In this playful, supernatural tale by visual artist Alexandre Singh, a curmudgeonly novelist, Henry Salt, wakes from a nightmare to find a troubling entry in his diary: 12 o’clock at the restaurant ‘La Folie’. But whom is Henry meeting, and why doesn’t he remember making this appointment? When no one shows, Henry becomes obsessed with solving the mystery. Charging through a series of increasingly surreal encounters, Henry discovers that the truth is more disturbing than he could have possibly imagined.
Alexandre Singh is a Brooklyn based visual artist, born in Bordeaux, France, to Indian and French parents. He was brought up in Manchester, UK, before studying Fine Art at the University of Oxford, UK.
Singh’s work is inspired by a love of imaginative storytelling. Encompassing such diverse practices as writing, collage, installation and performance, it often consists of absurdist fables in which, for example, Adidas founder Adi Dassler is re-imagined as Faust; Piero Manzoni creates a camera that eats the Universe; and Molière’s send-ups of 17th century snobbery are translated to modern-day New York.
His work has been exhibited in venues throughout Europe and the United States, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris; The Serpentine Gallery, London; and Witte de With, Rotterdam.
In 2013, Singh’s theatre play, “The Humans”, was staged at the Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Rotterdam, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, before traveling to the Festival d’Avignon, France, in 2014.
Singh’s work is represented in numerous private and public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris.
He is the recipient of the 2011/12 Prix Meurice for contemporary art and the 2016 Feature Expanded: Distribution Award.
“The Appointment” is his debut film.
As a boy, I was short and shy. The child of French-Indian immigrants, I was invariably an outsider. Never truly Indian. Never truly French. Certainly not a real Mancunian, as the natives of Manchester—the city in which I grew up—are called.
Art, cinema, and books were a refuge from a harsh world, but also a bridge between different cultures. Across the globe, we may not speak the same language, but there exists this one universal: we all participate and are subject to the absurd drama that is ‘la comedie humaine.’
As a visual artist, my work has been consistently infused with storytelling. Through drawings, installations, and then increasingly through writing, performing, and later working with actors, I felt myself drawn inexorably closer and closer to the medium of cinema.
I’ve always loved film, especially those filmmakers who embrace not only words, story, and drama, but also image, colour, light, music, and imagination. In particular, I repeatedly come back to the films of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Working in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, at a time when Europe was being torn apart by those who sought to foment difference (as is sadly happening again today), their films are imbued with both a sparkling creativity and a sincere humanism. From the 19th century onwards, it has been common to dismiss fantasy as a light distraction (in contrast to weighty realism). But I passionately believe that fantasy equally contributes to our exploration of human character and what it means to be alive in the world.
“The Appointment” was born out of a desire to tell a mysterious, dreamlike, visually imaginative little story with a dark, supernatural twist. It was inspired by the sibling of short film, the short story, and in particular the imaginative Gothic tales of ETA Hoffman and Roald Dahl. So often in the Gothic tradition, an eerie frisson is formed by creating an ‘other’ out of a foreign culture or distant past. In this story I wanted to play out this trope by portraying Western cuisine, dress, and manners as similarly strange and uncanny.
Above all else, though, this film is a love letter to cinema. Although it’s a short film, I was keen to convey its story through dramatic scenes, rather than in montage. My collaborators and I sought to build a world as rich as that of a feature film.
As a result, we undertook an enormous amount of visual research for every character and location. We made extensive moodboards and created graphics, book covers, and newspaper stories to fully flesh out this world.
I was also eager to tell as much of the story as possible through visual images. In pursuit of that goal, I storyboarded the whole film, from which I created an animated version that we shared with the film’s heads of departments. After the shoot, it was remarkable to see how closely the film hewed to the original animation.
In visual art, the relationship between the artist and audience is heavily mediated by curators, critics, and institutions. In theatre and film, on the other hand, one is proverbially stark naked. There is no hiding from a bored audience. Consequently, there is a wonderful challenge and obligation to move, entertain, and captivate an audience.
This was always at the forefront of our minds as we worked to create “The Appointment”. Whilst it was imperative that our film be visually rich, it also needed to delight and disgust, to entice and engage its viewers. It needed to be—and we hope is—an utterly propulsive experience.
Mike Elliott, Louise Palmkvist, Natalie Musteata