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“I can help artists to realise what they have within themselves”

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Philippe Martin • Producer


- Cineuropa met up with producer Philippe Martin, head of Les Films Pelléas, a few days ahead of the release of In the Courtyard by Pierre Salvadori

Philippe Martin  • Producer
© Laurent Champoussin

The founder of Paris-based company Les Films Pelléas, which has produced over 60 feature films and discovered many arthouse directors (including Pierre Salvadori, Mia Hansen-Love, Pierre Schoeller, Serge Bozon, Jean-Paul Civeyrac and Axelle Ropert, among others), Philippe Martin (who works in tandem with his partner David Thion) is quite a discreet leading figure in the French film industry. However, he agreed to talk to Cineuropa on the occasion of the French release of In the Courtyard [+see also:
interview: Philippe Martin
film profile
by Pierre Salvadori on 23 April, a title that was revealed at the Berlinale in a special gala screening.

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Cineuropa: In the Courtyard is the eighth feature film by Pierre Salvadori that you have produced. What is the secret to this loyalty?
Philippe Martin: My desire to produce his films – which are unlike anyone else’s and which really move me – is still as strong as ever. I like his mood, his relationship with the world, his feel for comedy, that way he has of blending tragedy and humorousness. But his films are hard to produce, not in terms of the funding arrangement, because they are successful and sell well abroad, but because each one takes a year to edit. For certain filmmakers who make movies that are a lot darker and in principle more difficult, it’s assumed that they will be hard work, whereas for Pierre Salvadori’s films, you never get that impression – but you have no idea just how much work a comedy director (or him, in any case!) does to produce one-and-a-half hours of intelligent and entertaining material. 

How would you define Pelléas’ editorial policy?
It’s arthouse directors I’m interested in. Directors are artists who can take you to places that you would never have imagined. I am in the process of finishing Les Métamorphoses by Christophe Honoré, and I never imagined that one day I would be producing an adaptation of Ovid. But it’s meeting with an artist, his or her expression, and his or her way of tackling a work that persuade you. My editorial policy is just to accompany arthouse directors whom I firmly believe in, to tell myself that I can help artists to realise what they have within themselves. Initially, that’s what happened with the first films – discovering arthouse directors and accompanying them. But recently I have produced some very experienced filmmakers, such as Nicole Garcia and Christophe Honoré. It’s quite a novel and pleasurable experience for me. It’s not the same type of hand-holding as it is for the production of a debut film, which is a huge amount of work because you have to be on hand for everything and there is often a kind of resistance exhibited by the younger directors. But discovering people and seeing them blossom is still truly satisfying, as was the case with Mia Hansen Love, for instance. In the history of art, it’s always interesting to see how a talent is born. And when I see one appear, I have only one desire – and that is to accompany them. After that, the way in which I accompany them can take different forms.

Are the films that you produce difficult to finance?
I’ve always found it difficult. I know that at one point, it was easier for some producers, but that wasn’t the case for me. Funding an arthouse comedy, for example, is definitely not as easy as people imagine. With those comedies that are a bit “poor”, no one offers them anything other than a type of commercial effectiveness: run-of-the-mill dialogues and a strong cast can do the trick. And being ambitious when you make a “serious” film is quantifiable, recognisable and sustained. It’s a lot more difficult with an arthouse director who has artistic ambition, but whose world and language are those of comedy, because he doesn’t fit into the pigeonholes of this recognisable commercial type of comedy. In France, it is difficult to blend comedy and artistic ambition.

What are Pelléas’ short-term plans now?
Following In the Courtyard, we will be releasing Salvation Army [+see also:
film profile
by Abdellah Taïa on 7 May. Then, we’ll have Mon amie Victoria by Jean-Paul Civeyrac (read the article) and Métamorphoses by Christophe Honoré (read the article), with whom we’ll then be making another film. A documentary by Jean-Stéphane Bron is also beginning to come together, and Pierre Salvadori and Nicole Garcia are starting to write again. We’re also in the process of funding Diamant noir by Arthur Harari and Peur de rien by Danielle Arbid, and we are working on projects with Axelle Ropert and Serge Bozon.

(Translated from French)

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