Antony Cordier • Director
“It was the time for boldness. There was no holding back”
- French filmmaker Antony Cordier talks to us about his third feature, Gaspard at the Wedding
After rising to prominence in the 2005 Directors’ Fortnight with Cold Showers [+see also:
film profile], then taking part in the competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2010 with Happy Few [+see also:
film profile], Antony Cordier is back with his third feature, the riotous Gaspard at the Wedding [+see also:
interview: Antony Cordier
Cineuropa: Where did you get the idea to set the film’s storyline in a zoo?
Antony Cordier: I was working on the project with my screenwriter, Julie Peyr, and we were looking for a universe to serve as the setting for the story we wanted to tell. We thought about the zoo and our own personal memories that it triggered in us. When I was a kid, I would often go camping really close to La Palmyre Zoo, which was created by Claude Caillé – quite an astonishing character. When this idea cropped up, it was a eureka moment: if the family we wanted to portray were to live in a zoo, that would give us a great deal of freedom, because they live in the midst of wild animals, so they don’t have the same points of reference as other people. That gave us the opportunity to go much further in terms of quirkiness, imagination, craziness, and to prise ourselves away from realism.
And what about the narrative structure? There’s an ensemble story, and the centre jumps from one character to another.
We were aware that we were working along fairly classical dramatic lines. There’s the traditional romantic comedy with Gaspard and Laura, who think they don’t love each other, whereas everyone quickly comes to understand that they do love each other or are going to end up loving each other. And then there’s the family film with the inheritance – in this case a zoo that is not doing so well and that might have to be sold. So we were confined to a set of rules, and we also knew that we had to progress quite quickly because there were a lot of issues, but we knew that none of them should outweigh the others. So we told ourselves that each character could be the bearer of a particular issue and that we therefore had to weave between the characters.
Are confused feelings your preferred subject matter?
That’s what I always find touching, but at the same time funny, in life. There are often characters who stumble into a period of confusion and who manage to extricate themselves from it in the end. In this film, that begins with Gaspard, who goes to his father’s wedding, but in fact all of the characters have to find love, and they all go to their own weddings, in a way.
How funny did you intend to make the film?
I’ve always approached my movies as comedies, but once they were finished, they were never perceived that way, but rather as a little bit melancholic. So this time around, I knew that to get what I wanted, I had to up the level of comedy even more in the writing, in directing the actors and in the ideas for the scenes. During the shoot, we systematically looked for ideas that would be a bit funnier, a bit crazier, a bit more unbridled than what we could put in the script.
Can you tell us something about the musical passages that you are so fond of?
This film was very difficult to fund – it took years. When it came to making it, with the limited budget we had available, we thought: since we’re doing it, now let’s just indulge ourselves. It was the time for boldness. There was no holding back. I also followed this same principle of enjoying myself when it came to the music. It’s something that I really like at the cinema in general, and in this film there was also an important link to fairy tales with Christa Theret’s character, who is a kind of Donkeyskin. You can view the film as a children’s book with musical passages playing as you turn each page.
Was it this mix of genres that made funding the movie so complicated?
You have to be able to be put into an identifiable pigeonhole. It’s definitely less difficult to secure funding for an extremely dramatic arthouse film or a totally mainstream comedy. For Gaspard…, we were caught in the middle, which confused the TV channels, as they like to have extremely well-defined editorial policies.
The film’s title is a nod to Margot at the Wedding by Noah Baumbach. Do you feel particularly close to British and American humour?
Yes, in terms of my writing. I feel like we have two dreams in the French comedy world – to have the effectiveness of British or American writing and the humorousness of Italian comedy. I love that film by Noah Baumbach, and I felt like having a literal, descriptive title. I found the idea of my borrowing from Baumbach amusing, as he in turn was giving a nod to Eric Rohmer’s A Good Marriage, a bit like a cinephilic back-and-forth between France and the United States.
(Translated from French)
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