Romain Gavras at 59th Festival!

59th THESSALONIKI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL [1-11/11/2018] || 1-11/11/2018


Romain Gavras Press Conference

The 59th Thessaloniki International Film Festival welcomed the Greek-born film director Romain Gavras, who came to Thessaloniki on occasion of his latest film The World is Yours’ screening in this year’s event. The filmmaker gave a press conference on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 in the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, moderated by TIFF’s head of international program Yorgos Krassakopoulos.

Mr Krassakopoulos welcomed the filmmaker and thanked him for attending the festival. Romain Gavras said he was sorry that he cannot speak Greek and joked about his laziness that prevented him so long from making a new film after Our Day Will Come, in 2010. “I find the film making process very strenuous.  After my previous film, I started a project that proved too lofty and crazy, so I stopped shooting, having wasted much time. Later on I made videoclips and commercials, which I spent much time on”, he noted. As to the commercials, he said he finds their shootings very interesting, as they give him the opportunity to experiment. “Some of the money I made with these jobs helped me secure the rights for the music I use in my new film, since the soundtrack is full of well-known French pop songs”, he added.

Speaking about music in his new film, Romain Gavras claimed that it plays a key part in it, since it sort of defined the characters, and that his initial idea was for each main character to have their own song. The original score was composed by his close friend, the French musician and DJ SebastiAn, who also edited the music for his previous film, and the English musician Jamie XX; Gavras directed the videoclip for one of his songs. “I wanted the music in my film to be strictly French or European, not American. It’s not that I made huge research though. I mainly used my playlist on Spotify”, he explained.

In reply to a comment by Mr Krassakopoulos, that videoclip direction can be different than in feature films, Romain Gavras noted that in videoclips it is the music that sets the tone. Bearing in mind that the film should in no way look like a videoclip, while at the same time trying not to deviate from his personal style, he had to walk a thin line trying to make something out of the box, and still not make it look like a one-and-a-half-hour videoclip. “It was a delicate balance. That’s why I had to work a lot with my main characters. It proved hard to find this special tone in the film. That was the real challenge”, he said.

Speaking about the casting, Romain Gavras said he loves to work with acclaimed actors and young, up-and-coming, or even amateur ones, considering it a win-win situation. “When Vincent Cassel or Isabelle Adjani get face-to-face with young and ‘hungry’ actors, they will have to be less lazy. The same applies for lesser-known actors. They will have to try their best to make an impression”, he said. Noting that all actors selected for the main roles were the ones he was considering using from the beginning, the filmmaker made special mention to his co-working with Isabelle Adjani, who he claimed is the epitome of European cinema. He added that, though it took him a while to talk her into participating in his film, the result was wonderful, since she proved very cooperative and helpful during shootings. “We even agreed that as from now she will participate, even as an extra, in whatever film I’m about to make”, he added.

“Whatever you do results from things you saw some time in your life”, Romain Gavras said, talking about how the film story relates with his personal life. He explained that he can identify with much of the relationship between son and mother in the film. He also said that some scenes were particularly easy to write and shoot; though the film is set in the gangster world, humaneness exists as well and the viewer can easily identify it in their own personal relations. “Ultimately it is a film about my mom, disguised as a gangster film”, he said.

Asked whether the film tries to send a message, especially to young people, the film director insisted that a specific message is very hard to sum up, since the world “is no more black and white, as was in other historical moments”. He also noted that "My idea was mainly to try and capture, somehow more lightly, an image of our times through a particular film genre. Then I tried to 'distort' the rules of that genre and introduce elements which are non-compliant to its conventions. I wished to 'snap' a young generation that seems to be motivated by money, above all, and a hero -such as the film's main character- who may have a very simple and very mundane dream but can in no way make it happen".

Noting that his favorite films reflecting the idiom of The World is Yours are the Italian movies of the 60s and 70s, Romain Gavras added that although his new film’s narrative is too classical for its genre, he wanted to play with the rules of the genre, since the competitors in the film are not in any way bad. The hero’s world is full of kind, yet naive people and the mystery of typical gangster films has been replaced by general silliness. “When you have a strong script you can play with conventions and transform it as much as you like. It is a method I would like to use in future projects”, he explained.

Asked whether he considers himself a French film director -though of Greek origin- Romain Gavras replied yes, and noted that many films are being made in France, some of which are very good. “In France we tend to consider nouvelle vague still novel, and that is obviously a problem. It is widely believed that dealing too much with the image aesthetics in your film is a shame. Everything must be surrealistic, but my own generation grew up with MTV and our ‘revolution’ was watching films such as Die Hard. My generation is sort of devoted to image, which can carry symbolisms without being embarrassing. Sometimes in France you feel that the auteur cinema has to be visually ugly, whereas for me a film must be wonderful in all respects”, he noted.

Speaking about his family of artists, Romain Gavras said that cinema is a constant topic in their conversations and every time he writes a script, his parents and his brother and sister are the first to read it. “When you grow up in such an environment, you take in more easily the elements that have to do with film making, the filmmakers and the actors’ way of thinking, therefore you can get ahead faster”, he said.

At the end of the Press Conference, the filmmaker announced that he has a couple of new projects coming up but since they are at a very early stage he cannot elaborate. Then he was asked about his relation with new technologies such as virtual reality. He replied that it is a very interesting new experience, but he does not think it could replace the “traditional” way of producing and consuming cinema. “The grammar of ‘virtual reality’ is more interactive than cinema’s. It better fits games. What is changing, though, is the fact that less and less viewers go to cinema. The truth is that it’s hard to fight Internet platforms such as Netflix. I still believe that there has to be a place for all those that consider themselves film lovers. You need to sustain a way for making people go to cinema and watching films on the big screen”, he concluded.

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