Pascal Tagnati • Director of I Comete – A Corsican Summer
"There are no real half measures when it comes to being and living in Corsica"
- The French director talks to us about his debut, an unusual and very well-made feature film which, world-premiered in the 49th IFFR’s Tiger competition
An atmospheric and impressionist hyperlink film exploring the many different faces of a small Corsican village bathed in the summer sun, I Comete – A Corsican Summer [+see also:
interview: Pascal Tagnati
film profile] by Pascal Tagnati is the first film to be directed by the French actor. The movie was unveiled in the Tiger competition of the 49th Rotterdam Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Where did the idea for I Comete come from?
Pascal Tagnati: First, from a desire to continue working in Corsica and to talk about things I know about and which affect me, given that I live there. I wanted to play around with local daily life, to poke it about, to make it political in places, and to challenge it, in certain respects. Our villages in the summertime are the perfect places to observe and to try to understand the micro-society that is modern-day Corsican society. It’s a bit like a laboratory. In winter, these villages are empty but then in the summer, everyone comes back, from the towns, from the continent, from abroad, and it’s as if they never left. There are moments of exchange, and from a distance you can see the ties that bind people together, why some are close and others not. It’s a fascinating microcosm concentrated over a few months, and it makes for brilliant subject-matter.
The film makes great use of the hyperlink form. How did you put it all together while preserving your chosen narrative freedom and while gradually exploring the bonds, issues and dynamics which emerge during this seemingly straightforward enchanting break?
There are no real half measures when it comes to being and living in Corsica. People are quite discreet and don’t look to bring up problems, even if everyone knows about them, but they can also be quite brutal and direct. But it’s all just a part of everyday life: people know who everyone else is, where they come from, the slip-ups they’ve made… There’s some sort of unspoken agreement in that respect. What’s important is how they’re going to move forwards together, despite all that. My intention was quite simply to posit these day-to-day mini-issues and to make them resound, but without going too far because there’s no need. The characters aren’t there to explain to others what has already happened. They’re not going to look back on the origin of a problem every time they talk about it, just to aid people’s understanding. It’s like a family who are sitting down to Christmas dinner, who have loads to hide and lots of things left unsaid. They carry on as normal but sometimes things come out, someone makes a little remark, but they carry on, until there’s one remark too many… My role was simply to show that life here isn’t always great, that it’s not an ongoing "Corsican holiday". The only challenge was to not go too far, because it’s already on the knife edge as it is. It’s all about getting the right balance.
The brilliant scene featuring the grandmother Lucienne and her grandson François-Régis tips the film into a more intellectual and political realm.
This character carries the past in her bones - that period in Corsican history which takes us back to the colonies. And as she was a teacher, she’s also the vehicle for a certain way of thinking that’s inevitably humanly politicised. It also shows the relationship that exists between her, the past and her grandson who is heir to this past. She provides a breath-taking voiceover and, artistically, she places us in a more structured space, where the film’s vocabulary changes slightly because it moves away from the documentary form. It brings a different kind of richness, and makes it more varied, too, even if some people might find it a bit extreme.
Why did you choose the adopted character François-Régis as your main man amidst the myriad other faces in the film?
Just like on a football pitch, at a certain point he’s in the powerful position of deciding whether to recover the ball, play for time, stand aside for others or change things up at the back. He’s in quite a good, central position to organise what’s going on around him. But I didn’t want him to become the main character, or for the film to be all about him. He’s already the only black character in the film so, clearly, he stands out among the crowd of white faces, there was no need to overdo it. That’s also how it is in certain Corsican villages where there’s a Corsican-African legacy. But I didn’t want his character to be too anecdotal either, because he carries this idea of a legacy inside of him: he embodies both the past, the present and the future because he’s part of the great family who are in charge of this village.
(Translated from French)
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