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Cédric Klapisch

Interview with Cédric Klapisch on his new movie "Paris"

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What drove you to make PARIS?

I’ve done a lot of filming abroad recently, in London, Saint Petersburg and Barcelona among other places, and I wanted to come home and return to my city. Moreover, there has always been a lot of Paris in my other films like LITTLE NOTHINGS, WHEN THE CAT’S AWAY and MAYBE, but never directly. I felt I’d been beating about the bush, and that it was the right time. Was it also in reaction to the negative vision we sometimes have of the city? It’s true that Paris and Parisians have a bad reputation. They are thought of as snobbish, pretentious, bourgeois and disagreeable, and all that topped off with a grumpy nature. And this opinion is not far off the mark. There’s a “never happy” side to Parisians, but that’s also a French character trait: just look at French heroes in the style of Gabin or Delon, or the characters created by Céline, Léo Malet and Tardi. Their Parisians are miserable and gloomy, they’re hard-nosed and uppity. There’s also something fine and healthy in this attitude. Paris is a melancholy city. There’s a melancholy there that – bizarrely – is more about living and reacting and not about resigning yourself to things. The greatest moments in Parisian history were the Revolution of 1789, the Commune, the Liberation and May ’68. Paris is known for its moments of healthy anger. I’ve also often heard it said that Paris is no longer “in”, that it’s a dead town etc., and I don’t believe that to be true. After losing the Olympic Games to London, there was a whole series of pointers that indicated Paris wasn’t cool enough or not “capital” enough anymore. As a reaction, I wanted to talk about the Paris of today, in an era that is perhaps more ordinary. I even thought about giving the film the subtitle: “An Ephemeral Portrait of an Eternal City”.


As someone who has done it a lot, do you still find it easy to film Paris?

think that the more photographers like Willy Ronis, Robert Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, Depardon and William Klein photograph Paris, the better they do it. So there is an “craftsman” side to cinema, the repetition of the same movement brings something, and there’s something inexhaustible about Paris. So I don’t exhaust myself. Indeed, I think it’s because I’ve filmed Paris a lot that I’m only just staring to know how to do it.


Moreover, in WHEN THE CAT’S AWAY, you filmed Paris in deconstruction and now you’re filming it in construction...

That was one of the starting points for writing the script. Baudelaire’s phrase in reaction to Haussmann’s construction madness: “The shape of a city changes more quickly, alas! than the human heart”. Old Paris is no more (the form of a city Changes more quickly, alas! than the human heart); [...] Paris changes! But naught in my melancholy Has stirred! New palaces, scaffolding, blocks of stone, Old quarters, all become for me an allegory, And my dear memories are heavier than rocks. Le Cygne. Les Fleurs du Mal, 1861. [The Swan, The Flowers of Evil] When I made WHEN THE CAT’S AWAY, I was filming the renovation of the Bastille quarter, but it wasn’t through nostalgia that I was filming the destruction of “Old Paris”. And it wasn’t as an attempt to denounce or advertise a new and more modern, bourgeois and trendy Paris either. I was simply trying to show that it wasn’t necessarily one against the other but that the two coexist, and it’s that same juxtaposition that makes it such a rich city. As Fabrice Luchini’s character in the film, Roland Verneuil, says: “An ancient city does not define itself through the way it contrasts its vestiges and its modernity.” Paris today is neither the Louvre, nor the Quai Branly museum; it’s the association of the two. I love that association, the fact that Paris is a link between its history and an avant-garde.
Today, the Marais district is a blend of classical architecture from the 17th century, a gay neighborhood, a Jewish neighborhood, a bit of a Chinese neighborhood and a fashion center with prestigious designers’ boutiques. Its identity is linked to these successive strata. Whether it’s in conflict or marriage, there are juxtapositions that engender vitality. And it’s that interweaving of eras and community that is the fabric of Paris.


How would you sum up the film, PARIS?

It’s the story of a Parisian man who is sick and wonders if he’s going to die. His condition makes him look at all the people he meets in a new and different way. Imagining death gives meaning to his life, to other peoples’ lives and to the life of the whole city. Just like a metro map, Paris is a network of interconnections. To be able to create a portrait of Paris, you have to go in all directions – it mustn’t be linear. You have to respect the complexity of the city. And it’s also that fragmented shape that brings out the proliferation and the lively side of Paris.


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