François Ozon • Director
Notes on a paradise lost
by Vitor Pinto
After the solemn Time to Leave [+see also:
film profile], François Ozon is back on the big screen with Angel [+see also:
film profile], the story of a female writer, told in the form of a camp melodrama (see news). Filmed in English, Ozon’s first period film is also his most novelistic to date. Cineuropa meets a director absolutely charmed by his lead character and for whom directing is a pleasure: "Making one film a year is my rhythm. I don’t make many films, perhaps it’s the others who aren’t making enough."
Cineuropa: Why did you adapt Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel?
François Ozon: What drew me the most to this novel was Angel, this female writer who’s so sure of herself and who, after having realised all her dreams, finds herself confronted with reality. I liked this rise and fall aspect of the character. Angel fascinates me both in a positive and a negative sense, whether it is her monstrosities or her flaws. Despite appearances, she is a very sad character. In the end, she realises that she is deceiving herself. She’s someone who sees her life pass by.
After the minimalism of Time to Leave, you have made a baroque film. The set design, costumes and colours are excessive and are made to measure the emotions and imagination of Angel.
The film was a little complicated to make, but at the same time that’s what I’m interested in. If I felt I was repeating myself, always making the same film, I’d find that very boring. I wanted to try something more stylised and I could do that this time around because the character does not live in a real world. The most over-the-top scenes correspond to Angel’s imaginary world, to her novels. When we see her honeymoon, all these clichés with the gondola in Venice, all that emphasises Angel’s vision of reality, that is to say they show how far removed she is from the real world.
It’s your most novelistic film yet and, at the same time, it evokes technicolour melodramas. Is it a genre that particularly attracts you?
I have very heterogeneous tastes in cinema. I can like very realistic films as much as very stylised films. With each film I try to do different things. It seemed as if this type of melodrama suited the excessive side of Angel. She’s melodramatic. In their form, my films often correspond to the portrait of the character.
Your most intense roles have been played by women. Do you have a preference for the female universe?
I can relate to it more because it is more focused on the inner nature. At the same time, as a man I have more distance and a more lucid view of the characters. I have less the impression of seeing a double of myself; that helps me a lot, I think, to get what matters the most.
I think I understand women and I like to show them in all their facets, as well as their monstrous and human sides, touching, seductive… Moreover, I like actresses. I think that Angel is an actress because she is playing her own life.
We have the impression that you always take Angel’s side by filming her with tenderness, even in her most grotesque moments.
There’s a dictator in every artist. Angel is a type of dictator who wants to control everything. She controls everything at Paradise House, but the world is not Paradise House.
I like her, even when she is ridiculous. Even if I don’t act that way myself, I say to myself "There you go, I could possibly turn out like that". I think that all artists have moments where they can be blind to the world and surrounded by people who say all the time "Yes, you’re a genius!". That could happen. For me the film is just a therapy! Angel is what I don’t want to turn out like!
Angel became successful early in life. You did too with your films. Do you share this ambition for your career with her?
I can identify with some aspects of the character, in her trance-like state; in her kind of bulimia. But, contrary to her, I think that I very quickly became aware of reality. I never thought I was a genius. I think I’ve worked for what I have. Angel’s problem is that she doesn’t work. She gets successful by chance because people wanted to read these types of books at that time, except that 20 years later, after the war, people no longer wanted that and she didn’t change. I, on the other hand, I try to set myself challenges in each film and go in different directions.
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