Fanny Ardant • Director
“Films are like bottles at sea”
- For her second time in the director’s chair with Cadences obstinées, the great French actress tells us about the pleasure of directing actors and the meeting of art with industry
Fanny Ardant has just finished shooting for Cadences obstinées [+see also:
film profile], a sentimental film she is directing and which stars Asia Argento, Nuno Lopes and Gérard Depardieu. “A global, European film with great actors,” according to the French actress and director. It is her second feature film after Cendres et Sang [+see also:
film profile] in 2009. Portuguese Paulo Branco will be producing through Parisian firm Alfama Films, in coproduction with France 3 Cinéma (read the news story). Ardant had passionate words about Lisbon, where shooting for the film took place: “Rosa Luxemburg used to say that the earth belonged to those who worked it. Lisbon belongs to me.”
Cineuropa met Fanny Ardant in Rome during the Italian Golden Globes, the foreign press awards to Italian cinema, during which time the actress gave Franco Zeffirelli a lifetime career award.
Cineuropa: What do you think the qualities of European cinema are that could have an artistic and commercial impact on the American one?
Fanny Ardant : I never think about cinema in terms of nationality: cinema is cinema. If you talk to me about cinema in financial terms, then cinema is American. There are filmmakers all around the world: there are great American, European, Korean and Iranian filmmakers… But where will you have the chance to see them? The problem is also a distribution one. André Malraux used to say: “cinema is an art and an industry,” which is complicated because these two things are difficult to reconcile. To consider cinema an industry only is reductive, but at the same time a film seen by all is a great opportunity. Because a film should travel: for me a film is like a bottle at sea. Sometimes a film, which has met little success in France will go to Japan and be very successful. In Paris, we get to see films from many different countries as well as many American ones. I love some of the American filmmakers.
The last few years have seen French cinema do well abroad, partially thanks to comedies. What do you think this is due to? Is there a French way of telling light stories?
Yes, maybe there is a French touch. A little irony which also used to be used by Italian cinema, often telling sad stories but with a light touch.
Does directing other actors on set with the kind of experience you have as an actress make you more demanding and severe, or are you more understanding of actors as they grapple with their roles?
The strange thing as a director is that you say “I would never have played it like that…” and what I like is being surprised. When I am directing an actor, there is always something more, because my imagination is being widened, and it gives me another point of view. I like being surprised.
Callas and many of the other roles you have played have been romantic and passionate women, a little like examples of crazy love. To what extent are these characters similar to you in real life?
I always believed you could die of love in real life, so I have always preferred playing roles in which love was an important element. I never played a cold Wall Street woman - at the end of the day playing in a love film is what I am best at.
At the beginning of The Woman Next Door by Truffaut, Gerard Depardieu said: "When Fanny looked at me in the eyes to say hello, she scared me. Now I know what kind of film we are making: a love film which frightens you.” Did you feel that enchantment too?
Yes! Everything in an actor comes down to the look in his eyes. That is all I needed to become like a ship at sea. Gerard’s look and his way of holding hands. I was no longer frightened, I knew I would go, I thought anything could happen… Nothing mattered. “Ni avec toi, ni sans toi.”
(Translated from Italian)
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