Jean-Christophe Berjon • Critics’ Week
by Fabien Lemercier
14/05/2007 - At last month’s press conference that announced the selection for the 46th International Critics’ Week (May 17-25, at the 60th Cannes Film Festival), Cineuropa met with sidebar artistic director Jean-Christophe Berjon, as well as selection committee member and influential Télérama film critic, Pierre Murat.
Cineuropa: What are the trends at this 46th Critics’ Week?
Jean-Christophe Berjon: We wanted to reaffirm the Week’s role – revealing tomorrow’s cinema today. Last year, paradoxically, the Week was the section that presented the fewest features. This year we have selected 14, 13 of which are competing for the Caméra d’Or. On top of that, there’s many genre films with successfully completed propositions. We have also added to our 7 days – 7 films formula a type of programme supplement, which creates two distinct forms of exposure, especially with the two Very Special Screenings. We are interested in moving towards a cinema more oriented towards the audience, but one with genuine artistic intentions. In terms of themes, the 2007 Week will be strongly dominated by films about family relationships (Japanese sisters, Belgian brothers, French father and son) and many quite complicated amorous encounters set against a backdrop of questioning one’s identity (sexual, familial, growing up, place in society).
This year’s edition also has a distinctly Hispanic flavour. As ambassador of the Week, Gael Garcia Bernal (who will be joined by fellow Mexican filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu) will preside over a week which will showcase the New Wave of cinema on the other side of the Atlantic.
What was it about David Oelhoffen’s French film Nos retrouvailles [trailer] that attracted selectors?
Jean-Christophe Berjon : His short Sous le bleu showed a son that humiliated his father in a terrible way. The father-son relationship is reversed in the film, the adult is the child and vice versa, because the adult is the son and the teenager who humiliates is a little like the father, a loser who still believes in his lucky star. He turns up suddenly in his son’s life after 20 years and leads him into a trap. What is very beautiful in the film is that the son is so happy to meet his father and being able to love him that he lets him fall into the trap. Very fine directing, excellent actors: even if the references are a little overpowering, the film is similar in style to Jean-Pierre Melville and in directing terms, to the icy coldness of John Huston.
And what drew them to Horse Thieves [trailer] by Belgian director Micha Wald?
Jean-Christophe Berjon : I was amazed. It reminds one of Ridley Scott’s Duellistes because it’s also about someone who is following another inextinguishable hatred. What is absolutely amazing is that that happens in 19th century Ukraine. On seeing the film, I asked myself what director, producer, actors would have the courage to take on such an adventure? Because they succeeded in making a kind of epic, a western with three euros and six cents. It’s a risk and the opinions are surely shared. But, Critics’ Week has to select this type of successful project. It’s a film that gives me confidence again in cinema because although there are still "crazy people" out there making these kinds of films, it means that cinema isn’t as formatted as we think. The proof is that you don’t need 100 million dollars to make an epic even if with 60 extra horses, 100,000 extras, the film would obviously be bigger. But we don’t care as there’s so much enthusiasm that it works.
The Week will screen fantastic film in two Special Screenings.
Jean-Christophe Berjon : The Orphanage [trailer] by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona is produced by Guillermo del Toro and anyone who likes this director will like this film. The film has what I like about a certain fantastic Spanish cinema: the baroque. And especially a scene with quite frightening masks, children that disappear, evil spells, in a very elegant setting; as the auteur is very technical. It’s a little like Brian de Palma. As for the French fantastic film Inside [trailer], Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo wanted to say to us: do you want blood? Well, you’re going to see some. They clearly enjoyed themselves writing the script, but (and which is good), they filmed very seriously with playing around, humour, absurdity and unbelievable amounts of blood, terrible but perfectly justified.