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In Focus: Bertrand Bonello
Institute of Contemporary Arts

‘A film is the mix of your possibilities and your impossibilities.’ 
– Bertrand Bonello
Trained as a musician, French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello came into filmmaking without formal training, soon developing a distinct, provocative approach to cinema.

Bonello's early works garnered attention for their bold and experimental nature. His early works, The Pornographer (2001), delving into the world of adult filmmaking, and Tiresia (2003), a modern adaptation of the Greek myth exploring themes of gender and transformation, garnered critical acclaim in France, while placing him in the lineage of non-conformist French filmmakers-provocateurs such as Claire Denis and Leos Carax

Premiered in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, House of Tolerance (French: L'Apollonide: Souvenirs de la maison close) provided Bonello with widespread international recognition. Set in a fin-de-siècle Parisian brothel, the film offers a visually sumptuous yet unflinching portrayal of the lives of sex workers, earning praise for its atmospheric cinematography and nuanced character studies.

While rising to prominence as one of France’s most distinctive voices and acclaimed internationally, Bonello continued to relentlessly experiment with themes, tones and styles, notably with Saint Laurent (2014), a biographical drama about the iconic fashion designer, and Nocturama (2016), a daring exploration of terrorism and youth culture in contemporary France.

Known for his meticulous attention to detail, his pulsating sense of rhythm and his willingness to tackle societal taboos, Bertrand Bonello has cemented his reputation as one of the most audacious filmmakers working today.

In Focus: Bertrand Bonello provides a rare opportunity to engage with his work on the big screen, whilst celebrating the theatrical release of his latest film, The Beast (2023). Alongside a Preview of the film followed by an in-person Q&A, the programme includes some of his most daring works such as House of Tolerance, Saint Laurent, Zombi Child (2019) and opens with Coma (2022) preceded by Bonello’s short work Cindy: The Doll Is Mine (2005), presented in partnership with Cinema Rising.
Image Credit: Bertrand Bonello on the shoot of Nocturama, August 2015 © Xavier Lambours

Friday 24 May, 6.30pm
Coma + Cindy: The Doll is Mine
Bonello's sui-generis exploration of pandemic-era interiority blends animation, Zoom chats, surveillance footage and much more, to disquieting and often humourous effect. Presented in partnership with Cinema Rising.

Saturday 25 May, 4pm
Saint Laurent
Bonello's shape-shifting journey through a hedonistic and wildly creative decade in the life of Yves Saint-Laurent, is a delirious twist on the modern biopic’s rules and limitations.

Sunday 26 May, 3.50pm
House of Tolerance
An opium and champagne soaked delve into a turn of the century Parisian brothel, Bonello's international breakout is a haunted and hermetic exploration of sexuality, desire, and the human body.

Tuesday 28 May, 6.30pm
The Beast + Q&A with Bertrand Bonello
Drawing inspiration from Henry James haunting ghost story The Beast in the Jungle, the latest film from audacious French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello is an odyssey of past lives and loves that expertly melds melodrama and science fiction.

Wednesday 29 May, 8.40pm
Zombi Child
Mixing political commentary, ethnography, teenage melodrama and genre horror, Bonello crafts a mysterious and subversive coming-of-age tale.