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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 Competition

Louis Garrel • Director of A Faithful Man

“Because I’m French, I wanted to make a film about men and women”


- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: We chatted to French filmmaker Louis Garrel about his second feature, A Faithful Man, revolving around a passive individual caught in a love triangle

Louis Garrel  • Director of A Faithful Man
(© San Sebastián International Film Festival)

Louis Garrel’s second film, A Faithful Man [+see also:
film review
interview: Louis Garrel
film profile
, is playing in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival, following its world premiere at the recent Toronto Film Festival. As well as directing the film, Garrel acts in it, playing Abel, a passive man caught between his feelings for a younger woman and an older one.

Cineuropa: What did it mean for you to write a script with the legendary Jean-Claude Carrière?
Louis Garrel:
I first dreamed of working with Jean-Claude Carrière when I was 16. I’m a big fan of his work. Then, when we met, I thought it would be good to write a movie together where we did not need to find a producer to get it made. Of course, because I’m French, I wanted to make a film about men and women. I realised that Jean-Claude and I could make a good duo: he has his age [87] and I have mine [35], he is quite rough and tough in his outlook, whereas I’m sentimental, and then I love melodrama and he hates it.

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You wrote a script together that is also reflective of this, as it’s a comedy, a drama and maybe even a thriller at different moments. 
It’s true that this film is hard to categorise, and has comedy, drama and thriller elements. I couldn’t write a script like this. Jean-Claude has written maybe 200 scripts in his life; he knows all the stereotypical situations, and he ensured that what we wrote was something completely new. He is also able to create ambiguity and doesn’t need to answer all of the questions the film raises, whereas if I had a script and there was an unsolved issue, I would try and solve it.

The film is 75 minutes long; was it your intention to make something short? 
In France, I have friends who are directors, and I was really proud to tell them that I made a feature film in four weeks, and that is why the movie couldn’t be too long. I love short movies and short novels, and I prefer some of the novellas by Chekov to his long plays. I think there is a physiological reaction that happens when we watch a movie, and after 50 minutes or so, our attention starts to wander. For me, boredom in cinema is evil, so by having a 75-minute-long film, we avoid that. But in recent interviews, I’ve discovered that Luis Buñuel shot some of his most famous films in 18 days, so now I’m less proud of my own speed. 

The first scene between you and Laetitia Casta, where she dumps you, is really funny. How did you film that?
The first scene was funny to shoot. I knew that my silences in that scene would be important. The sequence is three minutes long, and I wanted to make it as funny as possible. Shooting the scene with the silences and the dialogue took around four hours, but then in the edit, I worked on it more than any other sequence in the film. I would show it to people and watch to see where and when they laughed. I think it took me around ten days in the edit to get it right. 

The final result is much like a Woody Allen film.
I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen – particularly the way he can change his performance in a movie. Take Annie Hall, one of his most celebrated works, for example: there he is both a clown and a tragic figure. He can switch his way of acting, and that is very difficult. I’m not as good at acting as he is.

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