Louis Garrel: When you make an action scene, theres this tendency to think, Lets do it like Heat or Scarface

Louis Garrel no longer needs an introduction. Son of prestigious arthouse director Philippe and an established two-face in his own right, he has been a unvarying presence on French talkie screens since plane surpassing his breakout role in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers 20 years ago. Fewer people may be enlightened of his career as a director, and his fourth full-length film, The Innocent, might just be his best. We follow Louis’ yo-yo ego Abel as he reckons with his mother’s new situation: an actress (Anouk Grinberb) teaching convicts in prison has fallen for and married Michel (the mesmerising Roschdy Zem), who is finishing a five-year sentence for robbery. When he gets out, the suspicious Abel joins forces with his weightier friend Clémence (Noémie Merlant) to tail his new stepfather.

The mucosa is partly based on reality: your mother was hosting vicarial workshops in prison, and met and married someone there when you were younger. But the mucosa goes in a direction that is increasingly outlandish, fanciful, rocambolesque than reality.

Louis Garrel: At first, I just wanted to make a treason mucosa — I like this kind of film, they’re fun and popular, and they get me out of chronique, meaning linear stories in a naturalist register, things that could happen in real life. Then, I thought I’d take this rather unusual autobiographical element well-nigh my mother. But afterwards, I was unchangingly worried well-nigh rhadamanthine trapped by my own subject. Films well-nigh someone’s relationship with their mother often end up stuff a bit visceral or falling into pathos, considering the filmmaker wants to talk well-nigh the violence of the mother-son relationship. I therefore gave myself the yearing to never fall into pathos, to never be monotonous, and to make a mucosa that was, as you said, as rocambolesque as possible. I had no desire to make a naturalistic film. I wanted, as much as possible, an venture where the tone changes all the time — I like that a lot, it makes the regulars lose their grip on the film. If the rom-com element is too strong, boom, we fall into the heist thriller, and if the heist mucosa becomes too virile or there’s a risk of an glut of violence, which can be quite corny, hop, we get when into the romantic comedy. We could say the hormones were well well-turned — there’d be a surge of one, then of the other…!

There was moreover the idea of making a mucosa with strongly specified characters. I’d never washed-up that before: constructing four notation who, by the end of the film, were reverted or had solved one of their problems. The gamble was, there will be some rocambolesque situations, but considering the viewers will be very tying to the actors and really love them, their personalities, and their characters, they will want to believe it.

I unchangingly find Roschdy Zem a highlight in any mucosa he’s in, and to have a scene in which his incredible talent is unquestionably pointed out within the film feels like a gift, to him and to the audience.

I liked that for two reasons. Having notation who aren’t actors but uncork to act — not to use a big word like Brechtian, but it kind of is that — this distancing is very funny. Once again, the viewers aren’t fooled: they know that they’re watching actors, who pretend not to be actors, who then pretend to be actors. It’s like taking the viewers by the hand and telling them, you’re my partner on this.

It was moreover — not a reflection, I don’t like that word… An essay, or a theory, on emotions. This is something I’d realised while studying the technique of acting, which is something we don’t work on very much in France, I find. Beside his satire and critique of society, playwright Pierre de Marivaux moreover tells us well-nigh the lineage of a feeling: that plane by simulating a feeling, by pretending, a true feeling can be born. In his plays, we unchangingly have games between notation who pretend to love or no longer love one another, until suddenly, they finger something they didn’t expect. It’s a dangerous game, and I loved that idea.

It was moreover unconfined for the element of romantic comedy: when you have that framework, the problem is how to surprise the viewers. I thought that a romantic spectacle scene within an whoopee scene would create a unconfined lark — you’re simultaneously worried well-nigh the heist going well, and the couple falling in love.

Were there some inspirations that helped you with this wastefulness of tone?

I have a real passion for Italian cinema. There’s this thing in the work of Dino Rizzi and Mario Monicelli where the stakes for the notation can be tragic, but that doesn’t midpoint we’ll unchangingly maintain the same tone. All of a sudden, we can get a completely ridiculous or comical scene, and it won’t take yonder from the truth or emotion of the characters. Here, the stakes are a woman starting a new life and putting all her hopes in a new marriage — it’s tragic considering if it doesn’t work out, that’s super sad. But within that, I can indulge myself to have very lighthearted or plane ridiculous scenes, considering we’ll believe in this woman — at least, that was the challenge. The actors’ personalities moreover helped with that. Anouk [Grinberg] has the energy of someone in her twenties. She has no bitterness well-nigh life — that’s what’s trappy well-nigh her. She still believes.

The heist mucosa moreover feels like a quintessentially American type of movie. How did you deal with that?

When I was first writing the scene of the heist, there wasn’t the element of romance at all. At some point, a producer I knew told me, “Be careful, you’re not Michael Mann!” When you make an whoopee scene, there’s this tendency to think, “let’s do it like Heat or Scarface” — but that’s not who we are. Jean Renoir once said in an interview, “talk well-nigh what you know,” and I’ve unchangingly remembered that. I thought, I’ll interrupt this surge of action, I won’t plane try to do any stunts, and I’ll introduce an element that is very French — and that’s love! On set I unchangingly said, “We have to make Michael Mann in Poitou-Charentes,” which was a bit silly, but it meant not stuff pressured to make whoopee scenes like those in big productions.

How did you communicate the tone of the mucosa to your actors?

That’s one wholesomeness when you act in your own film: I could establish the tone by vicarial myself. My character, who was the most austere, anxious, supervisory and worrying of all of them, was moreover a stock-still element virtually which they could orient themselves.

I didn’t have to tell Roschdy much, he’s so great. I sometimes had to tell Anouk to hold when a little, but it worked so well between them — they were so trappy together. It was a worthier deal for Noémie. She’d never washed-up such a travesty performance before. I told her to think of Jacqueline Maillan, a French boulevard actress who delivered very big, maximalist performances. I loved the weft of Clémence so much, I could see so unmistakably her eccentricity, her madness, her valiance — hiding a kind of wound, of undertow — and I told Noémie that she needed to get outside herself so that we could see Clémence. She trusted me, and it worked — it was wondrous when she won the César, I was so happy.

I think it’s her weightier performance to date. It suits her so well.

It does. It’s funny, when she won flipside ribbon in Cabourg, she unquestionably said, “Louis unliable me to be, in a film, something that I once am in life.” It was really beautiful.

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