Rachid Djaïdani • Director
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2016: French director Rachid Djaïdani talks about the film he presented in Directors’ Fortnight this year, Tour de France
The director of Hold Back [+see also:
interview: Rachid Djaïdani
film profile], Rachid Djaïdani, talks to us about the film he presented this year in Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival, Tour de France [+see also:
interview: Rachid Djaïdani
film profile]: the story of a rapper and a Frenchman placed by Gérard Depardieu who learn, over the course of a journey around the country, to get to know and love one another.
Cineuropa: How and when did the idea come to you to make this film, once again based around a journey?
Rachid Djaïdani: In 2012, I talked with Anne-Dominique Toussaint, my producer, about making this film when we were here at Cannes, presenting Hold Back. It was an idea that I’d been holding onto for years: forcing a yob and a fascist together – to put it bluntly – was a lot more complex, but the idea was to establish this initial antagonism between the characters.
How did you choose Sadek to play Far’hook and how did you get Gérard Depardieu on board for the character of Serge?
Sadek is an artist who I greatly admire, and who I knew well before offering him the role of Far-hook. We did some tests and the result was so wonderful, so right, that we simply had to bring him on board. As for Depardieu, "tonton" as I call him, he chose us. You can tell by looking at him whether or not you make the grade, and if you pass, it’s like embarking on a poetic and fraternal ode, an eternal journey, a breath of air full of humanity. It’s like a child jumping out of a magical teapot and granting all your wishes; Depardieu is a sorcerer, and you don’t direct him, it’s him who leads you. You have to watch him, listen to him and harmonise with him. It’s not about directing an actor with him because he’s not just any actor: he’s The Actor.
Did you, like in Hold Back, leave room for improvisation?
At no moment was everything set in stone on paper. As a writer, I love words, the spoken word, and unlike Hold Back, in which the words came from the mouths of my colleagues, here the screenplay took a year to write, and it was me who honed the puns and other witticisms that may seem spontaneous in the film over the course of its development. Incidentally, as tonton puts it so well: he’s there to play a role and not to write the screenplay or the dialogue for the director. So there was no improvisation in Tour de France, and Depardieu, for that matter, refused to improvise, out of respect for the writing and the work that went into it.
On the side of colour, whilst Hold Back was dominated by the grey/black of the town and the red of love and rage, and your superb documentary Encré, on the abstract painting of Yaze, was an explosion of different colours, we were expecting Tour de France to be characterised by green when it is actually dominated by blue.
Indeed, here the colours are cooler. With Elie Akoka, who calibrated the film, we wanted to avoid the obvious yellow or green and aim for something more original whilst echoing the colour of the sea. We didn’t want to fall, just because the film is a sunny one, into the cliché of yellow, or the green of deepest rural France. Furthermore, blue reflects the coldness that permeates these characters and their whole journey around the landscapes of 18th century painter Joseph Vernet. Louis XV asked him to travel to all the ports in France to capture them on canvas and I picked up the idea of this journey to create stages at which each of the characters could evolve and clash but also come together and meet one another halfway.
The film exposes and smashes a whole series of clichés. What’s the main message you wanted to get across?
The idea that it’s by watching the Other that we exist, but we also have to accept that the Other is also looking at us. When all is said and done, truth is love. It’s really important that we are able to look at one another, love one another, and blow our miserable prejudices away. Some reconciliations are possible, others never will be, but what I like doing is talking about good intentions, and I take full responsibility for it. Sometimes you hear people talking about "good intentions" like it’s something negative, but good intentions are necessary – in film, and in art. What good are bad intentions and to whom? Nobody, and definitely not to me! Give me good intentions, look at me with good intentions, and I’ll give you even more in return.
(Translated from French)