• French Competition


Pascale Bodet

Pascale Bodet
Pascale Bodet is no stranger to challenges, as she has so frequently proven. This time she has chosen to transpose the tumultuous story of a friendship, that of two famous 19th century artists, to contemporary Paris. Edouard, a painter, is portrayed as a plaintive and dandy Pierrot. Charles, a hooded critic and poet, attempts to fit in with the modern world that he despises, but in which he is obliged to live. Edouard and Charles secretes the jubilant energy of caricature, an ideal form for a tour of Paris filmed like a museum. Pascale Bodet paints a broad picture of various institutions and their representatives, consistently combining humour with mocking tenderness. Edouard and Charles is packed with witticism and situations where the absurd vies with the burlesque, a genre in which Benjamin Esdraffo and Pierre Léon indulge with relish, and a passing nod to Keaton. A wacky character, Gulcan, wonderfully played by Serge Bozon, pops up between the two companions. A stranger of whom we know nothing; he joyfully portrays the bewilderment of the two friends, wandering around in football gear, breaking all the codes of the spaces they cross. He barely speaks, multiplying the syllables of each word, somewhere between playful childhood and a psychoanalytical interlude which, transcending language, slips between the two friends, vents the unspoken and repairs past conflicts. Pascale Bodet celebrates the friendship that nourishes artists just as much as their works of art, as in her film populated by figures from the world of cinema. Edouard and Charles is to be seen as an act of faith, in art, in artists and their works, timeless, transgressive, avant-garde, breaking out of the boxes that time reinvents, against all odds.
(Claire Lasolle)

Interview with Pascale Bodet

1. Since your first film Horezon in 2005, you’ve been switching from one genre to another, from shorts to features… What was your intention with this film?

The initial project was to show the caricatures of Manet’s paintings published in the satirical press at the time. I came across them twenty years ago. They were amazing, hard-hitting and often mean, and I fantasised about this way of attacking artists head-on, intelligently and laughing. At the same time, I was reading E.T.A. Hoffmann and I thought it would be great to show the caricatures in a fantasy film featuring Benjamin Esdraffo, Pierre Léon and Serge Bozon. I then spent twenty years rewriting the film and the project evolved. It changed in length, from very long to medium-length and then into a short. It changed genre, more fictional (when there was a female role written for Marie Möör), more documentary (when we were going to film Willem, Michel Blazy or a very long sequence during the Hors Pistes festival in Beaubourg), and more of a ghost story (when, to get funding, I was trying to justify the reappearance of two historical figures in modern-day Paris). But the project never changed in principle – the persistence of two characters from the past in the present; the caricatures in a big closing scene; and a film written for Benjamin Esdraffo, Pierre Léon and Serge Bozon.

2. So why exactly did you choose to portray the friendship of two 19th century artists in modern-day Paris?
Because Vas-tu renoncer ? is a historical fantasy. When I stroll around Paris, I always see the past, not the future.

3. Vas-tu renoncer ? reinvents contemporary burlesque. How did you work on the comedy when writing the script with François Prodromidès?

With François Prodromidès, as with Serge Bozon, Emmanuel Levaufre, Anne Benhaïem, Stratis Vouyoucas and Bojena Horackova, who all helped me with the rewriting at one point or another, and as with Pierre Benqué, Mélanie Gerin, Anne Mattatia and Stanley Woodward, the producers who tried to produce the film at one time or another, we didn’t work on the comedy in particular, but we tried to make this historical fantasy comprehensible and acceptable, because it was all over the place with its documentary roots, didactic vocation, the fictional issues such as friendship, the caricatures, etc. Perhaps by magnifying certain features, burlesque was a way of finding a little bit of simplicity – I’m thinking, for example, of the geographical journey of the 3 characters or the logic of cause and effect that connects them. But I don’t think of Vas-tu renoncer ? as a burlesque film.

4. Your main characters, the composer Benjamin Esdraffo and the director Pierre Léon, have very different styles. How did you envisage this?
Since I wrote the roles for them, it was they who directed the writing. Both of them act without following any specific rules. For a start, they’re not professional actors. And also, I don’t have a literary rapport with acting, I just try and capture what I particularly like about an individual in real life.

5. How did you imagine the role of Gulcan played by Serge Bozon with his distinctive language?
Even with a fictional character like Gulcan, what I like to do is find what I like about Serge in real life. In the early versions of the script, Serge played the role of an actor. First of all, I got fed up with everyone speaking the same French. Secondly, I knew that Serge wanted to explore an unusual role. Thirdly, so that the project (which had been dragging on for so long) could have some new blood twenty years later, I imagined Gulcan, inspired by a guy who lives in my neighbourhood. And fourthly, after an epic production process and with only a fortnight to shoot, the appearance of Gulcan made the project a lot simpler.

6. There are a lot of cameos from the film world in this movie. Was it a game with your “cinema” family?
But are they really cameos? A cameo is someone we film because he or she is well-known. In my movie, they feature because I know them, not because they’re well known. Some people reproach Vas-tu renoncer ? for being a little too “Parisian”, a bit cliquey. But Vas-tu renoncer ? is a film with artists as characters, so if there are people from the film world in it, it’s not an aberration. Secondly, I film people whose style I like. Thirdly, I film people who have time to be an extra or play a small role. And fourthly, we had very little money to make the film. So the result was I filmed people I knew, and I should add that the greatest filmmakers got their friends to act in their movies; Blavette, Gaston Modot and Jacques Becker play the proles in La Vie est à nous. There’s also Léon Moussinac, he was a film critic and he plays in Delluc’s Fièvre. Why? Because he was a friend of Delluc? Because he was right for the role? Because it was practical? A combination of all three reasons? These things get forgotten over time.

7. How did you organise the editing with Serge Bozon and Agnès Bruckert?

As with my three previous films, it was a back-and-forth system because I don’t like staying next to the equipment, I always want to grab the mouse. All three of us worked together for only one session at the end. I’d say that each of us tried things according to our personality, and the other two acted as safeguards for the one who was editing.

8. “Vas-tu renoncer ?” The answer is given by one of the characters. Can the movie’s title be understood as a profession of faith in cinema?
Yes! Thanks for spotting that! That was the film’s intention.

Interview by Olivier Pierre

  • French Competition

Technical sheet

France / 2021 / 72’

Original Version : French.
Subtitles : English.
Script : Pascale Bodet.
Photography : David Grinberg.
Editing : Agnès Bruckert, Pascale Bodet, Serge Bozon.
Sound : Frédéric Dabo, Benjamin Laurent.
Casting : Benjamin Esdraffo, Pierre Leon, Serge Bozon, Marc Barbe, Marianne Basler, Andy Gillet, Emmanuel Levaufre. Production : Anne Mattatia et Stanley Woodward (Les Films de la nuit), Mélanie Gerin et Paul Rozenberg (Zadig Films), Serge Lasvignes (Le Centre Pompidou).
Distribution : Anne Mattatia (Les Films de la nuit).
Filmography : Baleh-baleh, 2021. Presque un siècle, 2019. Porte sans clef, 2018. L’Art, 2015. Manutention légère, 2014. L’Abondance, 2013. Complet 6 pièces, 2011. Le Carré de la fortune, 2007.