A funny, poetic and intelligent film about the life and mental health of a woman? This is the pitch of Everybody loves Jeanne. Interview with Céline Devaux, its director, and actor Laurent Lafitte.
If you don’t know Céline Devaux yet, you are about to discover one of the most exciting young directors and illustrators of French cinema. After several award-winning short films at festivals (including the magnificent The Sunday Meal with Vincent Macaigne), the 35-year-old director immerses us, with his first feature filmin his ultra-inventive universe, fun and clever.
Worn by a duo of brilliant actors (Blanche Gardin and Laurent Lafitte), Everybody loves Joan is a real gem. On horseback between animated cinema and live actionthe richness of its shape echoes the diversity of themes addressed by the film. On the occasion of its release in theaters this Wednesday, September 7Madmoizelle met Céline Devaux and Laurent Lafitte, to talk, among other things, about how do you make a first movieof Mental Health and of gender norms.
Miss. Everybody loves Jeanne talks about love, mental health, ecology, motherhood, mourning… For you, what is the main subject of the film?
Celine Devaux. It’s hard to answer without being extremely pompous! When we make a first moviewe tend to want tell everything. I think it’s a movie about a woman trying to live… but no… no, that kind of sucks as an answer (laughs).
Laurent Lafitte. Earlier, you said that it was trying to remain “functional”.
Celine Devaux. Yes. This is the story of a woman who try to stay functional despite what happens to him. And all in going through things that are as hard as they are very funny.
But precisely, one has the impression that Jeanne tried to be “functional” all her life… instead of living. Wouldn’t she try to stop being “functional”?
Celine Devaux. There’s a difference between being “functional” in what’s expected of you – which she’s done so far, and on a significant scale because she’s doing a job that everyone expects. Everyone hopes to do it or hopes that someone does, since their job is to save the planet. And since she misses that, that means she finds herself really alone with herselfwith the fact of being just alive : waking up, roughly breathing, getting things done and going to bed… That’s what’s left, and it can feel pretty silly. However, she meets a man for whom this is life. The hardest, it’s accepting that it’s just thatbe living.
Everybody loves Joan has a wide variety of forms (live action and animation), registers (we laugh, we are moved…) it almost seems that things have been added over time. Can you tell us about how the film was written and directed?
Celine Devaux. Indeed ! Many things have been added because fortunately, a script alone is not enough to make a film. Already, I didn’t take it easy by working with Blanche Gardin and Laurent Lafitte since they are people who write and direct and are already well established – they are very strong. I them entrusted my filmwhich changed a lot of things.
Next, once the shooting was over, i started to draw. It took me two or three months. I was still in a manufacturing process. At the same time as the drawing, I looked at the images that we edited, but which weren’t finished. In fact, I had the luxury of being able to make a film which has evolved enormously at all stages.
Did you write the characters of Jeanne and Jean for Blanche Gardin and Laurent Lafitte?
Celine Devaux. To successfully write the character, it was necessary that I think of a woman I admire. I have so written for Blanche, not knowing her. I didn’t think she would say yes. Finally, I was lucky that she accepted and it was when she arrived on the project that we met Laurent.
If this duo was missed, it was a disaster. These characters have very strong features, it can almost be caricatural. So in front of Blanche, we needed someone who gives something very very fine. We also had to want them to love each other, and I think we feel that a lot between them in the image. It is from them that I built the rest of the cast. I consider that I was so lucky they trusted me.
Femininity is a source of worry for Jeanne. And around her revolve three male characters embodying different models of masculinity. Are you interested in gender issues?
Celine Devaux. At the movie theater, we have few female characters that are interesting because they are funny. For a long time, many things in a woman’s life weren’t considered funny : female masturbation, ” it’s not funny “the rules, ” it’s disgusting “ …While men recounting their little everyday miseries, it was considered hilarious. So, we still have all that to tell! Me, what makes me laugh the most in life is my girlfriends doing dirty things, and that’s awesome ! A woman’s life is crazy !
Faced with this, I also wanted men who escape the representation in which they have been locked up through stereotypes. It’s not interesting to have a man who’s just an asshole or a man who’s just nice, even more so when you see that it leads to the idea that nice men are less attractive.. That’s why the fraternity is as important as Victor turns out to be full of surprises, or even as Jean takes care of Jeanne. This is important to show these men.
Did you help write the character of Jean, or was it already written by Céline?
Laurent Lafitte. I felt that I had latitude to embellish a little small variations around what was already written. I like to suggest that to directors in general, knowing that after editing, they do what they want. But even if it is not guarded, it is part of a ownership process on the overall material.
Also, with Blanche, we get along very well. We bounces off the same things and we like to surprise ourselves. Sometimes Blanche offers microvariations. If we really play togetherwhile being receptive what the other is doing, we don’t give the cue in the same way as on the previous take. It’s a way of reinventing the game all the time. And if we push that, of course, we come to the end of what is written.
Jean is a very surprising character, who is both impulsive and light-hearted but who we also see thinks a lot. What interested you in him?
Laurent Lafitte. What I like about Jean is that we all have the impression that there is a Jean in us. Me, I know there’s some of that in me, but I also know that it’s difficult to integrate because a little antisocial, anticapitalist. Everything is a bit poetic with him and I like that a lot. The madness becomes more poetic even if it is concrete, anti-capitalism and the Politics become poetic. And at the same time, he is completely realit’s the opposite of denial.
I think it can be totally overwhelming to meet someone who has this strength. It can be complicated, it can be a short story (laughs), but it’s a story to be lived. In any case, that’s exactly what Jeanne needs at that moment. It will take her a while to realize this, but it will result in a star alignment.
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Featured image credit: © Les Films du Worso – O som ea furia