Dujardin tells all about The Artist and the upcoming OSS 117
THE FIGARO. - At the Cannes Film Festival, The Artist was to be presented out of competition. Finally, you entered the arena. Why?
Jean DUJARDIN.- I think we all wanted at the start, secretly, to be in competition. If we go to Cannes, it's to participate. Otherwise, we don't go there at all.
Michel HAZANAVICIUS.- The desire was quite assumed. We have worked hard to be ready on time. Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, wanted to see the film. There was one spot left in the competition. It was either The Artist or The Beloved. I was really for playing the competition. I remember quoting a sentence from Maradona: “Going into the penalty area and not being able to shoot is like dancing with your sister”.
Did the Best Actor Award change anything for you?
J.D. - This is very pleasing. It was a somewhat unusual day. I still can't find out if this reward corresponds to the end of a stage or if it's a passport to another. When it was announced to me in the afternoon, I was at first very surprised. Then I felt a little joy, which turned into great fear. It's not my job to receive an award. My way of accepting honors can seem light and distanced. But for me it is a sort of safeguard. I protect myself. This allows me to start from scratch with each new film, to be available for something else. I'm only 39, damn it! I still have a lot of things to do
M.H. - Anyway, nothing is ever acquired. It is not like a staircase to reach the third floor. Who knows? In his next film, Jean can go back down to the first or go straight to the sixth.
J.D. - I am well aware that it is up to me to set the pace. But, inevitably, things escape me. My image escapes me. I try to control those moments. The interpretation prize at Cannes is great. But, I went there with great fear mixed with great pleasure too. There have been too many beautiful things: Robert De Niro who says to me: "It's you!". The room that is standing. I said to myself: “Well, we want you well, so be happy and accept it”. The euphoria stopped I think around 3 am when I went to bed, with my wife Alexandra.
The Artist could compete for the Oscars in Hollywood in the “Best Picture” category. How did you get here?
Mr. H.-We're not there yet. Without doubt, our film is positive and entertaining. It's a breath of fresh air at festivals where most films don't have the joy of living as their ambition. This gives him an invaluable entry ticket. It was imagined in the same spirit as the Hollywood films of the 1920s - 1930s, to escape from everyday life. Which is not the case with all films today
The Weinstein brothers, who produced funded Pulp Fiction and The King's Speech, distribute The Artist in the United States. They are campaigning for the film at the Oscars. Do you think they can pull it off?
M.H. - Tradition has it that films that tell Hollywood appeal to Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein may be playing on this navel-gazing string. But, I repeat, we are not there yet. On the other hand, if asked, we would be crazy to say no.
Bérénice Béjo. (Warner Bros.)
What memories do you have of filming in the legendary Warner studios?
J. D. - It's both an actor's and a tourist's souvenir. I discovered everything. I ate very quickly to reach the set and see it empty, touching the walls. I'm rarely in my dressing room for movies. There I was there even less. It was very motivating for the imagination to be here. Even when we stopped filming, it continued. We lived in a villa on the heights of Hollywood. The interior of the house resembled the home in Billy Wilder's movie Sunset Boulevard. In short, I did not drop out of my role for three months.
M.H.- From time to time, we realized that we were at Warner and that was something incredible. We shot the film in 35 days, which is very short. My obsession was to finish the day, to be efficient. In fact, I didn't really have time to be lucid about where I was.
J.D. - Me, on the contrary, I used the pleasure that I had to be there to nourish my character. In my smile and in my laughter, there is also the pleasure of being at Warner. It's the mixture of the two that gives George Valentin this bewildered look proud of himself. I was very happy to shoot in the legendary Hollywood studios. I'm talking about the decor as well as the extras. The photographers, the cops… I had fun watching them all. It's very disturbing to enter photography like that, into the frame, at this point. Plus live music. There was a schizophrenic side. Often, I thought to myself: “Am I in it or am I playing it?”. Behind the camera, sometimes, I could make out Michel and the technicians. They were all “dressed 2010”. They were in the real while, me, I really had the possibility of leaving in the film.
M.H. - In Hollywood, Jean was in heaven, and I was living a bit like hell. I had to organize the image of the film, day by day, following a draconian work plan. I was in Hollywood to revive the luster of those years. Not to enjoy it. In fact, my work was complicated. Laborious to set up. When something went wrong, everything slowed down. It's also one of the few times I got angry on a set on the people of the American production team. I have always tried to protect the actors so that they feel confident.
How was your level of understanding on the set?
J.D. - We trust each other completely. Michel wrote the film for Bérénice and me. A priori, we just had to do our job. The fact that the three of us know each other well saved us time.
Has the Warner Studios film set turned into a “Gallic village”?
M.H. - Yes and no. At the end of the third day, we shot on Sunset Boulevard. There, the Gallic village was shattered. There was only a film crew making a film. And above all, a silent film that breaks down all barriers. That of language and that of the image. Everything we did was understandable by the Americans. A common language was installed little by little. Of course, in the United States, the organization of work is different. The Americans on the team had never seen a director frame his shot alone. They ended up getting used to it. They ended up respecting our methods.
J.D. - It should all the same be specified that the actors in Hollywood do not stay on the set, they go to their dressing room. We were laughing together. At first, they didn't really understand this familiarity.
M.H. - The organization of work is not the same, of course. But something very strong happened around the film.
Has this American experience made you want to do it again?
J.D. - In this context, yes; this is the ideal.
M.H. - A French production shot with American means! I had the most beautiful of toys!
What do you think is the most poetic scene in the film?
J.D. - For me, it's the sequence where George Valentin, fallen silent star, suddenly sees himself again in a tuxedo, facing the front of a clothing store, thanks to a reflection in the window.
M.H. - The advantage of a silent film is that you are in a performance that does not seek to ape reality. We turn our backs on reality to go towards dreamlike scenes. Certain sequences escape from reality deliberately: for example, when the shadow of the hero leaves. Or when a mini George Valentin appears on the bar counter. It was these marvelous discoveries that interested me in all the films I watched before making my own.
Jean Dujardin and Huggy. (Warner Bros.)
Tell me about the little dog, Huggy, who won the “palme dog” at Cannes
J.D. - Huggy belongs to the silhouette of George Valentin. They are inseparable. Sometimes he followed me. Sometimes I had to follow him too. It had to be arranged like that.
M.H. - It is true that the silhouette of a character and his dog seems familiar in the cinema of the time. I now understand why I have often been told not to film with animals and children. The performance of the dog has no value without that of the actor. When the dog bites George Valentin's pants because he wants to shoot himself in the head, the secret of this sequence is that we had stuffed sausages under Jean's pants. He wanted his sausage, the dog! Finally, the best compliment anyone can give me is to tell me that the dog is playing well. This means that we lend him feelings, so that I have worked well. During the preparation of the film, I was taken to see the stars of animal training. I have not found anything. In desperation, I ended up with a small trainer who had three dogs, including the Jack Russel I was looking for. The surprise is that this dog, Huggy, could do everything.
It looks a bit like the complicity between Tintin and Snowy
M.H. - Absolutely. Besides, I like the gap between the making of the film and what people feel afterwards. We didn't experience it the same way, believe me (laughs).
This film is a vibrant tribute to Hollywood and the films that made you dream. How was the writing of the film?
M.H. - The writing was painful, even if there were a few enjoyable moments where you think you've found a visual gag or a nice transition. These small moments alternated with long heavier moments.
Where did the idea come from of making Bérénice Bejo play with the sleeve of a jacket as if she were animating a puppet?
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M.H. - From a film by Frank Borzage, The Supreme Hour. But Bérénice reinvented it in her own way. The key to success for this kind of sequence is to ask the actor to construct the image himself and to stage it. Otherwise, it's all very fabricated.
The final scene with the tap number is reminiscent of Singing in the Rain
J.D. - We worked on it for almost a year. It's a lot but it's never enough. We can't pretend to dance. We were constantly tossed between technique, pleasure, pace. I said to myself: “Chill out, relax, stop thinking about tap dancing, listen to the music, have fun. Don't tap dance: dance!” This scene is the happy ending. You shouldn't miss it.
M.H. - It's an American happy ending. I found that there was something very touching in seeing actors memorize something for a show. It's the same as your kids' year-end show. The same approach. Bérénice and Jean worked a lot
How many takes were there on this scene?
M.H. -Thirteen! I only wanted to do three wide shots to see their bodies dancing, without cutting the takes. Suddenly, Bérénice and Jean had a lot of pressure. I had in mind a sentence by Fred Astaire who said: “It's either the camera that dances, or I, but not both”.
Is the parallel with Singing in the rain, which also recounts the transition from silent to speaking, assumed?
M.H. - Let's say I was careful not to watch Let's Sing in the Rain while writing the script. Because I knew it was the same theme. If the historical background is the same, I think the two films are very different because the plots have nothing to do. The transition from silent to talking was a very important event. However, there have been few films on the subject.
In a silent film, and in black and white, the music is essential. How was The Artist's song composed?
Mr. H. - In a film without words, the music comes from afar. It's 50% of the movie. As soon as the screenplay was written, I gave the composer Ludovic Bource the music I was listening to so that he could soak it up: Bernard Herrmann, Leonard Bernstein, Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, all the great composers of Hollywood classics, even if they are later than the great era of the silent. This is what rocked the writing of the film just like the jazz of the time, Louis Armstrong, etc. Ludovic has done a huge job because he is not a classical musician.
How did you manage to make the music accompany the emotions of the actors so much?
M.H. - During filming, there was also music. I was a disc jockey. I tried to give an emotional color to the actors to help them, to put them in the mood. Silent directors did that too. Orchestras were playing on the sets. During editing, I gave Ludovic what we were listening to on the set. Then I cut the film into ten narrative blocks. His huge job was to express his sensitivity, to stay within a certain color of Hollywood music while respecting the story. It's very precise, especially when the characters act out breakups. If the music marks the break before the acting of the actor, this one is weakened. It becomes a pleonasm. From this point of view, my work has been decisive. I was the guarantor of the story, reminding Ludovic when he should be ready or let the actor play. Once the actor has given the information, the music accompanies us, but not before.
At the end of the film, isn't there an explicit reference to a Bernard Herrmann theme?
M.H. - This is indeed the music from Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock. Well seen! Or heard, should I say
What information did you give Guillaume Schiffman about light?
M.H. - Our cinematographer did an amazing job digesting the image. At some point, you have to forget everything you've learned to tell your own story and, then, be at the service of a director without forgetting to express your own sensitivity. For example, I told him that I wanted typical 1940s lights even if it's not the same era. I needed it to tell the story. On a set, I am quite directive. But it is within these constraints that the composer and the cinematographer were able to find their freedom.
Isn't The Artist a mind-blowing bet, successful beyond your expectations?
M.H. - I still have high hopes! But I realized that I was very bad at betting on success. For a long time, my only engines have been desire and pleasure. I wanted to do The Artist for a long time. Afterwards, luck consists in meeting people like Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, and a producer such as Thomas Langmann who says: “OK, let's go!”.
When did you meet him?
M.H. -Thomas contacted me first, offering to make a film with him. He told me about his project around Fantômas. This awoke my desire to make a black and white film like the films of Louis Feuillade. The idea amused him. But the funding did not follow. I said to him: “Wait until I have a story”. When I gave him the script, he loved it and said, “Banco!”. With Jean I was very careful, I wrote the film for him. I made him read first. He could have refused. I think that there is a form of unconsciousness or recklessness at the start of any film. Thomas Langmann has a way of a capricious child that I adore, the very strong respect for his desire. If he really wants something, he gives himself the means to do it. He trusted me from start to finish. It's a huge chance.
Jean Dujardin producer, is it a new adventure?
J.D. - It's the continuity of everything I've been able to do so far. It was a great desire to return home, to return to what I love to do, comedy, in an original concept and format. After a silent film, I can make a film with sketches, right? Les Infidèles will be released on February 29, 2012. I wanted to bring together people I had worked with, to find a theme.
What is it?
J.D. -It's a film reminiscent of Italian comedy and more specifically The Monsters, directed in 1963 by Dino Risi. The idea was a bit to make fun of ourselves, men. We are animals. Gilles Lellouche and I wanted to watch them. We start the promo, it's scary.
Are you part of the Michel Hazanavicius adventure?
M.H. - Yes. I did one of the sketches.
J.D. - There is also Emmanuelle Bercot, Fred Cavayé, Jan Kounen, Alex Cortes and Éric Lartigau. The film has seven sketches in all. It is both very attackable and very unassailable.
M.H. - Because films that work like crazy are very sincere.
J.D. - The idea was to see lots of films in one. There is only the sketch film for that: so many faces, characters and so many emotions. I said to myself that it suited well at the time too, the fact of consuming a film with sketches
The video review - “Dumb to the audacity of The Artist”:
When will OSS 117 be back?
M.H. - When the desire will be there and stronger than for other films. Today, there is no scheduled date. All the people who participated in the first and the second love this character and would be in. The idea is above all to make a film different from the others. As far as I'm concerned, I need a little time to find a freshness, a good idea. I think if we did it now he would be too close to the top two. Doing it because people are expecting it is not a good reason. Everyone is waiting so much for the adulterated theme of “Françafrique” that something else will have to be found. You have to both meet the expectations of the public and do something completely new. If you do what people expect, they are very disappointed. They feel like they could have done it. In short, it's complicated!
J.D. - You have to create the desire and find the idea. Otherwise it will “snore”. Either way, I'm getting old. So OSS will be older. If we made a movie of him now, our poor spy would look nasty. It's true that with his camera slung over his shoulder, in Rio no longer responds, he was already doing a lot of work. wait and see
» Dujardin and Bejo rewarded in the USA!
» The Artist in the race for the Oscars
» VIDEO REVIEW - Dumb before the audacity of The Artist
» Jean Dujardin: Brice rides the wave of success