely proud of it. We’re well aware of the experimental, abstract quality of the project and wanted to preserve that by all means.
It soon became apparent that the slow-burning narrative needed to span eight episodes, which makes it even trickier to fund. But, we’re getting there – very gradually.
Frontier Media established The Vault of Alternative Cinema, as a means to centralise access to current and previous output. The approach has been to have the pay-per-view of the existing episodes (along with access to other films available to stream or buy on DVD) exclusively fund the production of the series. This does slow down the process, but, in an odd way, suits the unfolding of the mystery. Online patronage has also started contributing monthly to production costs. We hope that the support grows in time, so we can shorten the waiting period between episodes for fans of Morning Interim.


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The Nudity: Monica Calle, João Paulo Simões, and Erica Rodrigues
The film depicts variously interpreted scenes featuring explicit sex and nudity. Apart from Monica Calle and Erica Rodrigues who play a case worker (therapist) and cleaner (maid) respectively, the director himself appears in a starring role in the scenes concerned. Recommended Viewing..!


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