“Put a smile on our faces”
by Fabien Lemercier
Flanked by his two lead actors, Eric Cantona and Steve Evets, co-screenwriter Paul Laverty and two producers Rebecca O’Brien and Pascal Caucheteux, UK director Ken Loach partook, with his usual openness, in the question-and-answer session before the international press, after the screening of Looking For Eric [+see also:
interview: Cannes 2009
interview: Steve Evets - actor
film profile], in competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.
Why did you decide to make a comedy and reveal this joyful aspect that is rather rare in your work? Do you think it will be your greatest popular hit?
My usual team and I thought it was better to put a smile on our faces. But a comedy can also be imagined as a tragedy with a "happy ending". And the film could be both, a comedy and a tragedy. The most important thing was that the story was authentic and rang true. When the actors give a real performance, sometimes it‘s funny, sometimes it’s upsetting, but the essential is there.
By adopting an honest approach to the central theme and telling as true a story as possible, we hope this enables viewers to get closer to the film. As for popular success, I don’t know. My distributors have great confidence in the film and are going to release it on larger print-runs than for my previous films. It’s a good sign.
What attracted you to the subject of football?
Football is useful for it enables people to gather together, with a notion of community. And it’s also the only context where it’s possible to be nationalistic in a positive way. During a match, spectators can express their feelings, especially men who generally find it difficult to do so. Emotions range from despair, to triumph, hope and sadness…
If a film manages to convey all that, that’s already quite an achievement. But you can’t recreate a match, even with the aid of modern technology, for the rhythm of football differs too much from that of film. So Paul Laverty and I had to reflect on the game and the reactions it evokes in people, its beauty and art.
With your recent films, you’ve returned to the heights of international cinema. Do you think you’ll go on making films as long as Manoel de Oliveira?
He’s a rather hard act to follow and I don’t know if I’ll continue for another 20 years. When making my films, I’m very lucky to work with a producer like Rebecca O’Brien, who always finds financial backing for my projects. But her role isn’t limited to signing cheques; above all, she’s responsible for creating a working environment in which everyone can give of their best.
When you work in a team, you’re able to surpass yourself. I’m also lucky to collaborate with screenwriter Paul Laverty, with whom I share the creative work 50/50. It’s the fuel we need to move forward. And obviously, besides the DoP and others, there are the actors. Just as on the football pitch, Eric Cantona acts with flair and creativity in the film. A good actor looks you straight in the eyes: it comes from the guts!