• French Competition



Jacques Meilleurat

Jacques Meilleurat
“You’re 15-22 years old, you want to sing in a musical, sign up to ozu.com”. A young man shouts this announcement into a megaphone and stars fall on the streets of the city. About fifteen young people, mostly girls, and a handful of boys, go through the casting process. They stop in front of Jacques Meilleurat’s camera to sing a song a cappella or accompanied by a guitar or ukulele. Stars is the continuation of their performances, cruelly captured in the summer light. It’s simple and moving, carried by the humble gift of these faces and voices risking everything in the raw, pure present moment of their singing. Yet, since the author of Leaning Against the Wall (Grand Prix of the French Competition, FID 2021) is anything but naive, the film is far from being that simple or innocent. Sometimes a synth accompaniment comes out of nowhere in addition to the directly recorded sound. So the film’s casting spells the beginning of the musical to come and, as in all musicals, the lyrics of the songs speak volumes about and for those who sing them. As the singers often exchange confidences with the young man doing the casting, each sequence becomes a portrait and the film is the portrait of a generation, of diverse, working-class young people in a town in the South West. The youth of today also sings songs of yesterday and what emerges in this gap is the self-portrait of a tormented filmmaker, in love with the people he films but rebelling against his time. Gloom intermittently veils the brilliance of the performances – personal or family woes, lives destined for instability, the shadow cast by Covid on the existence of these people and the film. By having Les Mots Bleus sung and heard four times, there is no doubt that Meilleurat is paying homage to its author, Christophe, who died during the editing and to whom Stars seems to be implicitly dedicated. (Cyril Neyrat)

Interview with Jacques Meilleurat

Étoiles (Stars) is very different from your last film Appuyé au Mur (Lean on the Wall, FID 2021) in both its theme and its form. How did it originate?

At the same time, I was writing a four-episode mini-series (4 x 20’). In this mini-series, there’s an audition for singers for a musical.

Stars was shot during the pandemic, which is mentioned, but it remains radiant in its artistry and street scenes. Why did you want to film outside?

I began shooting Stars on August 10th, 2020, until September 2021. I started shooting in a closed space, but soon stopped – something wasn’t right, and I quickly realised that I had to film in the street for it to be more real, freer and more risky. The film was shot in three streets in Toulouse.

How did you organise the auditions for actors?

I advertised on the audition pages of two social media platforms.

The plot can more or less be summed up as casting the main character played by Basile Meilleurat and the auditions with you. Did it involve a lot of improvisation?

I’d chosen a street, an unoccupied space in this street, and the young people put themselves in front of two cameras; I didn’t give any directions – the film is very improvised, a single idea, a single take.

Did the editing determine the film’s construction?

The editing took a long time, I think, and I tried out very few solutions, I eliminated a lot of candidates.

Who chose the songs, which vary from French pop music to personal compositions?

Most of the time, I chose the songs or the songwriters. I gave them the names of three songwriters and they chose a song.

Les Mots Bleus by Christophe is a significant song that crops up several times. Why?

The singer had just died, and I asked the candidates who were auditioning to choose one of his songs to perform.

The songs are performed a cappella, rarely with background music, and the musical arrangements are written by Antonin Meilleurat. What choices did you make?
I showed a pre-edit to Antonin as he requested, and he wrote a musical accompaniment for several songs, but I kept very few of them.

The camera is held, often frontal, close to the people’s faces, but it also follows the young artists in tracking shots. How did you envisage the directing?

I chose a fixed frame, with tracking shots to accompany the arrival and departure of the actors.

The movie is a portrait of youth, and your filmmaking has recorded their moments of grace in song to make them “stars in the street”. Is your initial title an apt description of the project?

The project was carried out with the utmost simplicity, and I think that some of the young people, and some of their parents even, thought it was a fake audition, a phoney audition.

Interview by Olivier Pierre

  • French Competition

Technical sheet

France / 2022 / Color / 71’

Original version : french
Subtitles : english
Script : Jacques Meilleurat
Photography : Jacques Meilleurat
Editing : Jacques Meilleurat
Sound : Jacques Meilleurat
Production & distribution : Jacques Meilleurat (Association Cinq Films).
Filmography : Mon adorée, 2022
Appuyé au mur, 2021
En désordre, 2019
Éléphant, 1981