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Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon • Directors

"We’re opposed to darkness and pessimism"


- With Lost in Paris, Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon bring us a striking and colourful digression, whilst broaching the issues of ageing and precarity

Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon • Directors
(© Magritte du Cinéma 2017)

Lost in Paris [+see also:
film review
interview: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
film profile
is the fourth feature by directors and actors Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon. In it, they once again adopt the slapstick, poetic and off the chain style they mischievously and creatively used in their previous films. Once again, their off the wall world hits home, a breath of fresh air and optimism in the face of the harshness of the situation in which their characters find themselves.

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Cineuropa:Paris is a character in the film, what were you reasons for this?
Fiona Gordon: We met in Paris quite a long time ago now, and were full of the same sort of innocence as our characters ; we too were a bit lost, especially me as I didn’t speak the language. For us, backdrops are just that. This little-known island at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where you can find a replica of the Statue of Liberty, was a great place to put the tent of a homeless person laying claim to his freedom, but who pays a heavy price for doing so. In each of our films, the place becomes a person who plays an active part in the story. 

How do you write a physical style of film like yours?
Dominique Abel: We follow the same line of trajectory as the people we admire: Chaplin, Keaton, Tati, who learnt their art through a sense of minimalism on stage. The public often guides our writing. When they picked up the camera, they made the same choices, adopting a stripped down approach, beyond realism and full of poetry. This type of film brings the imagination of the creator as well as the viewer into play. And the link between the two, a fleeting bridge, holds up through laughter, compassion, and the specific take of the creator on humanity and the world we live in.

F.G: We are well aware that our bodies are more expressive than our minds. We try to find this connivence between us and the audience through improvisation. We try to lose control. Laughter also springs forth from these moments of clumsiness, or even humiliation.

D.A: Improvisation helps a project to mature. Everything that looks spontaneous on screen, the slapstick routines and mechanisms, don’t work as well when they’re overly rehearsed. What we like about improvising with the body are the slip-ups, which often give rise to some good ideas.

You describe this film as a breath of fresh air in a harsh world. Humour as a courtesy of despair?
D. A: Humour is the only way we have of really broaching the things that move us, that strike us. Laughter often goes hand in hand with tragedy. It’s a form of expression by the body without any interference from the brain. 

F.G: We swim firmly against the tide: severity and cynicism aren’t things we want to explore. We would rather focus on a certain innocence, a spontaneity, something happy

D.A: We’re opposed to darkness and pessimism, which has the market cornered.

Your world is very striking, very colourful. How do you work on your images?
D.A:It’s part of our vocabulary. In the same way that others use a lot of dialogue or words, we use a lot of colour. We did the same thing on stage, it’s something that was ingrained in us during our training. As an actor, you also use a lot of colour! 

How did you choose the actress to play Martha?
F.A: Often, actresses of that age don’t look their age, they’re too well-preserved. One day we happened upon a video of Emmanuelle Riva in which she was performing in her apartment, imitating Chaplin and dancing. When we saw it, we thought it had a sense of joy to it, an irresistible naivety. We sent her our screenplay, which seemed to put a feather in her cap, as she’s a big fan of Keaton.

What’s next?
D.A: We have two ideas, one for a musical comedy and the other for a crime film. If we go with the crime film, we will of course put our own spin on it. The musical comedy isn’t really a musical comedy either in fact. We don’t want to be compartmentalised or have our films labelled with genres.

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(Translated from French)

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