Sophie Lellouche Paris-Manhattan Interview

Sophie Lellouche Paris-Manhattan Interview

Sophie Lellouche Paris-Manhattan Interview

Cast: Alice Taglioni, Patrick Bruel, Woody Allen
Director: Sophie Lellouche
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated: PG
Running Time: 80 minutes

Synopsis: Dreamy pharmacist Alice (The Valet's Alice Taglioni) is totally obsessed with the works of Mr. Allen. She surrounds herself with images of him, continually quotes lines from his films and even prescribes her customers DVDs of his movies to help alleviate their ailments; it's little wonder she's still single in her thirties!

Alice's increasingly concerned family hopes to cure her fixation by setting her up with a handsome French gentleman (Patrick Bruel),but even he quickly realises that he's no match for the man of her dreams...

Playfully poking fun at France's ongoing love affair with the acclaimed New York auteur, Paris-Manhattan features a slew of the great one-liners, and is a fun and brazenly nostalgic comedy for anyone ever bitten by the Woody bug, or the City of Lights.

Paris-Manhattan Release Date: December 13th, 2012

Interview with Sophie Lellouche

Question: Since when have you wanted to make films?

Sophie Lellouche: Since my childhood. I've always loved inventing and listening to stories. Fiction probably appeals to me because of my complicated relationship with reality. Escaping reality and everyday life is where my interest in making films comes from. Although I wanted to be a filmmaker for a long time, it took me several years to take a step forward and shoot my first movie. In 1999 I directed a short film starring Gad Elmaleh and I waited ten more years to direct my first feature film. The reason why I am a late-starter is my lack of self-confidence (this is the theme of the film). I was so impressed by my role models that the idea of writing a story worthy of this profession seemed impossible. The deadlock was broken when I imagined a character impaired by their own role models, as I am.

Question: Your main character finds the answers to her questions in fiction instead of real life. She draws her philosophy from Woody Allen's works…<

Sophie Lellouche: I love Woody Allen's style. His work's depth comes from humour, poetry and magic. In my film, Alice has discussions with a picture of Woody Allen. Where is the border between dream and reality? I love bringing magic into reality but Alice and I are not alike; this is not autobiographical. Even if I created her, she has her own life and does not belong to me. What I'm saying may sound weird but every author knows it, the characters you create end up being consistent, having a life you can't control; a life you can only witness.

Question: What led you to make this step forward?

Sophie Lellouche: The conjunction of the fear of time passing by and the discovery of every possible path to make films. When I realised that there was not only one journey or path to become a director, it set me free! I read a lot and spent many hours at the Cinematheque and noticed that many directors started their career late in life. Maurice Pialat, Gerard Oury are positive role models for me. I also learnt a lot from Claude Lelouch who was the first director I had the opportunity to work with. I needed all this time and these experiences to mature and finally find the balance point between "I know" and "I can". There is a quote from Woody Allen that is featured in the film and means a lot to me: "Talent is luck. What matters in life is courage".

Question: How did you build your story?

Sophie Lellouche: Even though comedy is not an easy genre, it is the one I feel the closest to. In comedy, romance allows both dreams and humour. One thing unites all the directors I admire, whether it is Lubitsch, Wilder, Capra or Rappeneau, Lelouch and Oury. They all manage to depict deep human relationships through comedy. I feel close to this. Comedy is always on the edge of drama; it is a question of proportion. We are always on the edge. Alice could be schizophrenic and a misfit character, locked in her own world, but she instead unwillingly becomes a positive heroine, fighting for life.

Question: Even if the film tells us the story of a couple, it looks like a "menage a trois"...

Sophie Lellouche: Indeed, this story is set around three characters: Alice, Victor and Woody Allen's poster. Alice and this poster have a real relationship. It embodies her role model but above all, it is a projection of her. She is always questioning herself facing the poster, being the one choosing the answers. This picture helps her formulate her interrogations and move forward, evolve, mature. Thanks to this picture she can shape her own identity. Victor is the one who will bring her back to reality.

Question: Why did you choose Woody Allen?

Sophie Lellouche: Because his philosophy is uncommonly rich. Alice finds with him the integrity he gives to his characters. On a personal scale, and this is my one and only common point with Alice, Woody Allen hit me. Hannah and Her Sisters is the first Woody Allen film I watched. While leaving the cinema, I was already aware of the impact this filmmaker was going to have on my life. After this film, I watched all the other ones. Woody Allen became one of my favourite directors and I realised he was the only one (writer-director-actor) able to become a character in my story. His movies are so numerous and deep that I knew I could use some of their philosophies for Alice.

While I was writing the script, I fed on his spirit, on the language. He deals with every possible life subject(love, death, religion…) evolving from one film to another and each time offering another point of view. With every new film, he unveils more of his humanity.

The picture embodies Alice's existential questions. And every time she gets the answers from WoodyAllen, but these answers are not absolute truths, she still has her free will.

Question: And Victor bursts into her own and special world…

Sophie Lellouche: She wasn't expecting him. Victor arrives with his madness, frankness and down-to-earth personality together with considerable generosity because he is going to follow Alice in all her tantrums and eccentricities, without judging her. Victor is more mature, more experienced and basically wiser than Alice. However, her free spirit moves him, especially knowing he is pessimistic and quite fatalist. She fascinates him because, in some way, she managed to be successful where he failed to be. To escape his family, he broke off all ties with them while she managed to set some distance with hers. She teaches him "one can be part of a group and still keep their independence". Alice is both normal and genuine; her originality lies in her authenticity. He will help her transition into reality and she will bring him self-realisation in genuineness.

Question: How did you choose your actors?

Sophie Lellouche: I was looking more for characters than stars, even though Alice and Patrick are very famous. Several years ago, I wrote to Alice and told her about my desire to work with her. I like who she is and what she inspires. Her shining beauty brings glamorousness to the couple, which is a key element in making it work with the audience. Alice is a great comedienne and her energy matched with the energy I wanted in my film. She is able to reply in the spur of the moment without losing her charm. This is extremely rare. I noticed Patrick and Alice are both musicians. Alice has the rhythm, the tempo of music, and can therefore transfer this skill to acting. I wanted this excitability, dynamic, this sense of comedy and humour, allied to the beauty and true personality that can carry up values.

To choose Victor's interpreter, I pictured myself as one of the women who will go and see the film, wondering whom they would like to watch. I've always been a fan of Patrick as an actor, of his charm, sense of humour and talent. You can't imagine a woman could resist him. Then, putting him in front of this resisting character gave him a rough ride. It was fascinating. Patrick and Alice form a couple that makes me dream and that's all that matters.

Question: Surrounding them, we find other couples: Alice's parents, Alice and her sister…

Sophie Lellouche: In this extremely anxious family, the father, mother and sister confess their anxieties, and are ready to do anything because of the love they have for each other. They only care about their children's security and wellbeing even though they often miss the right time to worry.

Alice's parents (played by Michel Aumont and Marie-Christine Adam) are very important. Michel brings humanity to this disillusioned father with an inch of madness. The fact this amazing actor agreed to play in my first film is a fabulous gift. His character is very important, being the one who directs Victor to his daughter. He is the grand old man at the dinner table but also in the everyday life. Beyond his will to marry-off his daughter, he perceives Victor is "the one". By his side, Marie-Christine plays a troubled woman, with doubts, who, despite trying her best, inevitably reaches her limits. Regarding the sister, Helene, I was happy to work with Marine Delterme. I've been following her for a long time and, for a while, she went off the radar. I was missing her. She also owns this particular energy. She inspires something very feminine. As in the film, standing up, doing her hair and dressingup is an easy and simple thing for her. I am deeply moved by the relationship between Alice and her sister. Face to face, they unveil a lot of things that I find beautiful.

Question: You, afraid of directing, asked the great Woody Allen to act for you…

Sophie Lellouche: Woody Allen is in my film but I don't direct him! Since the beginning, I had thought it would be great to have Woody Allen "for real". I went to him and presented the project. Him being in the film is surreal. We open a door and he appears! He dives into a limousine then comes back. It's magical. I thought that as he talks a lot about magic in his films, and being a former magician himself, there was a chance for him to accept, and I really wanted to believe in this possibility. For my first film, having Alice, Patrick and Woody Allen is an outcome I still have not fully absorbed. Each time I watch the film, I am mesmerised by their presence!

Question: Your direction also fuels this atmosphere of a glamorous comedy. How would you define it?

Sophie Lellouche: There was first the urge to feel the true atmosphere of Paris, not only through postcards cliches but also through locations and architecture that brings out Paris' charm and makes it one of the most loved cities in the world. I wanted tranquillity and poetry because lovers - like Alice and Victor - feel as if they are alone in the world. There are often wide shots, huge sometimes, because the setting - Parisian only - is open to their love. I didn't want them to look locked-in because Victor offers her liberty, the possibility of a thousand lives, amongst which they will have to choose one. Whereas with Vincent, the other suitor, I often use shot - reverseshot, in a tight space because he is looking to lock her up.

We worked a lot on the mise-en-scene. Even the shots that could have been static have a certain dynamic that brings about the subject. I wanted the camera to only aim at placing the viewer in the position of a privileged witness. I wanted to place the characters in a frame. Regarding Alice's pharmacy, for instance, we viewed about 30 different ones. With its wood panelling and jars, it is genuine even if I added candies and DVD's! I wanted to recreate this feeling of the shop around the corner, the typical local shop where the owners have real relationships with their customers.

Question: Do you remember the first scene shot?

Sophie Lellouche: Because of calendar issues we started with the scenes with Woody Allen in front of the Plaza. Strangely, I wasn't stressed at all. And yet, it was my first day of shooting with Alice Taglioni, Patrick Bruel and Woody Allen. All were as much professional as human. We only had one hour to shoot all the scenes with Woody Allen. Thanks to my head director of photography, Laurent Machuel, and thanks to the team, everything went well. Woody Allen acted with great humility, even though we were clearly excited to have him there.

Question: After this first feature, what are you the happiest about?

Sophie Lellouche: Working with the actors, with the team; seeing day after day the story I had imagined come to life gave me great happiness. But, the most memorable day was the first one, with Woody Allen. I lived each second of the 2nd of April 2011 intensively. The weather was beautiful. The day after, when I woke up, it was raining. All this felt like a dream.

I'm glad of the actors' commitment, of what I discover on the screen and what doesn't belong to me anymore. They have this humanity, generosity, kindness that I hoped my characters would have. It didn't take too much effort for Alice and Patrick to convey those feelings that they own deep inside. The actors gave it all to their characters, bringing their own style. We want to meet them, spend time with them, me first!

Question: What do you hope you'll bring to the audience?

Sophie Lellouche: I want to offer them a light story, but dealing with more serious topics, an unconventional encounter that could move a wide range of people. I hope viewers will exit the cinema wishing to fall in love and consider others without being judgemental. We have all been Alice and Victor one day or another. This is why I like going to the movies, because they show me things I haven't experienced and give me the urge to experience them.

Paris-Manhattan Release Date: December 13th, 2012