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Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis

By Louise Catier

Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis
(Welcome to the Land of the Ch’tis)

A film by Dany Boon

Released on 1st April 2008 at Ciné Lumière

After only two weeks of screening in France, ‘Bienvenue chez les ch’tis’ has already seduced over 9 million cinemagoers across the country. If it keeps going at this incredible pace, the new comedy by Dany Boon could become the biggest success in the history of French Cinema of these last 20 years, and thus beat the previous record achieved by ‘Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra’ and its 14.5 million viewers. As for the income, ‘Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis’, which cost only 11 millions euros to make (as oppose to Asterix at the Olympic Games which had a budget of 78 million euros), has already generated 53 millions euros.
But to have an idea before the official UK release on 1st April, discover the story and our interview with director and actor Dany Boon:

The Story:
Philippe Abrams (Kad) is the manager of the post office in Salon-de-Provence.  He is married to Julie, whose depressive nature makes his life impossible.  To please her, Philippe tries to cheat the system in order to obtain a transfer to the Côte-d'Azur.  Unfortunately for him, his plan is uncovered and instead of the Côte-d'Azur he is transferred to Bergues, a small town in the Northern France.  For the Abrams, very prejudiced southerners, the North is synonymous with nightmare, a freezing region, inhabited by uncouth beings, spluttering out an incomprehensible language, 'cheutimi'.  Philippe goes alone.  To his great surprise, he discovers a charming place, a warm bunch and welcoming people and makes a friend: Antoine (Dany Boon), the postman and village bell-ringer, who has a possessive mother (Line Renaud) and thwarted love affairs.  When Philippe returns to Salon, Julie refuses to believe that he likes it in the North.  She even thinks that he is lying so as not to upset her.  To please her and to make his life easier, Philippe makes her believe that actually, his life in Bergues is hell.   From that moment on, his life slips into a comfortable lie: for two whole weeks, he has a great time in the North in the company of Antoine and one weekend in two, he lets himself be pampered by his wife who bit by bit is overcoming her depression.  Everything is going well until the day Julie decides to join Philippe in Bergues in order to help him get through what she believes is an ordeal.  Philippe is forced to admit to Antoine and his team that he has described them to his wife as savages.  He begs them to behave as such to cover up his lie and to scare Julie so that she will leave again very quickly.  Grudgingly, Philippe's employees take part in the farce and give Julie the worst stay of her life.  But Julie uncovers the hoax.

The Interview with Dany Boon:

Last spring, director and actor Dany Boon met France In London for a special interview, rediscover below some of its best parts:

At that time, Dany Boon promoted the release of the movie ‘My Best friends’, in which he sometimes appeared very moving. It  was the occasion to ask him about himself:

You were very moving in it (the movie ‘My Best Friends’) at times. You even cry and we believe in it. It’s a beautiful story. Is it Dany Boon?

Do you mean on stage I’m Dany Boon ‘one man show’?

No, I mean in real life?

Yes it is a little. My relations with people are similar to that. It’s my mother who taught me to be open vis à vis others.
When I wasn’t famous yet and that I wrote, I was like a sponge. I still write a lot about people. When you write to make people laugh you have to be keep on impregnating yourself of the people around you. When I began to be better known, I thought ‘blast’, I’m going to lose that. I will no longer be able to sit in a corner and listen to others talk.
In fact, now that I am in the public eye, people come to me. Some people feel a little threatened by fame and try to avoid you. Other people feel they know you like an old friend and come and tell you their life story, or they take you in their arms and cry.


They cry with you?


Yes they do.
It’s something that really bothers me when people cry. It’s very strange.
To keep things in perspective, I always try to say to myself that I might be famous now but tomorrow I might not be. So I try to find out about them. I am interested in their life and I ask questions.

What does it create vis à vis others?


It creates an exchange. It shows it’s possible to be interested in others even when we’re famous. As a result, it creates some very spontaneous friendships. Friendships that won’t last of course because it’s just impossible. It creates a trust. Because I have been doing this job for 15 years, it means that some people have known me ever since they were children. Some come and tell me, my father used to love you he used to watch your DVD when he was very sick. I even had to sign an autograph once for someone who had died. A woman told me: ‘My husband used to love you and I would have asked you to sign an autograph had he still been alive’. So I did it. She was very touched.
When you make people laugh you have this relation with your public unless you only do it to be famous or simply make money.
I do it because I love the stage and to be in contact with the public. It’s an exchange, a sort of repair.


But when you are in movies there are no exchanges with the public as such?


Yes, but in theatre you have this relation with your audience when you are in front of 1,000 or 2000 or 400 or 30 people…and there is something that passes its like being in front of an emotional temple…and then it stops. You are then in your dressing room, all alone, then in your hotel room alone again. There is no progression.
So what I like about filming is that it’s teamwork. I love this atmosphere. The team is going to fight to ensure that everything is going to be as perfect as possible. Every frame is like a picture and every picture has to be so beautiful.

Dany Boon also told France in London his own way to deal with being an artist and with his success  and showed us that, despite all this, he’s still a sensible person:

Isn’t that often the case with actors and singers to be unsure about themselves and their success?


Yes of course, we are all insecure and we are constantly re-assessing ourselves. It’s the definition of any art. Some of us just use the same old recipes to give people what they expect. People won’t be surprised they will just get what they want. There’s a cynical side to that. These artists are no longer in touch with their dreams. They are somewhere else in their easy life.
Some artists will make one album, one show, one film and then they stop. That’s because they are no longer dreaming. I think that that’s because they have spent 10 or 15 years dreaming about this moment and working on it to build themselves. At the end of these 15-year slog, suddenly it works. People discover you as if you have just done it. The next minute, they expect you to produce something else but this time, you only have two years to do it. You’re going to have to do in two years something you have done in 15 years without producing something similar. It will have to be different but not too different. The second show, the second book or the second film is the hardest thing to produce. It’s a step, an obstacle, a war a battle. Not only do you have 2 years but in addition, people are not looking at you in the same way. Initially, people were asking you what you did and people were discovering you. Now people know you and they ask you ‘so what’s the next one going to be like?’


Actually, that was my next question.


It’s very destabilising and many artists then stop. It’s harder to manage a success than a flop.
It’s like people who win the lottery. They stop dreaming. They have won. So what else? They have achieved their life’s dream. If the dream was to win the money to be able to do something with it then so be it. But if the dream was to simply win.
It’s the same with artists. If the dream was simply to be famous then once they are then they have nothing else.
I don’t care about being famous. Of course I’m happy about it but I am sometimes worried about my children because that’s complicated to have parents who are famous.
But what I care about is what I write, what I play, what I share with others, with the audience, my colleagues…I want to enjoy those moments.
Making people laugh is a ‘repair’.

A ‘repair’. What do you mean by that?


What I like is touching on difficult subject and making people laugh about them. In fact, at the beginning of my career, producers were refusing to take me on because they thought that you should not make fun of really serious stuff. But in fact, that’s what made me different and that’s why people came to see me. Because I could make them laugh about what made them cry the rest of the time. This emotional moment that I share with the audience, I give them ‘repair’. We become human again and instead of closing ourselves, we open up. In fact, sometimes I see people we are in the first row who tell one another: ‘ That’s so much you!’


You mean they see themselves in the character that you are playing.


Yes. The emotion that they are feeling is the most important and the work I have to go through to achieve that is key. There are different types of laughs: ‘There are visual jokes that generate childlike laughs. Adults look at you in the same way they might have looked at a clown when they were little.’
Then there are most subtle jokes that will generate more serious laughs. What’s interesting is to create the show in such a way that you get the audience to move through various types of laughs.


You effectively build the show in the same way that you would write a piece of music?


Yes, that’s it. I didn’t do this from the start, it came with experience.

So what you do is give them time to catch their breath before moving on to a more demanding laugh?


You joke, but last year at the Olympia in Paris, someone had a heart attack. Fortunately he didn’t die.

You’re not serious.

Yes I am, it happened in the first 20 minutes. His wife started to scream and people thought it was part of the show. I came down and the fireman arrived. I ensured that we checked how he was by calling the hospital.
I still managed to crack a joke by saying the audience: ‘ A seat has just been freed up’.
You know, Raymond Devos had someone die at one of his shows. It was in the first few rows. Everyone left and someone stayed seated. He had died of laughter. It’s beautiful, no?

The movie ‘Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis’ talks about people living in the North of France, from where Dany Boon actually come. He told us a bit about how people from this region are and about the movie he directed:


Being from the North of France, it is a tradition to be like the character I play.


Do you mean open, welcoming?

Yes, it’s a tradition. Most Northern people are like that and the character I play is like that to and my mother taught me to be like that. In the North we talk easily to everyone.


It’s also very much like that in the North of England.

When I arrived in Paris in 1989, I tried to speak to people in cafés by taking part in their conversation and they thought I was mad. I was therefore pleased to be able to have a part that was a little like me.


Do you have some new projects in the pipeline?


I have written something called: ‘Bienvenue chez les Cht’is’
It’s the story of a civil servant who lives in the South of France in Aix-en-Provence near Marseilles and his wife dreams about moving to Cassis. So he asks for his transfer however, he makes a stupid mistake and to punish him they send him to the North Pas-de-Calais.


And he arrives there…

His wife doesn’t come immediately. He tells her to stay where it’s nice and warm and he arrives there with many preconceived ideas about the North and about the Northerners.
Slowly, he will discover what they are like.
So this will give me for the first time the opportunity to film the region I come from. I’m really pleased about it. It starts in May.

When do you think it will be out?


February or March.

Actually this movie is to be released on 1st April at Ciné Lumière, so don’t miss the occasion to discover this comedy here in London.

For more information about the Film and to discover the screenings in London, click here.


10/01/2015 - hh a dit :

Bonjour Cht's


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