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CANNES 2024 Critics’ Week

Antoine Chevrollier • Director of Block Pass

"The only way for them to survive or to live is to get out"


- CANNES 2024: The French filmmaker spoke to us about his first feature film, which explores friendship, motocross and social determinism

Antoine Chevrollier • Director of Block Pass

Highly acclaimed for his series Oussekine (which he created, wrote and directed) and for directing eight episodes of Baron Noir and The Bureau [+see also:
interview: Frédéric Lavigne
series profile
, Antoine Chevrollier has now unveiled his debut feature film, Block Pass [+see also:
film review
interview: Antoine Chevrollier
film profile
, in competition in Critics’ Week, unspooling within the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: You grew up in Longué, in the Maine and Loire regions, where the film’s action unfolds. Is it autobiographical? What made you want to make this movie?
Antoine Chevrollier:
I wanted to explore the cultural, social and political insularity which people experience, and which I myself experienced, in this kind of area. We don’t often depict this particular social class, the lower middle classes, without looking down on them or patronising them, instead of just looking them straight in the eye. It all stemmed from that realisation, that feeling that they hadn’t been well observed or fairly represented. It’s a rural world, so there’s a tendency to focus on the agricultural side of things, or on much lower level working class people. What I was interested in was the class above that, the one we never talk about: the middle classes living in these little villages. But even though the film might be autobiographical in terms of those sensations we associate with summer - people’s skin, the heat and the sounds - I’ve never done any motocross myself, and Jojo and Willy’s trajectory is far from autobiographical.

Why choose two main characters nearing the end of high school, at a time when they’re trying to find their place in the world and their identity?
It’s a pretty classic formula, the coming-of-age story, the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s clearly quite a decisive time, which allows for powerful characterisation: who are they at the beginning of the film? What do they become? It also allowed me to explore more existential questions, such as their different sensibilities, whether sexual or otherwise, because everything is heightened at that particular age. It gave the film a kind of nuclear core, over and above the motocross arena, which allowed me to push a little further with my characters’ mental wanderings.

What about the motocross aspect?
The arena know as La Pampa was one kilometre behind my house, so I was familiar with that world, but I didn’t really get involved with it because it’s a pretty expensive hobby. Motocross allowed me to explore that male-dominated and testosterone-fuelled world without sliding into caricature. It’s the preferred motor sport of the lower working classes, involving sons of carpenters, plumbers, etc. Without wanting to labour the point, it allowed me to straight away immerse the story in a male world and to home in on all their relationships, whether between men or between women and men.

"It’s in your blood": social markers are presented as indelible in the film. Is that the real focus?
It’s central to the film. Social determinism was a key factor in the writing of this story. But we also had to bend the somewhat tautological views I found were held around this kind of story. Just like Willy, people tend to think that when you come from an environment like this - and literature and film have showed us this a lot –in order to extricate yourself from this kind of place, you have to have a certain disposition, to feel as if you’re above that world, and escaping is the obvious thing to do. But I think the opposite is true. Jojo and Willy try to fit into this world and to erase their sensibility, but it’s this particular world which doesn’t accept them. The only way for them to survive or to live is to get out. It’s not because you’re above the crowd that, at a given point in time, you leave this kind of area. It’s because you’re not included.

What were your primary intentions with the film’s pace?
I see my film as a score. I write, I shoot and I edit with music in mind. It might sound naive, but I see a film as a heart with its own beats. And the moto sequences had the potential to accelerate the film’s beats or slow it down at a very specific moment, namely when focusing on friendship.

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(Translated from French)

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