Guillaume and Stéphane Malandrin • Directors
by Aurore Engelen
- Cineuropa met with Guillaume and Stéphane Malandrin, who premiered the second film they have directed together, Je suis mort mais j’ai des amis, at the Brussels Film Festival
With Je suis mort mais j’ai des amis [+see also:
interview: Guillaume and Stéphane Mala…
film profile], a slapstick comedy featuring an exciting comic duo (Bouli Lanners and Wim Willaert), brothers Guillaume and Stéphane Malandrin move away from the sombre and psychoanalytical style of their first film to hit the road of the great Canadian North.
Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Guillaume Malandrin: After Hand of the Headless Man, which was a particularly dark psychoanalytical thriller, we wanted to move towards comedy. We wanted something light, to have some fun, and above all, to share our sense of humour on the big screen, a side of our personalities that we had yet to cultivate in film. We wanted to move away from darker subject matter and move into the light of laughter.
Stéphane Malandrin: We also wanted to make a more straightforward film in a more straightforward way. Hand of the Headless Man had quite a complex structure, with flashbacks. Here, we wanted to make a film with our friends, a funny film. Although it was indeed easier to think up, the same certainly can’t be said for putting it together, it took us a long time to find funding. Although that’s perhaps another reason why it’s so hard to make a comedy.
An arthouse comedy which is much much more!
S.M.: Making the leap from sentiment to comedy, whilst also trying to explore bizarre, burlesque, slapstick and grotesque humour, was a real challenge. We wanted to write a story of friendship, to draw on what we knew.
G.M.: We also wanted to put together a comedy duo with Bouli Lanners (Yvan) and Wim Willaert (Wim), two clowns in a fashion, the whiteface clown who tries to do serious things in the circus ring, and the Auguste who persistently gets in the whiteface clown’s way and knocks him over, making him angry with his clumsiness. This was a register we wanted to work with, also taking inspiration from the dynamic between Laurel & Hardy, and great comic figures we admire such as Louis de Funès and Bourvil.
I imagine that music played a key role in the creation process. How did you use it?
S.M.: Before we started filming, we only had a few pieces by the group, original recordings. We knew we wanted to use French rock, French punk. We could have used the Ramones or the Sex Pistols (even though it would have been expensive), but then we hit upon a record company specialising in this type of music: Born Bad Records, set up by Jean-Baptiste Guillot, a leading figure in French indie rock who managed all the groups during the 1980s. He could almost be a character in the film! It was he who sourced all our music, with the exception of the song by Jean Yanne at the beginning of the film, Coït. This is a song that out friend Jacky Lambert (the actor), listens to in real life, and we liked his bad boy boundary-breaking humour, it fitted well.
Was the film hard to produce?
S.M.: The film was complex to produce. First we developed it with La Parti, in which I was the producer with Philippe Kaufmann and Vincent Tavier, but over the course of production, our love affair with La Parti came to an end. As a result, it seemed more productive to start from scratch with another company. We turned to Versus, we set up a small organisation (Altitude 100), and we remained the co-producers of the film. But we also had to start from scratch where French and Canadian co-producers were concerned as well. In the end, our funding came 95% from Belgium, although the French producer was heavily involved, and we found an excellent distributor (Happiness). We also realised that when you have a modest budget (in this case, €1.2 million), it’s hard to combine certain regional funds, especially those of SODEC and Wallimage, which have similar demands in terms of spending. In the end it was a lot more complicated than that, but what we had originally planned to be a light comedy turned out to be anything but to make. But that’s not stopping us from writing a new comedy, which we’ve just started working on.
(Translated from French)