All You Need is Love
by Joseph Proimakis
28/07/2011 - The French director of Love Songs [trailer] (2007) discusses his new foray into the ‘French film with songs’ genre, Beloved [trailer, film focus]. A study of love and the development of romance, the project started out as a novel before becoming a meeting point for three of France’s biggest actresses and securing a slot at the Cannes Film Festival as the closing gala’s special screening.
Cineuropa: Is it true that Beloved became a musical by chance?
Christophe Honoré: Well, I was actually writing a novel, originally, but I really didn’t know how to get to the end of it, so I got in touch with Alex Beaupain, who did the music for me in Love Songs, and I said "I’m going to give you a page of dialogue, please see if you can write a song about it, " so that’s how we came up with turning the idea of the book into a musical comedy.
The film felt sort of like a follow-up to Love Songs, were there similarities in the way you approached it?
I think the two movies share the idea of the genre, which is the musical comedy, or a French film with songs, so to speak. But for me they are very different, in fact. For instance, the characters are different: in the case of Love Songs, it was a portrait of young people in Paris in a specific period of time, where in The Beloved, we have two heroines in a way representing two different eras, and the painting of these two portraits is much more detailed, the imagery is more detailed, and so are the feelings of love and the development of these feelings. Also, in Love Songs the character played by Louis Garrel in a way embodied the fact that he was experiencing two very different types of feelings at the same time, going through both the loss of a loved one and the discovery of a new form of love. In The Beloved, I think the relationship is much more focused on time and the emotion of love. It’s much more focused on love, and the sentimental life of the characters, because that’s what I was interested in. I didn’t want to deal with anything else, I only wanted to deal with love and gain a deeper insight tp the way I feel and understand it.
When directing Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni as mother and daughter, how much of the real relationship did you want to get on screen?
Of course when there’s a real-life bond between actresses, it’s quite obvious that the film-maker is trying to capture the same bond on set. But it’s also true that I liked to observe them off stage as well, like when we were on a break, for instance, or when we were having a meal together, where I’m looking for the small details in their relationship. I would be lying if I said that when I see Chiara and Catherine in the same scene I don’t think they’re daughter and mother. But it’s interesting to see how their real-life relationship influences their acting, the way they look at each other, the tenderness that might arise, or in some cases the irritation. This can only enrich the characters they are portraying.
Another interesting choice was to have Ludivine Sagnier play the same character with Catherine Deneuve. Do you see Sagnier as the new Deneuve, perhaps?
I find Ludivine to be very strange as an actress, because she is like a chameleon. And I don’t really like the kind of actors who want to ‘build the character’ and all that, for me it’s bullshit. But she’s very strange because she has a lot of ability in this way, and when you see her in my movie and then look at her in another film, she’s not the same person. It’s very strange, and what’s very interesting is that it comes to her in a very natural way. I don’t know, after two movies together, she’s still a mystery to me. But she’s so easy to work with, it’s incredible, you ask her to do something and on the first take it's so good, so charming, even the DPs go crazy over her.
You know, when I was a journalist at the Cahiers du Cinema, I never wrote a word about actors in my reviews, the director was always the only one I deemed worthy of my ink. But while making movies, I’ve really discovered how great and important actors are. Now, I feel that they’re even more important than the script. Having actors that I love to try and create thing with, is enough for me to start a new project.
But do you see a connection between Deneuve and Sagnier?
Well, Ludivine rhymes with Catherine.