Cédric Klapisch • Director
The poetry of the everyday
From the French director who enjoys success after success but continues to come up against the same criticisms, Cédric Klapisch’s ninth feature, Paris [+see also:
film profile], is darker and more lucid than his previous works. Pierre (Romain Duris) – a young dancer suddenly struck down with serious heart disease – watches the lives of those around him from his window. Around this gaze, the director gradually constructs the portrait of a city, its inhabitants, their sorrow and their hopes.
Cineuropa: Paris is an ensemble film with a complex structure and yet, at the same time, is perhaps your most coherent and simple film to date.
Cédric Klapisch: I agree with you in a sense. I aimed for simplicity although the film’s narrative and concept are actually quite complex. And it was a complicated task trying to tell one central story along with all these other stories. The editing was the most difficult stage. But bizarrely enough the film is quite linear whereas it could have taken the form of a patchwork. I feel that I endeavoured to make a fluid and streamlined film when the premise was rather baroque. Yes, it’s a strange combination of the two.
Did you have to cut a lot of the story?
About half of what we filmed… None of the individual stories were completely lost but everything was cut down, and some parts more than others. The story of the African man, for example, was much more developed. My screenplay was originally more democratic [laughs], everyone had their say! I realised that certain aspects needed more time and dominated the overall plot, such as the central stories of Romain Duris and Juliette Binoche, and that of Fabrice Luchini, François Cluzet and Mélanie Laurent.
What guided you in your choice of stories?
The sort of logic I see at work in Paris. For example, I insisted that the film be shot in autumn. Not only is Pierre’s story autumnal, but this season is immediately evocative, of Baudelaire, Apollinaire, etc. Autumn is sad but it is also rich in colour, blazing colours, like a swan song. I also wanted to film this city that is at once very modern and very ancient, like the two brothers: one of them builds the new Paris, the other teaches students about old Paris.
I chose these stories in accordance with a set of themes I wanted to explore. When you speak of this city, fashion and immigration inevitably spring to mind. Then the film’s musicality in fact acts as the thread that connects all the different stories. I also wanted to avoid a didactic approach, Paris is not a tourist guide [laughs].
In your previous films, a sense of seriousness emerged from the light-heartedness and energy. In Paris, we sense that the opposite is true, that the joy follows from the more serious aspects.
Yes, that’s true, the characters laugh a lot. And, indeed, in this sense it is unlike certain other films I’ve made, such as When the Cat’s Away, where the characters certainly had fun but they didn’t roar with laughter. Now that I’m 46 I realise that getting older involves both losing and gaining something. I want to express this idea.
Would you agree that Romain Duris is cast somewhat against type in the role of a variety show dancer who is prevented from working?
Because he is a dancer, his illness instantly becomes all the more tragic. And I like using clichés by turning them on their head. At the start, I said to myself I wouldn’t use the Moulin Rouge, that emblem of Paris, it’s just too much [laughs]! But that’s precisely why it’s interesting, because I’m not telling the story of a fashionable bloke who works at the Moulin Rouge. I’m showing the other side of the cliché here.
Likewise, I take a Sorbonne professor and he has an affair with one of his female students. He is living a cliché. But he himself isn’t a cliché, nor does he want to become one and he also has to accept the banality of his situation. I like to play on this aspect in a story. Nobody is superficial – of course we all wear masks – but each one of us has a life. As a storyteller, appropriating clichés in order to escape from them is very inspiring.
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