by Antonio Pezzuto
07/02/2003 - The 53rd Berlin Film Festival began and so did the 30th Forum New Cinema, a sidebar section that has launched numerous talents over the years.
This year’s inaugural film was Mimi by 38-year-old French director Claire Simon. She has directed numerous short films as well as Sinon oui Ça c’est vraiment toi. Mimi is a documentary about an ordinary woman called Mimi Chiola, and her memories of an ordinary life as the owner of a restaurant in Nice, and a house in the country where she passed the time gardening. Everywoman. But like every woman, Mimi has a story to tell and experiences to relive.
Tell us how you met Mimi Chiola?
“I have known Mimi for many years and one day, as she was telling me about her childhood, I got the idea for this film. It was significant that I chose not to make a fictional film because I don’t like making films where you have to reconstruct situations or eras. I tried instead to build on a contemporary style of narrating fiction, a documentary.”
What do you mean when you talk about a a new way of portraying fiction?
“One of the many examples I could give to illustrate what I mean is the clothes she wears. Mimi always wears the same blouse, The documentary is to all effects and purposes, constructed, and to stress that fact, I made her wear a costume. That allowed me to give the storyline another time frame. I did not want the viewer to notice the passage of time, I did not want to give an illusion of false reality: I wanted them to see a person who was telling her life story.”
Did you work with a screenplay?
“The whole film is an improvisation. We would go to a place, start filming and waited for the protagonist to talk about her memories. The story begins with the death of her father, her childhood, but I wanted a different location for every part of her life, for every scene to contain a different memory. This is the third film I’ve made in Nice, and I moved around as if I were looking for locations for a new film every time. Some places really relate to Mimi’s childhood, while she had never been to others. I loved shooting the externals with the sounds of the city that broke into violence. I wanted absolute clarity between the story and real life, between memories and the locations we were shooting in.