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Christian Carion

En Proximité avec Christian Carion

By Cecile Boyeka


In close proximity to Christian Carion


Academy Award nominated, Christian Carion (Merry Christmas / Joyeux Noël), brings us back to the 80’s with this astonishing espionage movie, Farewell (L’affaire Farewell). It is more than just fiction. Carion decides not only to scratch the past of a KGB spy, real name Vladimir Vetrov but also to reveal its political impact Franco-Russian and American.

This is the first main role for the charismatic Emir Kusturica who is brilliantly paired with the charming French actor and film director Guillaume Canet.


Christian Carion opened his heart to FranceInLondon.


Q. When did you realize your passion for the world of cinema?

Oh, that’s an old story! I am from a farming town of about 250 people, Cambrai, in the North of France. Far from the cities, we couldn’t go to the cinema so we used to watch a lot of films on television on Sunday evening. I have always been fascinated by actors and how to make a movie. I believe I started thinking about cinema when I was 14 - 15 years old. It was my secret. My parents wanted me to become an engineer so I worked hard at school to please them and even ended up working at the Ministry of Agriculture. It was a frustrating period. During the holidays I shot my short films and one of them was noticed. That gave me the opportunity to go to the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, in the Auvergne region of France. A while later I met Christophe Rossignon, my producer. After the release of my first movie about agriculture in 2001, The Girl From Paris (Unehirondellea fait le printemps) which was a great success, I resigned from the Ministry of Agriculture. I couldn’t go back to the office anymore. I knew what I wanted to do.


Q. Who or what inspires you whilewriting a script?

I like people who can take themselves in hand and do something. But I am also strongly inspired by my origins, farming, where I grew up. In The Girl From Paris, a woman decides to change her life at 30 years old but she will be confronted by the agricultural world. In Merry Christmas, I liked the idea that some people said let’s stop the war, it is Christmas time. The one who is determined to take the first step and break a taboo will have a big impact on others. In Farewell, the little story meets up with the big one. A man thinks he can change the world. The Farewell affair was also highly significant to the fall of the wall (the Berlin Wall).


Q. What appealed to you to bring 30 years later this matter, on the big screen?

Firstly, as I just said, I like the idea that someone tries to do something but I am also interested in politics. Though sometimes I drag my feet I always vote. Some people died in France to allow us to get this chance so for this reason, even if I cast a blank vote, I do at least something. Maybe one day we could not do it anymore. The first time I voted was in 1981 for François Mitterrand’s election. So when I got that project, it brought me back to my twenties. For example, I remembered the kind of music I was listening to in the 80’s such as Queen. Many things came to my mind and that’s why I nourished that movie with my personal memories.


Q. What kind of films do you like to see and who are the other filmmakers who inspire you or you admire?

That is not always easy and all depends of my schedule but I do try to see any kind of movies. As a filmmaker, it is even our duty to see what others do. We may be upset or surprised but after all it is the magic of what happens on the screen.

As I haven’t been to any film school, I have been watching a lot of movies and studying them. I mean how they have been made, what were the scenes that attracted me or how they made the credits at the beginning of the film. When you ask yourself all these questions, the film becomes gripping. I also learnt by watchingHitchcock’smovies. He was a humanist filmmaker and when I was a child I was touched by all these filmmakers who were interested in people. That’s why there is Liberty Valence in Farewell.


Q. You took a risk in releasing subtitled movies. Did you have it in mind to promote or to sell Merry Christmas and Farewell at an international level?

No, I didn’t. I think if these movies were only in French, English or German, that wouldn’t be honest to the real story. I was looking for something more to keep them authentic. What is interesting is that the language is not a barrier. I fought for Merry Christmas. It was an expensive movie and released in France only in a subtitled version with 500 copies, which is not too bad. People were saying it is not possible to get more than 400,000 entrances because in general people do not like subtitled movies and they said I was lucky that mine reached 2,000,000.

As to Farewell, it was suggested to me by my producer Christophe Rossignon. I did know the story a bit and told him that it could be an international movie totally in English with even American actors in the roles of Russian. That was the first idea.


Q. Was Kusturica your first choice for this character (Grigoriev)?

No, he wasn’t. At the beginning I was simply about to pick a Russian actor. Then I thought about an actor from the ex Eastern countries and Emir Kusturica came into my mind. After reading the script, he told me that he liked the fact that it was different from other espionage movies. However, he had to work very hard on his French and above all, learn Russian in order to be credible for this character. I really admire Emir for having done that. This is his first major role on the screen and people are also discovering another side of him.


Q. Why did you choose Guillaume Canet for the role of Pierre Froment?

Well, Guillaume is a friend and I wrote that script for him even though the character in the real life was much older than him. I am delighted with the result. His character is a nervous, tense and complicated man and on the other side you have, Grigoriev, a kind of big bear.





Q. Kusturica and Canet are also film directors. How were your relations between both of them?

They both respected me in my work and know how difficult it is while shooting. The only big problem was when they started working together. On one hand, Guillaume, an anxious person but he is a hard worker and prepares everything. He knew his script 3 months in advance. On the other hand, you have Emir who has never been to any drama school and does not plan anything. So it was really hard at the beginning. Both have a strong personality and it was like mixing oil and water. But finally, they got used to each other and the atmosphere became more relaxed.


Q. What was the more difficult moment while shooting?

It was to recreate Moscow like in the 80’s. We had a lot of documents and used personal archives. Getting the old cars was also a real nightmare because they were breaking down all the time. We shot the scene where Guillaume was trying to escape and to pass the border with his family in Finland. It is a country where there is only 4 hours of sun; it rises at 10am and goes down at 2pm. So the daylight was quite special and that’s what we needed in the film.


Q. What was one of the best moments?

It was at TheElyséePalace. The French President NicolasSarkozyis the first one who gave his authorization for shooting a movie there. That was also important for the actor, PhilippeMagnan, who was struggling playing the role of François Mitterrand. To make Philippe feel more confident, we made up for him some suits using the same materials than those for Mitterrand. Philippe had 4 hours of make-up: he came along at 5am to be ready at 9am.


Q. Final question - What’s next?

My next project is a Franco-French movie, La Guerre del’Eau, withDanyBoon andMathilde Seigner. This film is clearly about the corruption of drinking water where private interests search to get profit of something that I consider public and priceless. The shooting should start during the spring of 2011 in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais (which is in the north of France and close to the Belgium border). This will be my 4th movie.


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