“Films are vulgar. And this vulgarity, I love it”: An Interview with Arnaud Desplechin Marko Bauer October 2010 Feature Articles Issue 56 | October 2010 Arnaud Desplechin sounds terrifyingly polite and overwhelmingly modest. The director of Un conte de Noël (A Christmas Tale, 2008), Rois et rein (Kings and Queen, 2004), La sentinelle (1992) and other more than note (or count) worthy films considers himself among common people much like Kafka. If the latter is the most non-myth writer that uses myths, the former is the most non-genre director that uses genres. Kafka is his own myth, Desplechin his own genre. If Max Ophüls’ Le plaisir (1952) ends with “Happiness is not a joyful thing”, Desplechin could paraphrase it: “Unhappiness is a joyful thing”. If his films reach beyond good and evil, do they reach beyond eudaimonia, beyond searching for happiness? “The reader who demands to know exactly what [he] really thinks of a thing, whether he is making a serious or a laughing face, must be given up for lost: for he knows how to encompass both in a single facial expression; he likewise knows how, and even wants to be in the right and the wrong at the same time, to knot together profundity and farce. His digressions are at the same time continuations and further developments of the story; his aphorisms are at the same time an expression of an attitude of irony towards all sententiousness, his antipathy to seriousness is united with a tendency to be unable to regard anything merely superficially.” Nietzsche could have been writing about Desplechin. Françios Truffaut wanted to have four ideas in each minute of his film, this interview tries to get four ideas in each question. During transcription and montage of the conversation certain frequently used phrases have been – except in special places – omitted: “you know”, “in a way”, “let’s say”, “the fact that”, “et cetera”. The reader can insert them into the text as he feels like it. Regarding Auschwitz and Nietzsche, Desplechin remains a man, a possible human, of few words. To be eloquent about the former is barbaric. To the latter and his conspiracies the first two rules of Fight Club (1999) probably apply. Oh, the nineties, is it already time for being nostalgic for postmodernism? If he was growing up solely on films, Arnaud Desplechin would be just a Quentin Tarantino. But, in his case, this “just” is of an unimagined scope. ************* Jean Renoir’s La chienne (1931) begins with two puppets on a stage. The first one announces: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present a serious social drama proving that vice is always punished.” The second one declares: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present a comedy of manners with a moral.” Then the third puppet appears, chases the first two away with a stick and proclaims: “The play that follows is neither comedy nor drama. It has no moral whatsoever and proves nothing at all. The characters are neither heroes nor villains but plain people like you and me.” In your films these plain people are a certain utopia. I love these lines, the idea that when you are watching a play or a film you don’t know if it is a comedy or a drama, that there are plain people, full of contradictions. That’s why I’m answering you in a clumsy way. Film as a popular art. One gets a feeling you don’t know what mediocrity or ordinariness is, you don’t even have to suppress it. You are divinely naïve about it. I could answer in two ways. Cinema is condemned to be a popular art, I love the popular forms. Stupid, thanksgiving, genre movies and all those rules, I’m quite proud to be a part of it. That you have a high culture and a popular culture mixed together. To me, that’s really a utopia and only cinema can mix that way and that deeply all available meanings one can imagine. So each time I’m making a film, I’m trying to think about this guy or a girl, 14, 15 years old, that will perhaps, by chance, see bits of it on TV, six years after it’s released. If I had to put it in proper words – words I am uncomfortable to use, because I am not a scholar – I would say that it has to do with what the philosophers are calling ordinary language. For me only cinema has this gift. Using common words and common language. Films are vulgar. And this vulgarity, I love it. It’s priceless. On the other hand, thinking about the characters… If there is anything despisable, embarrassing or mean in them, it’s not to put them down, it is to enlarge the range of what it is to try to be a human being. To try to transform all these feelings. Let’s say one feeling which is a big fear of mine, bitterness. In a way bitterness is nice. A girl that is bitter can be nice, too. You’re sceptical about melancholy, but in order to show this you have to use it all the time. It is just a part of a human being. Like being funny or angry or clever, anything. It’s not that big of a deal, to let some bitterness or some anger or some hate go through you. It’s not that terrifying, I mean, it is terrifying, but in films when these threatening feelings are going through a character, this is a good way for me to stop being afraid of them. You like to say that you are not that French. You have a lot in common with Jean-Luc Godard and yet there is one great difference where, it seems, you are aligned with Ingmar Bergman or Françios Truffaut. Reservations regarding a certain tendency of film, of thought, so called political film which supposedly always has to mean the same thing. This explicit engagement, revolutionary sloganism against bourgeois intimacy. The antagonism: Godard – Truffaut. Antagonism and the absolute brotherhood, two faces of that. How could I answer this… Sometimes I just don’t believe in it. If things where that easy… Let’s imagine cinema is really a popular thing and there is no such thing as an author. It’s not a painting, it’s not an opera, it’s much more basic, like pop songs. So can I think of myself as an author? I really can’t. I made this choice very young not to become a scholar, to refuse high culture and to belong to popular culture. That way I don’t have a high opinion about my own opinions. They are boring. I try not to put them in my films. But what fascinates me is that sometimes ideas can happen, a glimpse, ideas can appear on the screen. They are not coming from the director, I don’t think any director is God, it’s something that belongs to the cinema itself. Not to the filmmaker, to the cinema itself. As soon as you put a camera and you film a street, when you project this street on a screen, the spectators will start catching bits of silly, strange ideas. I could describe the art of Godard: it is to use himself and his opinion as material. I don’t think that he’s imposing his opinions on the spectator, he is using himself as a pure material instead of having a story or characters. But it’s not my way. Definitely I feel closer to Truffaut. But speaking of France and your questions are so large, and then I’m impressed because they are accurate and, you know, I am just a filmmaker. This “just a filmmaker” sounds a lot like your use of the word “common”. What these two men, Godard and Truffaut, have in common, and what Godard perhaps at one point of his craft lost, I mean, he wanted to lose it and then he lost it, is the fact that being French or making films in France could mean to be in love with Americana in a specific way. What is so French is trying to pay a tribute to this little boy, 13 years old, who dislikes the French films and loves stupid American movies. It goes the other way, too. The American Fredric Jameson admires your work. He said that of the younger directors you were the most interesting. Who said that? Fredric Jameson, you know, the big book on Postmodernism. Oh, yeah. Italo Calvino talks about six principles of art in his American memos: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, consistency. He’s talking about your opus. Thank you. Calvino is definitely a cinematic writer. I don’t know if we can adapt anything of his but everything is cinematic. He’s too cinematic, like Moby Dick. One can’t adapt it or one ought to do it like Terrence Malick with The Thin Red Line (1998). Yeah, it is an adaptation of Melville. There is this matter of choice in La sentinelle when Mathias and Marie discuss two kinds of people. The ones that are on this earth to have fun and the others that refuse to have it. It seems that in your following films you surpass this dilemma. Fun is no joke. It has much to do with the character. Where did I read that, was it in a Woody Allen movie? Someone saying: “But I love rain.” It was the perfect definition of the character, the fact that he was heavy. But it was cute to be that heavy. It’s the contradiction instead of saying something as a statement. Two minutes ago we were discussing political films or Godard’s involvement in this or that. As an individual I love politics. I hate football and I love politics. I can watch stupid political shows on TV, hours and hours, it drives my girlfriend insane, plus I love political movies, but I’m just not able to do it. I guess it’s the contradiction which suits me, which I like to inhabit. I remember so clearly, until I was 25 years old Truffaut was really nothing and Godard was everything to me, because I could recognise something of myself in his political statements. It took me quite a while to understand, I’m not sure that I understood it, but to try to dig what Truffaut was trying to achieve, what kind of revolt he was trying to put on the screen. It was the same measure of anger and vivid violence, but in a different way than Godard. “Gentle descriptions of violent emotions.” A human head left in a suitcase like a baby on the doorstep. Kant and his lesson of responsibility: you do not have to like or love this fragile thing, you just have to take care of it. Your twist on a genre. Instead of Three Men and a Baby – Three men and a head. It was a strange idea that moved me, being in charge of a head as a baby. That you have to take care of it and that you hate having to take care of it. There was something similar in La vie des morts (1991). I had this idea which didn’t work. It’s lovely that it didn’t. I don’t know any spectator that understood the plot. It’s hard to say which one is the first one and which the second one, because I wrote the two films during the same years, I started with La sentinelle and then there was a small film coming from it, La vie des morts. The plot was really simple and I guess it had to do with David Cronenberg. This guy, this cousin is between life and death, and the girl arrives at the parents’ house, she starts puking and she doesn’t have her period and she doesn’t understand what’s happening. After a while she realises she’s pregnant with something which is the death of her cousin. When she delivers, at the very same moment she learns the cousin died at the hospital. The irony of it. Perhaps the idea is so brutal that the spectators can’t follow this plot at all. So in one film I have a guy forced to be responsible for this bit of, yeah, this head and in the other film this girl was a sort of dark Mary who has to deliver her cousin’s death. I guess it was the same kind of obsession. A zombie-vampiric obsession. Like your letters to actors and characters. They can kill. It’s a register of speech that produces good lines. And I know that actors will love it. They are scared of it, but they just love it. A horror movie that hides the fact that it is a horror movie, there has to be some pleasure in that. Like the head of Holbein or the square of Malevich or a MacGuffin. A very big head. I like the idea, and I guess no one can get it because it’s too tiny or too silly. Mathias is in charge of this head and once he has a nightmare and is waking very early in the morning with his leg asleep. What I thought was he would love to kick a head just like a balloon. Not to be happy, just to get rid of it. You are not completely against football after all. It’s a temptation, he doesn’t want to admit he would love to kick the head and say: “Get out of my life!” Nevertheless, he takes on the responsibility, this absurd task that no one understands, being the guardian of the dead and the forgotten. As soon as he started to take care of it he has to go till the end. It’s too late. “The failure of an experiment reveals more than its success. Or more precisely, at the level of pathos, failure and success merge within a never-ending play of impulsions.” Could be the definition of Esther Kahn (2000). Could be, of the character and of myself. How do you measure it against your other work? I’m really unable to think about the films I’ve done. Growing old, I guess I should have an opinion or a vision around my opus. Each time I’m making a film, it’s the last one, period. You know, I’ve never seen them, none of them. Technically speaking, after the mix comes this operation of checking the optical sound. We have to verify if it works, that there are no accidents, it’s a stupid, boring moment. The last work we have to do with the image is to be sure that all the colour timing is okay. At the very last step I check the sound without the image and I look at the last colour timed print without the sound. After we put both together, I just can’t see it, because I can’t change it any longer. I can’t be a spectator, I’m forbidden from the theatre. It could be a definition of the author: the only guy who can’t see the movie. That’s why I have no opinion about it. If I were looking at the film I had made I would regret everything. This shot I could have done better, this scene I could have written in another way. They are my demons, my nightmares. So I can’t classify Esther Kahn amongst the other films. Because it is a period movie with the glamorous things like costumes plus it’s English spoken, it could seem different to a spectator. Yes and no. It’s just a portrait. In the central piece of Ma vie sexuelle (1996) we can see Esther alone, she’s not with Mathieu any longer and she has a boring life. She thinks she could be pregnant, she is not, and that’s that. 15 minutes just about her life. I can’t see any difference between these scenes and Esther Kahn, to me it’s the same. Same, same. If Paul Celan had written a musical it wouldn’t have been called Springtime for Hitler. With Alain Resnais, each on his own, you seem to investigate precisely this territory. Maybe that is also the reason Gérard Wajcman mentions you very favorably in The Object of the Century. By the way, we were speaking of Godard who sometimes can be annoying. You were mentioning that at one point of their lives Godard and Truffaut were quite opposed to each other. Enemies. What I think, as a spectator, is that there is another conflict, between Godard and Claude Lanzmann. I am thinking about that because you were quoting Gérard Wajcman. To me, Lanzmann’s political movies are more accurate, better. It’s not a question of disliking Godard, it’s loving Lanzmann. It’s not against someone or against a movie, it’s to be pro another movie which I love. When you talk about popular art you give the impression that you don’t think about certain things. In your films concentration camps are always there somewhere. That doesn’t prohibit humour. Like the architecture critique of the guarding towers in Resnais’ Nuit et brouillard (1955): “Alpine style, garage style, Japanese style, no style.” Celan, the most sensitive of them all, did the translation of the text in German so he must have accepted it. Laughter is possible after Auschwitz. But of what kind? The toughest task. That’s why sometimes I can’t be absolutely enthusiastic about Godard’s movies. It’s just a wrong decision. Apart from that, obviously, he’s a great filmmaker. Trying to do something with this anguish… I’m thinking of all the things, the camps et cetera… You know, sometimes I think it’s just… I just love the Lanzmann movies, I think they are more popular and more accurate. And he’s in the same production company. Yeah, just for one film. Because it happens that I know him and I love his films and love the director. Politique des auteurs et cetera. Beyond good and evil there is always a danger of mere cynicism. How to deal with this “mere”? I don’t see any cynicism, but I guess that a lot of people can think that Nietzsche or Emerson are too naïve. I think they are just afraid that cynicism would be a threat, they are fighting against that. Not an idea, but an opinion. Not a proper philosophy, but the end of any philosophy. But I don’t know anything about it, because I’m not a scholar. I’m always thinking about all this, I don’t know how to express it. It’s not because of my broken English, it’s because I don’t have the proper knowledge. It’s amazing that in films, stupid, silly, popular films, there are influences from the most incredible and obscure writers. I remember some lines that I read about North by Northwest (1959). The film is a comedy, a pure comedy. It’s silly, it doesn’t want to say anything, period. It’s a sort of an obscure remake of Hamlet. It could be even more complicated than that, it could be an adaptation of a text that inspired Shakespeare which is in the English edition that Hitchcock had at home, I think it is a German play which was adapted [note: Vita Amlethi of the great Dane Saxo Grammaticus]. “I am but mad north-northwest.” Hamlet is all about action and thinking about the possibility of it. Does it mean we have to read Hamlet and not laugh when we are watching Cary Grant in this spy movie? Not at all, we have to laugh. It happens with films. You see a comedy with Cary Grant and suddenly you have a sort of a quote of Pythagoras or something bizarre, without any scale of value. I’m thinking of A Christmas Tale: when the girl is crying, her father is there and he is taking any book, any book, and reading, yeah, they are lines from Nietzsche. Okay, big deal. It could be a song, two thirds of the first songs of Bob Dylan have quotations from Yeats so we don’t have to read Yeats. That’s why I love cinema, you don’t need to go to school and be a scholar. You just go to stupid movies and you can learn anything. Still, it doesn’t seem that coincidental. When Nietzsche is being read, our gaze glides through this gray, ultragray landscape of Roubaix, the town of Georges Delerue and Arnaud Desplechin, and one could shout: “This is the new world!” Then it is not that arbitrary that The Genealogy of Morals is being read. I think it’s because of the acting. Sometimes the actors are so good. When Mathieu is talking to the kid at the end of Kings and Queen, he has to explain him very complicated things. He has to say: “I won’t be your father” et cetera. It’s a disappointment, but an achievement at the same time. How can he express that? At one point of his monologue he’s just quoting Paul Celan in German and among the audience no one speaks German so we don’t understand the words either. We are just the kid. I think it’s a better way to express it, briefer, simpler. Even this young boy, eight years old, he can get it. If it was a psychological speech the boy would lose it. But because it’s a line of Celan in German and the boy doesn’t speak German and we in the audience don’t speak German either, it works. And the landscape, the Eiffel tower in the background, the way he touches the little boy… … and Native Americans. We have this tree and this American Indian chant and then, one year later, at the end of Malick’s The New World (2005) maybe we are looking at that same tree. Yeah, playing Indian… In natural disaster films of the nineties, The Abyss (1989), Twister (1996), Outbreak (1995), Volcano (1997), you have discovered a genre: ‘the disaster of remarriage’. Hundreds of millions people die so that a divorced couple can reunite. Years ago I was reading Stanley Cavell’s book on the comedy of remarriage where he’s describing this pattern that is really amazing, because it occurs in two thirds of American comedies in a period of 15 years, always the same pattern, even the same state, this strip of Connecticut… It’s funny that one day we would have the digital SFX and the disaster films that would deal with the same theme of remarriage. It became difficult in America to be a man and a woman, to have a proper marriage, to discuss the fact that you are not that satisfied with it, that you would like to renegotiate it. In Hollywood films they had to put a threat over the whole wide world, just to remarry one man and one woman. I could quote a scene from The Abyss: the girl is throwing away the marriage ring, because she doesn’t want to be married any longer, and the man is keeping it. At the key moment of the movie it will save him, because it will block the door, when there is water everywhere. A couple was married before the movie, got divorced and then they will save the world and at the end of saving the world they will remarry. And I thought it was absurdly silly and adorable. A lot of collateral damage for the sake of their love. Clearly, they are the chosen ones. Could this same logic be applied to a natural disaster of a biopolitical kind: Auschwitz? You think they are predestined superheroes? I’m not sure. The elitism of Howard Hawks comes to mind. It usually needs homo suckers, like the fiancé of His Girl Friday (1940). Yeah, the disaster, and he’s tottering. He has no gift, the boring man. Your characters seem dominant in a similar vein, there is something undeniably Nietzschean about them. Maybe they’re not capable of living, but they are supremely skilled in existence. I don’t know if they are. As a spectator I’m interested in superhero movies for several reasons, but I still don’t know what to do with it. When I work together with actors and we try to create brash, obnoxious, strange, brutal, larger characters, it seems to me that the key is not that they are better or bigger than us. What I can see in Jean Renoir’s movies and some of that in François Truffaut and perhaps in a lot of French films which would be French at the end, is the fact that I don’t wake up as a human being and I’m not sure that I am one. Being human I have to work to look like a human being. You know, I have to pretend that I am this or that, even with political issues et cetera. In Renoir’s La regle du jeu (1939) I have to play the part that I’m rich or poor or a worker or angry or a woman, I have to play these feelings. In Renoir they don’t believe in nature, there is only culture. And the thing which is so human is that they are trying to look like a proper human being, a being they dream to be. I try to catch that in a character, this effort of showing off. Will I remember that line? It’s in a Philip Roth book and it goes something like: “I can’t afford the illusion of a self.” I don’t understand all those people who are so sure they are themselves. I’m not sure of anything, I am not a self, I am only an effort to try to get a self. It can sound obscure or philosophical, but, really, you can use it, by acting. The character has conflicts, fears, so he’s trying to build a self. And he has some selves and he can choose between this one or that one. This big fragility. It’s beautiful in a kid, looking at him trying to look like a kid. It’s moving because it’s clumsy. Succeeding and failing at the same time. Being a beautiful woman is work, heavy work. No one was born as a beautiful woman. It’s a part and when you have the part you have to play it. You’re trying to make an effort and this effort is much more interesting than any idea of the nature of a character. Sorry to go on for so long. After all, nature is just the first habit. Maybe the chosen ones choose their own part. Not superheroes, overhumans. “There are heights of the soul from which tragedy itself no longer appears to operate tragically.” It’s that sort of ambition that your protagonists have. But I think we are all like that. We can’t see it because we don’t believe in it… Like you said yourself: “My movies are not for everyone, but anyone.” With your actors-characters you seem like Nietzsche’s conspirators, described by Pierre Klossowski: “Secret, elusive community, whose actions would prevent suppression by any regime. It can disperse through action and at the same time remain effective.” The vicious circle. Aggressive, but not vengeful. Depends on the movie, sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. Sister Elizabeth from A Christmas Tale is a Bernhardian, Hanekean dramatist-character. She’s taking herself too seriously and you’re having fun with her. Yeah, she’s la conscience malheureuse. She wants to be without shadows, would love to be pure. Everybody’s telling her: “So what if we are like the Wittgenstein family?! We can still play in a comedy.” She would have a better life if she admitted she was a monster. But she can’t. “A believable family has seemed as hard to get on film as a believable intellectual or university classroom.” The World Viewed of Stanley Cavell counted on you and Emmanuel Bourdieu already in the seventies. He’s my master now, so I can’t say a thing. Which is stupid because he is not a filmmaker. Luckily, I met him, late in my life. How one combines the love for hip-hop and the antipathy to manhood of Jean Gabin? The second part of his work. I love the young Jean Gabin. The way it changed has to do with hip-hop. In films and in our common life thinking about the music we loved when we were 20 years old, we are always quoting things that our parents or grandparents were listening. It’s just absurd. People said it was funny when you see Abel listening to some free jazz. I just took the age of the character, I checked what kind of a record he could have bought when he was 31, the wild records of free jazz. It has to do with the fact that I’m French, too. I hate songs, French songs. Hip-hop was something really, absolutely new. It’s music that is really difficult to use in films and it’s music I’m really sure my parents will hate. You know that song? I think it’s about Bush, a Lou Reed song. “Hey, senator, you are fucking with your parents.” Listening to music your parents have listened to. To me, it’s a real threat. It’s a statement to use music that is not loveable. Which is really French, we were the second country after US to have hip-hop. All those guys that didn’t speak a word of English loving hip-hop, buying hip-hop records, just because it was a voice. Not lyrics, just a voice, because we couldn’t get the words, it was too complicated. So who does Jean Gabin fuck with? Suddenly you see how such a wonderful actor like Jean Gabin can become bitter, I won’t find English words for that, academic, boring, sure of himself, in love with himself, reactionary, passéist, really, it was disgusting. As if becoming a man was something of degradation. It was an ugly image of what is to become an adult. I guess that’s why I love movies. Because I don’t know how to become an adult. When I go see a film, I can observe how the character, the movie star, is behaving, and I can use it in my common life. It’s useful. But in French films when I was a kid, when I was looking at the adults, I just didn’t want to be them. They were ugly, they were bitter and mean, no nobility. Decades later I realised that it was the same feeling behind those lines written by the nouvelle vague. Saying that French films, precisely with Jean Gabin, were not good, because the characters were small and in love with their own hatred of life. They preferred Nicholas Ray’s movies, because his characters weren’t afraid of having great feelings. I thought it was a sin, sometimes it’s a sin how Jean Gabin is acting. But doesn’t hip-hop generally mean this same kind of being a man and a human? MTV hip-hop. Oh, on MTV it’s bad hip-hop. Plus that it doesn’t match with the way I look. There is something about this stupid, bodybuilding guys and bimbo girls, and I love that, because when your parents are looking at it they just can’t get it. It’s obscene. It’s as if you were six or seven years old, which I think is great, there is a sort of a provocation. But on MTV it’s really the worst. You love Wes Anderson’s movies and he’s using parents’ music all the way. Yes, but he has a great, amazing knowledge of songs, I don’t have that. Of lyrics, dates. It’s a gift. Next project. It’s on the internet now. Often they are writing lies, but this time it’s what I’m doing, an adaptation of a book, a scientific book [Georges Devereux’s Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian]. It has to do with the superheroes thing. Actually it’s sort of a biopic. It happened once, just once, that a French guy, he was not born in France, but still a French guy, was living in US, and, let’s say, it’s not that simple, that he was the worst psychoanalyst on Earth. He was not allowed to be a psychoanalyst, he had no papers, he was too wild, too bizarre… He was not a scholar. Yah. At one point he wrote a thesis about sexual behaviors of American Indians. So he got this job, because just after the war there was an Indian who was an alcoholic, had a hard time and was believed to be schizophrenic. So we have this bad analyst, a bad Jew, a bad Frenchman that meets this bad Indian, this bad father. They have discourse together for almost one year and because the psychoanalyst had just one patient and one working hour each day, he wrote every line spoken by his patient. From the first hello to the last goodbye. He’s the only psychoanalyst on earth where there is all the material available. I guess it’s a film about friendship, a friendship in the desert between this odd French psychoanalyst and this alcoholic Indian. Desplechin’s ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest’. It’s not against the psychiatry. Sure, let’s forget repression, as Foucault would say. Sometimes you sound Deleuzian, would you touch up psychoanalysis with schizoanalysis? No, it will be strictly Lacanian. But Lacan was not that straight, so… There is certainly enough Lacanians in Slovenia. Heideggerians, too, but they are older and Dasein is slowly becoming Dortsein. (If for a moment one forgets the Wittgensteinians.) In France the situation is better because we have all these schools together, always arguing, so one can’t say there is a leadership of anyone. For the end: what’s the thing with Angela Bassett’s behind? It’s something she would have in common with Catherine Deneuve, beyond the difference of generation: Bassett is a sort of an absolute statement for the freedom of women. She was one of the first modern Afro-American actresses. Absolutely conscious of herself, her craft. Wonderfully playing dramatic parts, comedies and a lot of heavy female parts of Afro-American history. She is so amazingly beautiful and sexy, when the characters of A Christmas Tale are quoting her behind, what they mean is her soul, her pride. The fact that she is a black actress and like the Jewish character isn’t a part of the Christmas movie, she doesn’t want to be a part of it. It’s obscene, this clever woman, the absolute hero of acting, has the most beautiful ass on earth. Your Jackie Brown (1997). There is this grandiose black psychoanalyst in Kings and Queen and this black priest in A Christmas Tale. Arnaud Schwarzenigga. It matters to me to work with black actors and characters. Unfortunately, I’m French and with the kind of plots I’m writing sometimes I just can’t afford them. In a bone marrow transplant I can’t afford a black character in the family, because he or she couldn’t give it, for heavy biological reasons. As a tribute and also because I am not that good of a director since I don’t have a black character in each of my movies, I am quoting Angela Bassett. She is so venerable, and her body a sort of an intellectual affirmative challenge to the American system. And she took it as a compliment! She wrote me through her agent. She’s the real Obama. Much more important than Obama. He’s not the real one, he’s a fake. Is happiness relevant? Relevant or irrelevant? Oh, it is relevant. An abridged version of this interview was published in the cultural supplement of the Slovenian newspaper Delo.