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CANNES 2024 Cannes Premiere

Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu • Directors of Jim’s Story

"It's a melodrama that isn't fabricated, but simply comes from life"


- CANNES 2024: The French filmmakers explain how they came up with their loose and excellent adaptation of Pierric Bailly's novel of the same name

Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu • Directors of Jim’s Story

Unveilled in the Cannes Premiere programme at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, Jim's Story [+see also:
film review
interview: Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu
film profile
is the 9th feature film by French filmmakers Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu.

Cineuropa: What attracted you to the idea of adapting Pierric Bailly's novel of the same name?
Jean-Marie Larrieu:
The publisher sent us the book. We were a bit reluctant because we had the impression that it was a psychological, sociological subject, a social fact about an unnatural father. But as soon as we got down to writing, there was a kind of familiarity, a kind of character spirit, a complexity.

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Arnaud Larrieu: There's a real narrative flow in the book. Time passes, it moves forwards and backwards, and it's a genre we'd never really explored before.

J-ML: Genre is like a compass. With our previous film, it was the musical, this time it was melodrama, but a melodrama that isn't manufactured, but simply comes out of life. Because over 27 years of existence, there are bound to be heartbreaks. It's a melodrama, so emotion was needed, but it had to come from the characters, and therefore from the actors, and not from manipulation. We didn't want sadness or nostalgia, but an emotion of accuracy.

How did you work on the script over the 27 years of the plot?
: First of all, there's the voice-over, which serves to pass the time by continuing the events, but telling them. It was very present in the script. Then, all the work up to the end of the edit was to remove it as much as possible, but it's like scaffolding, you need it at the beginning because otherwise you don't know where you are.

J-ML: In the novel, very few scenes started out like film scenes, with a beginning, middle and end. We had to invent around a hundred of them. But, paradoxically, it's our shortest film, even though we'd never worked in such a time frame before, our plots usually lasting three or four days.

How did you want to approach the main character, Aymeric?
J-ML: He's a person who takes a benevolent approach to everything around him. He looks for his place, he navigates, but never in his own interest.

AL: But this is not the story of a quest. He never asks himself what he should do: things just happen.

J-ML: And that's how he ends up in this fatherhood story. He has a love affair with a pregnant girl, the child is born, he says to himself why not and he finds himself more and more attached, taking on the role of father to a degree he would never have suspected and which he realises the day the child is taken away from him.

What about this working-class social milieu in the French provinces?
J-ML: We know a lot of people like that, but we don't see them much in cinema. You can be a temp and end up at an electro party where teachers also go. It's a bit of a cliché breaker, it's real life and that's what ends up making it so romantic.

All the characters have their own reasons.
: We didn't want there to be good guys and bad guys, even if the characters of Florence and Christophe are a bit of the villains of the story. And it's only at the end that we get to hear what the child has to say, and nobody thought it would be so difficult for him.

How did you cast Karim Leklou?
We saw it very late. We'd heard about him long before, but we thought it would be too tonal for the character, that he looked a bit sad and melancholic. But in the end we met him and only 15 minutes were enough to convince us. He reminds us of Peter Lorre, with the power of silent actors and an instant access to the real thing.

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(Translated from French by Margaux Comte)

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