VILLE EST TRANQUILLE - Q&A with director Robert Guediguian
Movie Interview by Alice Castle
PHASE9 Interviews the Director - Robert Guediguian
1980 DERNIER ETE
1983 ROUGE MIDI
1985 KI LO SA?
1989 DIEU VOMIT LES TIEDES
1995 TIL DEATH DO US PART
1997 MARIUS ET JEANNETTE
1998 A LA PLACE DU COEUR
2000 A L'ATTAQUE!
2001 LA VILLE EST TRANQUILLE
LA VILLE EST TRANQUILLE, like many of your films is set in Marseilles. You grew up in L'Estaque a working class district of the city - has it changed a lot since you were growing up?
Marseilles has changed as a city. It's becoming a sort of seaside town now, a resort and people are even finding work. What I knew as a working-class place, a place for immigrant dockers and working people has changed - and I'm not being nostalgic about it, but the harbour especially has changed and it's not necessarily a bad thing. It was changing already in the 50s.
Marseilles has always been a town for immigrants - people coming in to work on the docks. Your father was of Armenian descent and your mother German. Do you think that gives Marseilles a special quality?
There's something quite special in the fact that it's a town that's never had ghettoes. It's a mix of villages which are criss-crossing that people come to and are immediately integrated because of the whole mix - and the greatest examples are people from Cameroon for example, already say they are from Marseilles and speak with a Marseilles accent. They mix with Algerians, people from Cambodia, Armenia. The mix is there all the time in Marseilles.
And this feeling of community - this is reflected in the way you make your films. You use the same actors in all of your films. Is this sense of community reflected in your film making process?
Yes I believe and I think better when I'm with others and so the idea of community is something I believe in when I discuss others.
When you are writing a screenplay are you thinking of your friends as you are working on it? In A L'ATTAQUE for example, were you thinking about which roles each of your actors will play from the very beginning?
Specifically in A L'ATTAQUE yes and even in my other films.It's been a long long time that we've worked with each other. And I get a sense of who's going to do what in each film very early on.
And what kind of input do they have in the writing process?
I'd say that in terms of writing they don't take part but they influence me because they've been in my life since the beginning. But the division of labour in film-making is a very good system and it works - the fact that the actors do their job, and the director, and the lighting person and the camera-man. Everyone has got a very clear role and that works. If everybody had a go at trying everything it wouldn't work.
LA VILLE EST TRANQUILLE was a very bleak film compared with A L'ATTAQUE and MARIUS ET JEANNETTE. The feeling of community wasn't there.
It saddens me that people should be alone, and when you are alone I believe you don't think well and life alone does not go by well, and really I'm more saddened by the disappearance of certain communities whether it is on an estate or a staircase of a building - that sort of sense of neighbourhood disappearing and solitude is the scary thing that saddens me.
Your character Michelle (played by Guediguian's wife Ariane Ascaride) has to prostitute herself in order to feed her daughter's heroine addiction. Why?
Michelle goes that far because she's alone. If she had been part of a group perhaps or in a family there might have been hope - but because she's alone means she has to resort to becoming a prostitute. She has no other solution in order to find the necessary money for the drug for her daughter.
Did she have to become a prostitute?
I'd say that in life there are other solutions.
Have you actually met women like that?
No - I didn't meet anybody like that but I know that people like that exist. I'm informed by people, and what happens in the news.
So you worry about solitude and people being alone. I know that you try to educate people with your films - are you warning people about losing community?
Well films are there to make you react and think. I don't make them just to aim at youth for example - it's more to make everybody think. It's not purely educational - film is an object of discussion. And just as I go and see a film and it makes me think or react and think differently and more forward.
Are you always picking out elements of life to use in your films?
Yes. I don't write notes but you take everything and absorb it and recall it as you are writing. Sometimes I remember things from two years ago.
What are you working on at the moment?
I've just finished filming a romantic film - 10 weeks of shooting - it's a love story about people not being able to mix what they want with reality. A doomed love story...
We need to deal with the relationship between rich and poor - urgently - because that is what is causing world disaster. The reactions in France are fairly quiet - no racism.