Sunday, August 07, 2011

Interview with writer-director Rémi Bezançon - 23rd June, 2009

Promoting: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Venue: The Edinburgh Film Festival

Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): Where did the idea for the film come from?

Rémi Bezançon (RB): The film is about how time is spent. I wanted to pose that question and talk about time, so I thought the best way to do this would be through the depiction of a family. I was thinking about Italian family comedies and the dramas that result through the different generations in the family. The idea then was to tell this story in an original way, so I chose five different days within the family and had a large amount of time pass between these five different days, to highlight the idea of time.

VL: Was the structure of the film something that came through the writing or something you had in mind before?

RB: That was my idea from the beginning. I deliberately left so much time between the five days to allow the audience member to fill in the gaps between them, using their own memories and reflecting on their own experiences. It's interactive, in a way. I wasn't so sure that it would work, at first. In order for it to work, the family needed to experience or live things that every day-to-day family could live, not things that were out of this world. Things that people could identify with.

VL: How much of the film was drawn from your own family and experiences?

RB: A little. Very, very little. For example, for the Super-8 film sequences, I was inspired by some home movies that my grandfather made with my mother when she was a girl. But there are also a few little things and some lines of dialogue. When my family saw the film, they didn't recognise any of it, which is a good thing.

VL: Do you have a similar family unit?

RB: I have two big brothers and one little sister, so it's like I've stepped outside and am looking in at my own family. I can put myself into every different member of the family.

VL: Can you tell me about the casting? How long was the casting process and did you know which actors you wanted from the start?

RB: Not very long. I cast the parents first and the first person that I cast was Jacques Gamblin. I chose him because he has a special air about him and I very much like him, as an actor. After that I cast Zabou Breitman as the mother. I liked her very much, because she has a huge range – she can play comedy, she can play drama and I was very much drawn to the tragi-comedy that she brings to the role. But in France, these actors aren't particularly bankable. So it was quite difficult to get the go-ahead to make the film with them, but I really wanted both of them for these roles. When I cast the children I really wanted to find a family that could hold the comedy that I wanted, so I was trying to find a family atmosphere when I was casting.

VL: The younger son, Marc-André Grondin was the lead in a film called C.R.A.Z.Y. Had you seen that?

RB: Yes. When I was writing the script for the film, the casting director told me to see C.R.A.Z.Y. And Marc-André Grondin was very good in C.R.A.Z.Y., so I cast him from that. And C.R.A.Z.Y. was cool too – there are a lot of similarities between C.R.A.Z.Y. and The First Day.

VL: Where did the title come from?

RB: From American Beauty – Kevin Spacey says something similar in the film. Also there's a song with the same title, by Etienne Daho, which comes on at the end of the film.

VL: Do you have a particular favourite scene in the film?

RB: I like the scene with the cushion at the end, when the mother lets the air out of it. That was actually the first scene that I wrote.

VL: Did you cut out anything that you really hated to lose?

RB: I didn't really cut a lot, maybe one or two scenes I had to readjust. You often have to choose scenes like that, but I didn't cut too much.

VL: You mentioned Italian family comedies earlier. Are there any specific directors that have influenced you in the same way?

RB: Yes, definitely. Wes Anderson, for example – I love both The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited. I also like Sam Mendes. There are a lot of influences from American cinema, but also from French cinema, particularly the films of Claude Sautet. There are so many other things. I love the six hour Italian mini-series, The Best of Youth – that was very, very good. That was a big reference for me. And the American series, Six Feet Under – that was a big reference for me too. I love it. Psychologically, that was a fantastic series.

VL: What's your next project?

RB: My next project is an adaptation of a book called The Happy Event, by Eliette Abécassis. It's about a pregnant lady. It's a very good book and I hope my movie will be very good too. I have finished the script and I hope to start shooting in March.


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