Michel Gondry • Director of The Book of Solutions
“Once I have an idea in my mind, I need to execute it”
by Teresa Vena
- CANNES 2023: The French director unpicks his auto-fictional dramedy about a filmmaker who drives everyone around him crazy
The new film by Michel Gondry premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of this year's Cannes Film Festival. The Book of Solutions [+see also:
interview: Michel Gondry
film profile] is set in France and tells the story of a film team in the middle of post-production on a project that is threatening to get out of hand. We spoke to the director about his working methods and artistic drive.
Cineuropa: How much of your own experience is there inside the film?
Michel Gondry: What you see in the film happened to me more or less in that exact way. This was my motivation to write the script. I wanted to include in it what I had experienced during the three months I was working on the post-production of my last project. I had a lot of ideas, some very original ones, some very absurd ones, and I was not very well organised. This made life hell for the people around me.
For a director, is the process of making a film maybe more important than the finished movies themselves?
Yes, because we never know until the end if it will really work out. Between the writing and the first day of shooting, there are so many steps during which you can get negative responses. When I think of my next film, I actually get a bit dizzy. It's like you just ran a marathon, and then you have to do another one just after that.
The protagonist chooses to do everything himself – such as, for example, when it comes to composing the soundtrack. Do you wish that making a film were easier, or that you had more freedom?
I don't like it when we talk about cinema and about how to tell a story, or when we always apply these precise rules to it, also while thinking of the history of cinema and the choices of the filmmakers who came before us. It's completely arbitrary and subjective. In my opinion, people who follow these steps just want to validate themselves. I prefer to think about the machine that was invented 130 years ago to make moving images and to think about what can be done with it. Then, of course, you can either like or dislike what is made. As for myself, I am still fascinated by the simple technical aspects of filmmaking. I still try to understand how to combine two scenes with a cut and to make that work. In real life, we do not see things with cuts; everything just flows. In dreams, we have cuts or set changes. How to evoke the feeling that time is passing by in the story – these are the kinds of questions I ask myself.
When you are immersed in this process, like your protagonist, and you have so many ideas at the same time, what enables you to concentrate and just get going?
It's a kind of resistance against the opposition of other people. I have had to face so much opposition to my ideas that I had to reinforce my belief in myself. The fact that something might not work is no obstacle for me. And if it really doesn't work, at least I tried. That’s why I want to work with my own ideas: once I have an idea in my mind, I need to execute it. It is vital to accomplish it.
All of your films are different and touch on various genres, from comedy to semi-fiction, drama and documentary. Is there a genre you still want to try out?
I would like to make a horror film. During COVID-19, I watched some series, especially about crime stories. It's not very healthy, but it draws you in. I was so influenced by it that I might start writing something similar myself.
You dedicated the film to your aunt. The protagonist's aunt is also very important in the movie.
I thought of my aunt when writing the character. But still, I didn't ask Françoise Lebrun, who plays her, to look at my aunt or to imitate her. I am not interested in any effort to imitate someone. Many biopics didn't grab me, because of that. I couldn't concentrate on the stories. As for the biopic on Ray Charles, for example, I didn't like the film, precisely because the actor resembles him too much. So, in terms of this character, there was a basis, but it's the actress who brought it to life. I didn't know Lebrun before, but I like her bright eyes very much, and she really reminded me of my aunt.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.