Marlow: You tend to work with the same people from film to film,
particularly the same actors. How did you settle on them early on for Delicatessen
, and then continue to use them throughout?
Because I love these kinds of faces. I'm a big fan of the French films from the 40s. Marcel Carné
's movies, you know?
Marlow: René Clair
Yes. At this time, they had such interesting faces, characters, you know? I'm going to say something - it's strange for you Americans, because in France, it has a sense, it has a meaning. They are able to play differently than they are in their real life.
As well as using your regular actors, it seems that you also like to add established actors into the group, especially in A Very Long Engagement
. Are these actors that you always wanted to work with?
Yes, I try to open the family. With A Very Long Engagement
, I had a bigger budget, so I had a good opportunity to open the family with famous actors; [they're famous] in France of course. They are of the same character. We are the same family, but they are more expensive. And I discover good guys, like Albert Dupontel
and Clovis Cornillac
- the guy is very manic, you know.
How did your relationship with Guillaume Laurant
[co-writer on Amélie
and A Very Long Engagement
He is very good. He works especially on the dialogue. I don't like to write dialogue. In general, we share the work. He writes the scenes with dialogue and I write the scenes without dialogue. It's easy to work with him, because immediately he's able to write the scene in an hour or an hour and a half - not one week - one hour and a half. After the first draft, I might say, "Oh, maybe this time you lost the spirit," and he says "Ok, I'm going to change it." And in 30 minutes, he has a new draft; very fast and very good. We have the same spirit. Maybe it doesn't work in English, but we try to make the dialogue "out of time." It's not contemporary, it's not old, it's a kind of perfect dialogue that I think we try to get.
For example, with A Very Long Engagement
, we tried to absorb the dialogue from this period, because at this time, they spoke a special language; it could be very strange and tacky today. I know because I read some books about this period, and yeah, it's very strange. So we had to invent dialogue "out of time" and he's very good for that. The only thing is, he can't avoid wordplay. Sometimes it's difficult and we lose a lot in the English, or in different languages. So the next one, I'm going to try to stay pure because it's going to be in English. I'm writing an adaptation of Life of Pi
. You know it?
Yes. I've read it.
I'm doing the adaptation for 20th Century Fox and I hope it will be a film one day. I don't know. I hope.
You would shoot it here, then?
Maybe we are going to shoot in Mexico, in the Baja studio, the place they made Titanic
One thing that I find very consistent in your films is this effort to create an entire world within the first three minutes. Particularly, in The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain
I'm not interested in realist things. It's really boring to shoot. For Amélie
, it was different because I wanted to make something closer to the people. It was Paris. I couldn't avoid to make it in Paris, in the set and everything. When I came back after Alien
, after 20 months in Los Angeles, I thought, "Oh, Paris is beautiful!" And I wanted to show the French people how beautiful Paris is, because after a while you don't see it. You are too used to it. I wanted to show fake Paris, like in a Jacques Tati
movie, with a flag, blue, white, red, you know? Very French, too French, maybe. I was worried because I thought, "They are going to kill me." I mean the critics and reviewers. But no, they appreciated it. It was a pleasure to recreate.
, as well as A Very Long Engagement
, but particularly Amélie
, reminded me of the Hollywood films that were made in the 1930s during the Depression when there was a sense of blind hope, perhaps false hope. It was an escape for the audience to go into them, but it was charming and delightful and happy and people did fall in love and there was such a thing as true love.
Because with Marc Caro
we made two dark stories, not negative, but dark stories, I wanted to make something very positive. It was my concentration. I wanted to get a smile from the audience. That was the goal of the game. I recently read one more time my first notes for it [Amélie
] and I wrote, "Amélie has to be positive all the time. She's very shy, very inside herself, very sad, but she wants to stay positive." I think that was one of the successes that we had.
Well, there aren't that many strong films like that. A Very Long Engagement
was very gritty and it had a lot of serious topics, such as war, but it's still a very optimistic film in terms of human relationships and the idea of true love and belief.
The film is much darker, because of the war, and Amélie
is more like a fairy tale, no?
But there still is that feeling that true love can exist. It's a very uplifting kind of idea that you don't really see much in films anymore now that people are so cynical.
Yeah, especially in France. It's not easy to make a film, a positive story, without being too sugary. It is difficult.
We were watching some of your "making-ofs" on the DVDs. You seemed to have a really good time on the set of Amélie
and A Very Long Engagement
It was very easy. Alien
wasn't so easy because we had a lot of people and we had very bad guys for the special effects. Everybody was busy at that time, it wasn't easy. But I was free and I stayed very friendly with the producer because I'm going to write Life of Pi
for them. But Amélie
was a pleasure, no problem, and A Very Long Engagement
, too. Warner will be fine because they're distributing Very Long Engagement
everywhere. They gave me the freedom and it was a pleasure, like for a short film. Not a problem. Never one problem. Maybe I'm lucky, I don't know, because when I read the stories by Coppola
, or Terry Gilliam
I was wondering about Terry Gilliam, because he's also a fantasist.
Maybe Terry Gilliam loves the problems, loves the trouble.
Perhaps he find inspiration in these problems.
Yeah, it's exactly the opposite for me, for Amélie
. Maybe sometimes I regretted Alien
was tougher, I had to fight. Amélie
, sometimes it was boring to make, but I loved to make it.
Do you use the same crew for all your films?
I try to work with the same people all the time because, after two or three movies, you try to keep the best and you know a good crew. Amélie
and Very Long Engagement
had exactly the same crew, even for the visual effects. Yeah, they made, also, Alien
, my French crew.
And you also always work with editor Hervé Schneid
? I saw that he also edited some of Sally Potter
Yes, exactly. And Dominique Pinon
and also the guy who made the color timing [Yvan Lucas
]. There are maybe three people who have made the five films together and I hope will work on the next one if I make it, Life of Pi
. It's in my deal with Fox. They told me, "Oh yes, no problem." I'm going to work with my French crew. I mean the production designer, the editor...