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Cédric Klapisch • Director

"This is a moment of transition, a strong political act needs to be put forward"


- The Brussels Film Festival invited Cédric Klapisch to hold a master class, just a few days before the release of his 12th film, Back to Burgundy

Cédric Klapisch • Director
Cédric Klapisch, on the set of Back to Burgundy

Last Friday, the Brussels Film Festival invited Cédric Klapisch to come and hold what turned out to be an exceptional master class, just a few days before the release of his 12th feature film, Back to Burgundy [+see also:
film profile
. The French director reflected on his way of working and how he came to the profession, as well as the future he envisages for world and European film. 

What made you want to start making films?
Cédric Klapisch: The source of it all was my passion for photography. My father and grandfather also loved it. At the same time, I started going to the cinema a lot around the age of 14/15. I applied for the Femis on several occasions, I studied film at university, and attended film school in New York. At that point I was undecided between becoming a director of photography and a director, but then when I tried my hand at screenwriting I ended up choosing to become a director.

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In France, the screenplay is just the framework, it’s the action that counts, like in America incidentally
I trained in screenwriting in the United States, but I did my graduation piece the French way! I knew how to analyse texts and films, but writing requires different skills to analysing. It was like learning a foreign language. My story ideas were too poetic, and it bothered everyone. I battled on for a year, and slowly but surely, learned to express myself in this foreign tongue, to create a narrative framework and direct the actors. 

Things are changing in film. Instead of fighting change, we can choose to use it to our advantage. Pot Luck was one of the first films to be shot in HD. Initially people said it wouldn’t be as good as 35mm, and ended up saying "Let’s make the most of it!" I used fast motion, split screen and superimposition. I decided to use video. You have to use negative energy and make it into something positive. 

My creative process revolves around freedom, and it’s with good reason that I also produce my films. I’m more a director than a screenwriter, something I truly realised when working on the series Dix pour cent, funnily enough. I had a lot of problems with my first film, Riens du tout. It really didn’t live up to my dream. With Chacun cherche son chat, I decided to stop dreaming up my films before making them. 

How do you see film evolving in this age of Netflix?
I thought the swing would be quicker and more violent. There have been two landmark moments in the history of French film. First in 1946, with the creation of the CNC under the aegis of Malraux. He saved French cinema by establishing the advance on receipts and support fund mechanisms. We’re all children of this political invention. Americans think that the State gives money to French films, but they’re wrong. Through this system, films fund themselves!

The other great turning point came by the hand of Jack Lang in the 1980s, after the creation of Canal+. While television was getting ready to become the nemesis of film, he created the decoder, and a specific broadcasting space between film and television, using new investments for film. That once again saved French film.

These political decisions are important. I think we’re now once again facing big change. If our political masters don’t take control of the situation and new stakeholders like Netflix, Google and Amazon, we’re headed for disaster. We need to create obligations for Internet service providers. They can’t always be against film. They used to allow piracy, but now that they’ve become producers themselves, they’re starting to see things in a different light. This is a moment of transition, a strong political act needs to be put forward. And it can’t just be at national level, it has to happen at European level.

(Translated from French)

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