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VENICE 2019 Competition

Hirokazu Kore-eda • Director of The Truth

“There is always some loneliness that comes with success”


- VENICE 2019: Cineuropa met up with acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who left his home country for musings on family and fame in The Truth

Hirokazu Kore-eda  • Director of The Truth
(© L Champoussin/3B/Bunbuku/MiMovies/FR3)

Palme d’Or winner (for 2018’s Shoplifters) Hirokazu Kore-eda temporarily exchanges Japan for France and – now that’s scary – its biggest acting legends in The Truth [+see also:
film review
interview: Hirokazu Kore-eda
film profile
. It’s a prestige drama starring Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche as film star Fabienne, fresh off the publication of her memoir, and her daughter Lumir. Chosen as the opening film of the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, the movie is also competing for the Golden Lion.

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Cineuropa: I heard it was actually Juliette Binoche who influenced you and urged you to start this project at first, quite a few years ago in fact. In what way exactly?
Hirokazu Kore-eda:
Before deciding on the actual subject of the film, I was kindly asked by Juliette if I would be interested in making a movie together – that was all the way back in 2011. At first, the idea was to shoot it in Japan, but then I thought I would rather just go to France and work with a French crew for a change. Then I decided I would like the protagonist to be an icon of French cinema, someone who could really embody its entire history. You could say that from the very beginning I had these three people in mind [including Ethan Hawke as Lumir’s husband].

Just like Catherine’s character, Fabienne, I achieved some level of success, and one would think that that in itself should prevent you from feeling lonely. But there is always some loneliness that comes with that. I always think about the family I’m leaving behind. Now I am here, in Venice, but I am here by myself.

When I recently met Catherine Deneuve at another festival, she suggested that she didn’t really recognise herself in Fabienne. But there are all of these in-jokes in the film that actually seem to reflect her personal history or views. Was that done on purpose?
Catherine is a free spirit. She is fun to be around – especially if a scene goes well. I conducted many long interviews with Catherine, and I was especially interested in her acting beginnings and her relationship with her family. I used it to write the script. For instance, I asked her the very same question this journalist asks Fabienne at the beginning of the film: whether there is any other actress that has received her DNA, so to speak. She actually replied: “In France? I don’t think so.” I thought that was an interesting line to put in a movie, so I did. There were other things, too, but Catherine said that this character is very cruel, and if someone were to really use such harsh words, they would be universally hated. So she kept her distance but was interested in playing this very peculiar woman in a way that we can also laugh at.

In most of your films, you seem to be very interested in the family dynamic. But was it different exploring it in a language you don’t speak at all?
Usually, the Japanese are not as straightforward. In our families, we use more silence – me included. We tend to evade direct confrontations, and if necessary, we just leave the place. In France, I had the impression that people clash with each other using words. From this point of view, when talking about a relationship between a mother and a daughter, or a husband and a wife, I decided to use much stronger words than I would normally do. But apart from that, I didn’t really feel any significant difference.

Not even when on set?
I didn’t feel isolated on set, because I was blessed with an extremely good interpreter who helped us all the time. Because of her, I didn’t feel any stress about any possible miscommunication. It just took more time because while I could “sense” a good performance, I needed a moment to figure out if the audio was right, or the pronunciation.

Catherine, for example, is not the kind of actress who learns all of her lines beforehand. Often, she just grasps the rhythm of the scene and then starts acting. At times, I would think: “Wow, that was an incredible performance,” only to then talk to my interpreter and hear: “Yes, but the problem is that she didn’t use a single line from the script.” [laughs] She would rather prefer to understand the emotion first and figure out all the details later. I needed to get used to that.

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