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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Un film doit jouer avec l’imaginaire du spectateur »

by Interview by Dominique Widemann with film director Emmanuel Mouret

"A Film Should Play with the Viewer’s Imagination"

Translated by Ann Drummond

Translated Wednesday 5 July 2006, by Ann Drummond

Cinema: ’Changement d’adresse’, a film by Emmanuel Mouret, brings charm to our screens after doing the same at the Director’s Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival. Interview with a likeable filmmaker.

"Changement d’adresse" (Change of address)
By Emmanuel Mouret. France. 1 hour 25 mins.

We have already expressed our high opinion of "Changement d’adresse" in these columns, the third feature film by Emmanuel Mouret, which was put forward by the Director’s Fortnight (1) at the latest Cannes Film Festival. Given the excesses of Cannes, brevity should temper the enthusiasm. The film is released in cinemas today. An opportunity to linger and meet its creator, Emmanuel Mouret, who also plays the part of David, one of the two main characters.

HUMA: A man, a woman, a meeting, and paths crossing. Within what could easily have been a trivial scenario, how did you find this unique expression which is immediately felt by the viewer?

EMMANUEL MOURET: I tried to express the freshness which is found in everyday things. Whether a director or an actor, everyone is quite different and I believe there’s nothing worse than going against this law of nature. I try to be inconspicuous. Maybe it is this very approach that ends up producing something unique. From directors I admire, I’ve taken on board that all artistic expression is shaped from the vital energy which is fundamental to human beings. Directors like Rossellini, Renoir, Guitry and Rohmer are against affectation and stay true to themselves. In another medium, Montaigne is my favourite author. The Montaigne who asks "What do I know?". I don’t know. I ask questions of myself as I make films, opposing any system which is authoritarian, pretentious or dogmatic.

HUMA: People like to talk of the simple style in which "Changement d’adresse" is directed.

EMMANUEL MOURET: As far as the screenplay is concerned, I like cutting and editing - I call it the clean breaks. Really what I am talking about is simplicity. There is a kind of pleasure in this work when you see something taking shape. Which is not to say that it should be one regular shape, as a film’s narrative is filled with twists and turns. These change the characters. I am not opposed to a self-conscious approach as a matter of principle. It can be full of fun and inventiveness. When I refer to simplicity, I am talking about something very personal which can’t be reduced to generalisations. I have adopted a formula: I try only to film what I like or what fascinates me. I leave all the rest off-screen. That’s not any kind of rejection of the outside world. I feel that a film should play with the viewer’s imagination. The images stimulate the imagination, as does the sound, and "Changement d’adresse" is a film based on dialogue. The main character in this film is the viewer himself, and we play with his expectations.

HUMA: Does comedy play a role in it?

EMMANUEL MOURET: It’s a question of a comedy of situations. For me, the whole issue about the production process and directing the actors was that the characters find themselves in funny situations without losing their sincerity. I wanted the narration to be maintained at all times. Buster Keaton for example managed this wonderfully. But "Changement d’adresse" is a film about feelings.

HUMA: How did you pick the actors?

EMMANUEL MOURET: During casting, the difficult thing is that every actor represents the possibility of a film, tells the story of a different character. So above all you have to select one film from all the possible films. It’s like choosing music, which can change the whole orchestration of a film. In theatre, it’s stating the obvious. You are working on a repertoire which is constantly being reinterpreted. Before you make a film, you have ideas, then you make the film in order to "visualize" it. To me, it seems improbable that anyone could conceive an hour and a half of cinema with all the set details and actors’ expressions worked out for every single moment. That would be a sure-fire way to become blinkered. I believe the role of the director is to produce a harmony between what he feels inside and what unfolds. For me cinema is created by listening and falteringly finding your way.

HUMA: Once again, you present a rather awkward hero. Where does this soft spot come from?

EMMANUEL MOURET: I’ve always had a liking for these awkward heroes. Lacan used to say: "Man is the only premature animal." How to adapt is a constant worry. I believe that awkwardness is undervalued in our society. Not only do my heroes get on with life, but they can even find fulfilment in love. Deep down, the awkward character protects himself and distances himself from the norm. As a child, I was fascinated by clowns I saw on TV, the way they fell and always got back up again, somehow or other, putting on a fresh expression of amazement. There’s a kind of insouciance about it which I can’t describe. Let’s call it an elegant quality which you find in great melodramas. I’m thinking here of Lubitsch. I’m in awe of those who don’t give in to cynicism. You can’t be in love if you have recovered from love and even political action has to involve something cheerful. It’s about not throwing accusations at life. In that sense my "awkward" characters perhaps act as examples. I couldn’t deal with characters I was looking down on from a height. Awkward heroes can inspire us with attitudes verging on this elegant insouciance which is a form of resistance and an expression of freedom. It’s not sloppiness, and in today’s society I choose this word carefully. Rather than filming oppression, I enjoy filming - resistance.

Interview by Dominique Widemann.

(1) The Director’s Fortnight is an independent section held in parallel to the Festival de Cannes. Created in 1969, it showcases a programme of shorts and feature films as well as documentaries from all over the world. http://www.festival-cannes.fr/pratique/festival/autour_festival.php?langue=6002

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