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Interview: Bruno Podalydès • Director

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Bbelief and joy


- After being presented in Venice, this second part of Rouletabille's adventures already released in France, competed at the Namur French-speaking International Film Festival

Interview: Bruno Podalydès • Director

After being presented in Venice, this second part of Rouletabille's adventures already released in France, competed at the Namur French-speaking International Film Festival, during which Cineuropa met Bruno Podalydès, an agreable, sincere, and sometimes cheeky director.

Cineuropa : The film is very enjoyable to see and seems to have been very enjoyable to make, maybe because there is something slightly transgressive about it?
Bruno Podalydès : Yes, I did enjoy making this film, thanks to the story, the actors, thelocation (we shot in Port-Cros island, in the Mediterranean sea). I am confident the Belgian public will enjoy the film more than the French spectators who, I reckon, were often disoriented by this transgressive aspect you are talking about, for they are too enclined to try and understand everything and the film is not always logical.

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Indeed, the plot sometimes seems secondary.
Two stories are unraveling here, but the mystery plot is not so important, while I find the one which has to do with Rouletabille's relationship with his mother very interesting, although I am not fooled by it. This incest thing is so big that I wanted to tackle this as directly as possible. I think Leroux was aware of that, but it was hard to be very explicit in the beginning of the 20th Century. I never look down on the original story, I actually like it very much.

When The Mystery of the Yellow Room came out, many people emphasized the influence of comics. This second episode seems to relate to theatrical musicals too, doesn't it?
If you are talking about Prince Galitch, the music and songs, well, absolutely. This film is always compared with comics — and pertinently so, although I would rather mention cartoons, especially Tex Avery's. Yet, I felt like mixing all genres, including novel series and vaudeville. It was not all voluntary. There was a range of possibilities I could choose from, picking things here and there thinking they would make a fine blend.

What was your method to adapt the novel?
I had made up my own little techniques when I adapted The Mystery..., but I find it hard to describe them. It took quite some time and a lot of work to write that script, although I gradually managed to take sentences from certain scenes and use them elsewhere. For The Perfume... [+see also:
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, this method allowed me to be much faster and freer. I felt more independent from the book and found I did not have to keep all of its elements. In fact, I thought Leroux would enjoy the film more if it was not taken straight out from his book. True loyalty consists in maintaining its essence, working as a series novelist for whom nothing is pre-determined and who works on a day to day basis, adding odd birds when he feels like it. The images had to be rendered though; I needed the walking stick, a skull, the orange... I also borrowed elements present on location such as the canons, the fish... and I changed the meaning of certain things, such as the orange. I used this image but interpreted it in a completely different way.

Since Rouletabille is a very unpleasant character, the spectator is led to empathize with Sainclair, the ingenuous character.
I really like the fact that Sainclair is gullible. I find it moving, so I do not like it if a spectator smirks at the magical show, in the beginning of the film. When someone offers to perform a magic trick, the illusion is meant to be entertaining, not deceitful. I really felt like making a film a ten-year-old could enjoy —probably because I have of child of that age. For that matter, the iron mask thing and the coffin/bath tub impressed many children. I am glad some things are slightly scary. And I, too, want to believe in all this. This is one of the things I like about Sainclair: he is a believer and gives free rein to his imagination. Yet, there is no mockery here, making films is too precious a thing to do that.

If you were really 'nice', what things wouldn't you have invented (allusion to a recurrent joke in the movie)?
(laughs). Ma favourite is the egg cup. That is what made me laugh most. I was about to say 'the cinema', but it is too meaningful, too big, so it is silly...

Are you working on a new project?
Several ones: a musical, a thriller, a classic comedy —although I am not sure I can stick to a genre anymore. We'll see.


international title: Perfume of the Lady in Black
original title: Le Parfum de la Dame en Noire
country: France
sales agent: Celluloid Dreams
year: 2005
directed by: Bruno Podalydès
screenplay: Bruno Podalydès
cast: Denis Podalydès, Bruno Podalydès, Jean-Noël Brouté, Sabine Azéma, Olivier Gourmet, Pierre Arditi, Zabou Breitman, Michael Lonsdale, Vincent Elbaz

main awards/selection

Venice 2006 Out of competition

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