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CANNES 2019 Directors’ Fortnight

Benoît Forgeard • Director of All About Yves

“The kind of humour that interests me is a questioning, critical, satirical type”

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- CANNES 2019: French filmmaker Benoît Forgeard discusses All About Yves, his wacky comedy about artificial intelligence, which closed the Directors’ Fortnight section at Cannes

Benoît Forgeard  • Director of All About Yves
(© Philippe Lebruman)

After Gaz de France [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, unveiled in Cannes’ ACID section in 2015, French filmmaker Benoît Forgeard is back on the Croisette with All About Yves [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Benoît Forgeard
film profile
]
, which closes the 51st Directors’ Fortnight of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival.

Cineuropa: Where did you get the idea for Yves, the intelligent fridge at the heart of your new film?
Benoît Forgeard: I often write very short pitches for improbable films, which would arguably be very complicated to actually made, such as the story of a fridge helping a rapper become a star. I decided to hold on to that idea and to make the film, but without it being just a short skit that quickly runs out of steam. I wanted it to be a little deeper than that. It just so happened that, while I was working on that idea, advances in science and technology made it so that certain inanimate objects became intelligent and started talking, like Google speakers for example. That’s how I found a realist basis for the story.

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Did you do a lot of research on the topic?
I’m very interested in science in general, and in artificial intelligence in particular. But I didn’t intern in a Silicon Valley company, I leave a certain part of ignorance in. But at least I had this knowledge of how “deep learning” works. I knew that AIs now work this way, accumulating data, establishing diagnostics and drawing their own conclusions.

Why have a rapper face this fridge?
The initial idea was to focus on an artist, because what interests me is when artificial intelligence enters art. Initially, the artist was going to be a musician, but I realised that rap would be perfect for me because, on the one hand, it’s the popular music of our time and it has invaded all musical genres, including pop music. And on the other hand — and that’s the main reason — because there is a kind of virility in the image of the rapper, or at least a fear of losing that virility. That’s why it was interesting to have this fridge face a type of man worried for his survival. 

Is artificial intelligence both seductive and worrying?
It’s a political and philosophical issue of our time. It will be difficult to avoid these objects, to not be seduced, and to maintain a form of freedom and independence in our power relation with machines. One of the most common examples is that of the medical diagnosis; if a toothbrush equipped with artificial intelligence tells you that, after having analysed your saliva, it suspects you will be ill soon, it will be hard not to listen to that. From there, we find ourself in a state of dependency that is quite fascinating. 

Why make a comedy — and a very wacky one, at that — about such a serious topic?
I express myself through comedy, out of preference, but also because I think it’s an elegant way to approach the world. You can talk about serious things, but you can talk about them with lightness. However, the kind of humour that interests me is a questioning, critical, satirical type of humour, and something that touches on the truth. Regarding the wackiness of the humour, the times we live in are so surprising and extravagant that I think it had to be pushed quite far, as far as possible. 

How did you conceive the visual look of the fribot?
Because I wanted the film to be plausible, I had to really think about the appearance of the fridge. And I wanted the fridge to be alive during the shoot, by which I mean that its voice was recorded live by an actor in a separate cabin, which allowed the fridge to give a different performance in every take. This required a certain level of sophistication in the design of the fridge. 

The cinematography is very distinctive, with the colours pushed to extremes in certain scenes.
I’ve been working for several years with the same cinematographer and the same colorist. She does a lot of work in post-production. There is a naturalist basis to the film — the grandma’s house in which the fribot arrives — and then, there are scenes where we suddenly let ourselves go towards a more expressive visual language. 

Is the cult of progress the film’s main topic?
I think the theme of the film is rather optimisation or self-improvement, which is then integrated into artificial intelligence. Then artificial intelligence isn’t only something that is at your service, but something that anticipates your needs, that gives you advice, that tries to improve you, to reform you, to turn you into somebody better.

(Translated from French)

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