Marlow: Can you talk a little bit about the use of sound in your work?
Particularly to the extent of using Angelo Badalamenti
for two of your films [City of Lost Children
and A Very Long Engagement
, also slated for Life of Pi
Yes, for the musician it is different. I chose the musician in terms of the spirit of the film. Of course, because Angelo Badalamenti has a world that is very specific, and I thought for a Very Long Engagement
it would be absolutely perfect, but I couldn't hire, for example, Yann Tiersen
, the guy who worked on Amélie
, for A Very Long Engagement
. It wouldn't make sense, you know? It depends on the spirit of the film.
But, with the overall sound design, do you determine the sound of film during the storyboarding process?
Sometimes. Sometimes, because the song is a part of the film. I love to play with the song. When I made Le Bunker
, Caro made a song himself, you know. I made the editing and I did sound editing myself. It's very important. We love that. We love to play with the sound. Now, it's so complicated. I remember with the last one, for one explosion, they arrived with 260 tracks - for one explosion. It does not make sense, it is starting to get crazy. Normally, we play a lot. If you make a track or loop, or you make a sound, it's like when you are a kid and you're playing in the garden or in the backyard, it's like [demonstrates a variety of sounds].
You occupy a very unique role in French cinema. There aren't a lot of fantasists making films anymore. There used to be more exploration of the fantastic in the '30s and '40s.
I think it's not a question of nationality. I love visual movies and I don't care if it's American or French. At the beginning with Caro, they forgot us every time they spoke about French cinema. So then we were American or whatever, but not French. Now, I see it's big luck for me to have a choice between the USA and France. I am a little bit upset with France now because for the last one they said it's not French, it's an American movie. It's a question of politics and money problems. I'm very upset because I fought to make this film in France with French actors, French technicians. We spent 36 million euros in France - not in Europe, in France.
Thus the controversy
when France failed to submit A Very Long Engagement
for Best Foreign Language Film to the Academy
Yeah, it's a question of politics. Everybody's upset with the story. It's because of the three major companies in France. They don't want to see Warner coming into France. They don't want to share with it. They fought and, because there was a small technical problem, they sued Warner. It was just disgusting. It was protectionism. The French were stupid and now we've lost a big opportunity. I was very proud of the collaboration between the US and France, especially at this time. I was very proud. Everybody is; the [prime] minister, from the left to the right...
Could you talk a bit about when you first read Life of Pi
and how you became interested? Did you approach them? Did they approach you?
The first time, I felt, "I love this book, but it's not for me." Because there is no room to put in my own ideas. It's too precise, too clean, you know? I said in an interview that I couldn't make this film myself because it's not... In A Very Long Engagement
, it's an adaptation, but I put in a lot of personal ideas. I could identify. It was not the case in Life of Pi
. After a while, when I heard M. Night Shyamalan
was going to be involved, I said, "Ah, oh..." Then it was Alfonso Cuarón
; he was going to make the film. I said "Oh? Ah..." I was very upset. I understood why; because it's a story of an orphan fighting against a monster. My story from each film, Delicatessen
, in The City of Lost Children
, it's an orphan fighting against a monster.
So whenever you read a book, do you think of it in terms of wanting to make a film out of it? Because you sound as though, when you describe reading it, you're already thinking of whether you want to turn it into a film.
When I read a book, each time, I imagine it could be a film. Except if I'm on vacation. The rule of the game is different if I'm on vacation. I read the book just to read it. I read lots of beginnings of books and, after ten pages, I say no, it's not a good book, you know? What do you think of the ending of the book, the double ending? Do you like it?
Of course, it's essential. It causes you to reexamine the book as a religious allegory. It's saying that to believe in God, it takes what seems like a ridiculous, absurd leap of faith. But some people need that to survive.
I think that the kid believes in life. I don't care if it's God or not, he believes in life. He wants to survive. That's a theme I love. Like Mathilde [in A Very Long Engagement
], she wants to fight against death, she wants to be right, she wants to survive. It's the same story. The kid has to survive. He needs the tiger to save him. At the beginning, he wants to fight against the tiger, but in the end he needs the tiger to survive. It is also a beautiful story. You have the elements, the sea, the sky, the animals, the nature, the kid and that's it.
Could you talk a little bit about your relationship with your directors of photography?
At the beginning, I worked with Darius Khondji
. I proposed Amélie
to him and he said, "No, it's not my cup of tea."
Not dark enough?
I don't know. Maybe. Because he said, "I am the Prince of Darkness." Maybe he said, "No, I don't really feel like making a comedy." And I think it was also a question of money. I said, "Okay, no problem." It was a good opportunity to work with Bruno Delbonnel
, my best friend of thirty years. When we started with Delicatessen
, he wasn't a DP at this time. It was a good opportunity, but he was scared because he was my best friend. With Darius, the level was very high, you know. When we watched the first dailies the first day, I was really relieved. Now I'm going to continue to work with him, but I stayed friends with Darius Khondji. We try to find one or two pictures from paintings, photographs or references from films and it's easier to work like this.
I wanted to ask you what might be a personal question...
I don't know [if I should]. Because in Switzerland, one time, a guy in Geneva said, you know [putting on a Swiss accent], "I want to speak about your sexual life." I said, "What?! I'm here for the promotion of Delicatessen
, it's a mistake." "No, no, I'm not interested by Delicatessen
, I am interested by your sexual life." I said, "I'm sorry, but no!"
Oh, no, no! I was just curious about this film Paris, je t'aime
, an omnibus film, with various filmmakers making shorts in Paris. I just was surprised to see that you didn't direct a segment for it.
At that time, it was a long time ago. It's produced by Claudie Ossard
, my producer. The last week, we spoke together, and she said, "Ah, I'm missing one arrondissement of Paris." It was 18, my neighborhood, Montmartre. There are a hundred stories in Montmartre and I thought, "Aww, man." I refused it because I had made Amélie
. I didn't want to make a remake. Today, though, why not? Five minutes, why not? In Montmartre, you have so many real stories. You can't imagine, every day with strange people on the streets.
This is the best story. I was there with Jodie Foster
for A Very Long Engagement
. We were waiting for a taxi outside Café des deux Moulins [Amélie
's café] together and a group of young French people arrived to take a picture of the café, because it was where Amélie worked. And we were standing just in front of the camera, Jodie and me, and we didn't see if they recognized us. So then a girl said, "Oh, please, can you..." [Jeunet waves his arm for "get out of the way."]
Just as an aside, for the sake of curiosity, what are a few of your favorite films?
In the history of cinema, you mean?
Yeah, the whole history.
As many as you'd like.
Jeunet: Tale of Tales
. It's an animated short by Yuri Norstein
. I met him in Moscow. It was an amazing meeting. For me, he is the king. He didn't know me. I'm the guy that made some live action feature who loved his work. I knew every soundtrack of every shot. I could make the sound of every shot. He was, you know, "Oh!"
Le Quai des brumes
, a French film by Marcel Carné
. The Night of the Hunter
, Citizen Kane
... and American Pie
, of course!