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Alain Berliner • Director

Music and films


Alain Berliner • Director

The Belgian director has returned to Brussels after several weeks of shooting for his next film: Broadway dans la tête (read the article), a musical starring Vicent Elbaz, Cécile de France, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Jeanne Balibar. After signing scripts for other filmmakes (like Olivier Mégaton's La Sirène Rouge), Broadway dans la tête marks the big coming-back of Berliner behind the camera. In the plateau, while Vincent Elbaz practised some steps, the director unveils to us the origin and intentions of this work.

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Cineuropa: You started out wanting to compose music. Cinema arrived at you by chance. Does Broadway dans la tête follows in your desire for making music?
Alain Berliner: Music has always played an important part in my films, and it certainly is the most complicated part. I am not a composer, so it’s hard for a piece of music to please me when it is made for me. Yes, there is no doubt that there is a frustrated musician in me. It’s completely certain that musical comedy has interested me; I had the longing to make people sing and dance in a film.

Is Broadway a musical or a cinematic memory? Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly or specially Georges Gershwin, Irwin Porter?
It’s this rich aspect about musical comedy that has attracted me, this period from 1935 to 1955, when the greatest musical comedies were produced. I believe that the climax was reached through the association of cinemascope and Technicolor. There is something very cinematic about filming movement, these choreographies and these incredible scenes. But, as a film lover, I never really felt a love for this specific genre until I discovered it fifteen years ago. This arrived mostly by making films. In Le mur, for example, I shot a musical comedy sequence, a moment that started out from a dream. I find it very joyful for a character to suddenly jump out of reality and starting to dance.

It’s very common in your films to go from reality to fantasy.
Yes, although here, hesitation is situated between illusion and reality. The male characters repeat their desire of becoming a musical comedy dancer, at an age where it is to late to become one. It’s the search for a dream that is going to clash with reality, resulting in a gap between both of them. The film has a paradoxical aspect to it, it blends a very dramatic story with musical comedy, a genre with is not at all dramatic in nature. If those who fall in love and want to marry find some difficulties along the way, they will always overcome them! (laughs). Crossing over this aspect with a more realistic one is an interesting exercise for me.

Is this blending of genres, already present in your previous films, emphasized here?
I did so somewhat in Ma Vie en Rose, but not to the same extent. Yes, it’s done more radically here. But it is logical for me to do such a film. I feel that this is what I must do. It’s what’s inside of me.

What motivated you writing of this film? Was it your love for musical comedy or did you wanted to tell a story about transmitting this love for dancing down through generations?
Actually, I wrote an "ensemble film" about several people confronted with the problem of telling or not a secret. One of these stories is based on repetition. I noticed that this was what interested me. These repetitions were done around a very dramatic element, and this took me towards a completely dramatic film. I don’t know how it came to me, but I asked myself: “What if they all wanted to become dancers in a musical comedy?". I could include two or three scenes with singing and dancing, and in the end there were twelve and the whole frenzy arrived (laughs).

It’s not usual in Belgium to film with Panavision.
This is because we had a co-production with the English. The chief operator [Tony Pierce Robert] is English, as well as part of the crew and the equipment. The English always use two cameras, something that I’m not accustomed to. But, we used them to film the dances in a way that we could make the shots larger and also more closed, without bothering the actors that were dancing. As the filming progressed, we ended up using both cameras in every comedy scene. On the other hand, I don’t do the field and the reverse angle shooting at the same time, the lighting won’t allow it.

How did you choose the music for the film ?
The idea is to not fall into a tribute to Porter, Gershwin or something like it, but to use the music that defined the characters in each period, since there are several generations. This is why we needed and adaptation. Last year I listened to a “New Wave” CD, a group with Marc Collin behind it, and I really enjoyed their 80’s tube adaptation. Keeping in mind that François was 20 years old in the 80’s-90’s, it was amusing to search with Marc for the pieces that were played at that time, from which we chose a certain number. And I’m very happy in this way, because tap-dancing is something very up-to-date. Above all, tapping is a percussion instrument, a rhythm.

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