A book, a story, an anecdote...
Summary : Arnold Duplancher is a not-so-young anymore movie director, an intellectual snob who punctuates his sentences and theories with quotes from cult directors and thinkers. He's bitter and alone, because his primary source of inspiration is the wounds of the people around, who turn their back on him when they realize how he uses them. He claims that he made movies for revenge against his family, against his country, against his ex-lovers.
One of these ex, Marianne, is warned about his new screenplay by one of the actresses it was sent to. It has too many echoes from her own ghosts : her husband, who died when she was pregnant with their first child, and her father. Echoes distorted by hatred and bitterness.
Comment : it's hardly concealed that this book is a reply to the new movie of a renowner French director. It's also quite funny, an interesting portrait of a highly neurotic creator and the small world of French "auteur" movies, and how much it's true to reality shouldn't matter all that much, since obviously it doesn't matter to the director.
Besides, I saw this director once. I never thought a lot of him and what he represents (the little intelligentsia of people that a certain kind of press would always praise, no matter what they do), but I became interested with one of his movies and did my homework for it. For as bad reasons as his fans, but different ones, so I could look at the whole circus with a different eye... And what I saw was pretty close from what they describe.
Anecdote : I went to that premiere of the movie, in Paris, organized by Les Cahiers du Cinema (French elitist movie magazine).
I was left perplexed by the veneration of most of the audience. A lot of them looking like movie students. Others, like the cliché stiff supporters of "French auteur films". And I was there watching around, 20% out of curiosity to see a microcosm I had no direct knowledge of, and 80% because I wanted to see in person the movie's leading actress. Fangirling, in my way.
Actually, I had already seen the short version of the movie, that would be released in most theaters, but for this one premiere they decided to show the "director's cut", 20 mn longer. I liked the short version better, except for one scene that IMHO was important for the story, a lot more than others who *had* made it into the final cut.
The movie was shown, and afterwards the cast and crew appeared on the stairs for a brief Q&A. The organizer's desperate enthusiasm was obvious, the audience's one not so much.
1) The movie was shot in London, in English (subtitled in French for this screening), with a half-French half-foreign cast. A guy asked about the director's choice for the (excruciatingly bad) French accent of some characters, in a polite but "WTF?"-ing way.
Anyway, the director defended himself by saying that it was the accent he had and knew others had, and that he was also following the lead of Rohmer (or another boring and cult French "auteur" director...) in "[movie I never heard of]".
I cringed, having thought exactly the same as the questioner. When an accent is that bad that it flips you out of the movie, you know that it's a wrong directing choice, unless you do want your movie to fail completely (which, to that day, is still a valid hypothesis for that director's motivation).
But the actor chosen for that character was the director's own brother. Nepotism.
Also, I have a serious dislike of people who turn up a quote or a reference to excuse their bad choices. Even geniuses made mistakes. And if you can't think by yourself, spare me your references.
2) Someone mentioned the XIXth Century's short story that the screenplay was based on and asked if AD had made a lot of changes to adapt it. He said he had added some things but had stayed extremely faithful to the story. More cringing on my side.
See, when I do my homework, I do it right. And so, I had read the short story in question, between my first screening of the movie and this. There were changes. Big changes. Changes that I disliked, because I eventually liked the original story better, while the changes brought mainly a) served to create the character played by his brother as a clone of himself and b) changed the end of the story, making the remote, differently-functioning lead female character turning into a semi-hysterical "almost normal" girl, out of betrayed love.
Faithful to the spirit of the story my ass. To *his* interpretation of it, only.
3) there weren't as many questions as the organizer wished, as made obvious by his increasing nervosity (never a good sign when people aren't interested enough to have questions), but a young man on the far back asked one, in English.
"Truffaut said that it was necessary to torture actors to make them act. What do you think of this theory?"
The director and his team laughed, obviously knowing who the guy was. He wasn't laughing. I turned on my seat to watch him, surprised to hear a question in English, and he had a rather smug and slightly agressive pose.
Weird vibe, weird question.
Some days later, I figured out via different ways that he was the lead actress's boyfriend. And I wondered what she had told him of her shooting experience, for him to ask that specific question, and in public.
But in a way, it gave me a lot of clues I didn't need on the young man in question. For one, he really wubs his gf, and for two, he's not an idiot, because he questioned the director with exactly his own weapons : quotes.
4) I had some questions about choices made by the director that were never elaborated. Choosing an international cast, shooting in English could be an opening towards international recognition.
Re-editing the text with his fragmentary English after it had been translated by a professional, to the point that most English and American critics were thrown off of the movie by things that simply were not believable, strikes me as incredibly pretentious.
And now I ask myself why he chose that actress, too. Because she took the part by the guts and has an outstanding charisma, but she had a very small resume until then. On the other hand, even then, she had a name, and ghosts of her own. Though since she was used to vultures already, maybe she managed to keep them away from his sick curiosity.
I wonder if AD's next movies will contain a character that reminds me of her...