Louis Garrel: “I wanted to invite Marivaux in a heist film”
And if with The Innocent, Louis Garrel had offered us the funniest film of this 75th Cannes edition? Meeting with an actor-director who, behind his melancholy airs, does not lack humor.
Tuesday evening, your film was screened on the occasion of the anniversary evening of the 75th edition. A great honor, and at the same time, additional pressure, because in the room were no less than fourteen recipients of the Palme d’Or and an incredible audience of actors, actresses, directors…
It was very special! Like a dream and, at the same time, a nightmare. I had the impression of being a student who had to present his end-of-year film in front of about sixty international and web-based directors. In addition, two minutes before the start of the film, Thierry Frémaux handed me the microphone to ask me how I feel. How can I tell you… Contrary to what one might think, the situation was not the most enviable. Then, during the screening, I heard the audience laughing: a relief. There was something magical because it felt like we were at the theatre: the spectators reacted, applauded certain scenes.
It’s true that we laugh a lot in front of L’Innocent. However, given your career, we do not necessarily expect you with a comedy.
When I was shooting the film, I didn’t know it was going to be a comedy. I hoped so, but you shouldn’t sell the bear’s skin before you’ve killed it. Like yesterday, the first spectators laughed heartily; yes, today, I can assure you that The Innocent is a comedy.
So you didn’t originally write it as a comedy?
No way. It’s the interpretation that makes it a comedy. Staged differently and acted out differently, this same scenario could turn completely tragic. I was inspired by the Italian cinema of Mario Monicelli and Dino Risi, who worked on the notion of tragico-comic as something existential. I don’t believe in comedies that are just comedy. Me, I wanted to mix a heist film with Marivaux.
What is your comedy style?
Perhaps Santa Claus is trash, which is a particularly dark prank. A true example of tragicomic precisely. You know why ? Because at no time do the actors act as if they were in a comedy. On the contrary, they are in total empathy with their characters. They go beyond the simple boulevardier number.
The main character of The Innocent, Abel, whom you play, seems straight out of a Woody Allen film.
Abel is a great anxious, super pessimistic, surrounded by happy people, full of life and energy. This contrast is reminiscent of the world of Woody Allen, indeed. Above all, this character, already very paranoid, only finds himself in preposterous situations. That’s where the comedy comes from.
Does this character look like you?
Yes, yes, I am very anxious too (laughs).
Another comic spring of your film: you have chosen a kindly kitsch soundtrack. We hear in particular “For pleasure” by Herbert Léonard and “Magic night” by Catherine Lara.
Already, I can tell you that I called Catherine (Lara) to talk to her about it. We can say kitsch, if you want, even if for me, it is not at all. I have always listened to variety songs. This is a very sincere choice on my part. It is popular music, in the good sense of the term, which is accessible to all, which carries everyone away. I also dream that the film will become a variety film.
What is a “variety film”?
I have fun with this word “variety”, because in L’Innocent, there are a variety of genres: sentimental comedy, detective comedy… But “variety film”, I would say that it’s a film that can be seen by everyone. An easy film, like a popular song. Above all, I wanted the viewer to never be bored.
Not boring the viewer is the complicated art of comedy.
You have to be able to surprise all the time. Jean-Claude Carrière, with whom I worked, told me: “Louis, the scene that follows, no one must have foreseen it.“ Not easy, because today, the viewer is always one step ahead of the film. So we have to surprise him, while remaining plausible. A real headache when writing a screenplay.
Author: Michael Zippo
Sources: VanityFair, IO Donna
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