Mathias Malzieu’s latest film is one of the films coming back to screens on June 22. The director of A Siren in Paris confided in his creative process. Interview.
[Mis à jour le 22 juin 2020 à 8h00] The first release of A Siren in Paris was complicated. Four days after it debuted in theaters, theaters had to close due to the coronavirus. For the reopening on June 22, Mathias Malzieu’s latest production is back on the big screen. Released six years after Jack and the Mechanics of the Heart, the composer-writer’s first successful foray into the land of cinema, A Siren in Paris tells an impossible love story between a heartbroken crooner and a mermaid stranded on the docks of the Seine. After writing a novel of the same name published on February 6, 2020, the album Surprisier was released on February 28, 2020, before giving a film. A few weeks before his first release in March, we caught up with the director to talk about impossible romances, the genesis of his film and the power of the imaginary and the marvelous.
Where did you get the idea for this impossible romance between a heartbroken crooner and a mermaid?
From my real life. I haven’t met a mermaid with fins, but I have had difficult love stories that you have a hard time getting over. It’s almost like mourning … I thought about it and began to have in mind this character who drew his energy from happy nostalgia. I wanted something to happen to him far too far too fast. Since he was a singer, I found it funny that he fell in love with female singers all the time. And the ultra-singer in the mythological creature is the mermaid. I liked the idea of something in the reality above her dreams shaking her whole life. Which is for me the metaphor of what happens when you fall in love, in the end.
“I like the idea of someone reclaiming my world”.
Gaspard looks like you, this romance is inspired by your life: you didn’t want to embody it?
No, because I also like the idea of someone reclaiming my world. Already, I don’t know if I have the talent of an actor, it’s a real job. And I think I would have missed hindsight. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to try it someday, but I don’t know if I would like to do it in one of my movies. Maybe I would like to work on someone else’s dreams … If it was offered to me and I liked it, why not? It would be an incredible adventure. But there, having thought about the book, the record, the film, I wanted to be behind my camera, with my actors, rather than having an interaction with myself. I wanted Gaspard not to be just me, but a composite between me and someone else.
So, what convinced you to choose Nicolas Duvauchelle for this role?
What has me more with Nicolas is really his density and his raw physical side. The fact that he doesn’t cheat, that he doesn’t compose. I liked this intensity in a lot of movies where I saw it. In this dreamlike universe, quite feminine and childish, we needed the character of Gaspard to be anchored in reality. Because for the dream to be seen better, it is necessary to play with contrasts. I wanted someone who could transform himself in contact with love to become himself again: I made the bet of Nicolas and I am very happy about it. He gave me one more surprise: he’s funny. It brought more stuff to the comedic dimension that I hadn’t anticipated.
What about Marilyn Lima in the role of the mermaid?
Marilyn, it’s really a flash. There was an exchange of sensitivity with her which was wonderful. I very, very, very much wanted it to be her.
A siren in Paris was released six years after Jack and the mechanics of the heart: why did you focus on live action rather than animation this time?
My favorite part of the animation process was directing the actors: the voice actors and the animators. As for Jack and the Mechanics of the Heart, we are in a completely parallel reality. But A siren in Paris takes place in a contemporary Paris: 2016, the flood, the speakeasys, everything exists. The only magical and supernatural element is the mermaid. I needed to anchor this story in reality, the contrast ratio would be stronger. And the animation immediately puts a filter: …