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Michel Blanc • Director

All it takes is a butterfly's wings


- Michel Blanc's new film, Kiss whoever you want comes to Italy. Based on a novel by Joseph Connoly, the French director has made a bittersweet ensemble film

Michel Blanc • Director

After taking over Euros 6 million over just two weeks on general release in France, Michel Blanc’s latest film, Baciate chi vi pare (Kiss whoever you want) has arrived in Italy. The French director drew inspiration from “Summer Thing” by Joseph Connoly for this adventure about one couple and love. Although fundamentally dramatic, the story is transformed into a comedy by the clever use of devices like unexpected and irrational events, humour mixed with cynicism.
This whirlwind of meetings, misunderstandings, passion emotions and disappointments, a seemingly ordinary holiday by the seaside causes unavoidable and devastating changes to the protagonists lives, as they gradually approach a new starting point, perhaps with a clearer mind than before. The protagonists are Elizabeth (Charlotte Rampling) and Bertrand (Jacques Dutronc) are a rich, middle-class couple. Véronique (Karin Viard) and Jérome (Denis Podalydes) live in greatly reduced circumstances but are in denial both to one another and the rest of the world. The beauteaous Lulu (Carole Bouquet) and her husband Jean-Pierre (Michel Blanc), a magazine editor and hysterically jealous, and then there’s Maxime (Vincent Elbaz) a professional “Don Juan” and married with two children who’s holidaying alone in order to satisfy his obsessive need to physically possess as many women as possible, and Julie (Clotilde Courau), a single mother who’s desperately looking for a man to love her.
Michel Blanc was in Rome to present the film that will be released in Italy on 31 October and he told us about his amusing “investigation”.
Unusually for you, this film was based on a novel...
“I loved the blend of classic comedy and Vaudeville that the writer uses to tell this really rather dramatic story. Despite the tone, all the characters of the book were profound people with much more reasons to cry instead of laugh.”

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Lately we seem to be seeing a lot of ensemble French films. Is this a trend or coincidence?
“I’m not sure ‘trend’ is the right way to describe this. It’s true that in France we’ve stopped making so-called auteur-driven films where the characters – usually two – look deeply into one another’s eyes and reflect on the sense of life. And there’s no doubt that this is an improvement. As far as I am concerned, I chose Connoly’s book for the way it was constructed and not its ensemble nature. Coincidentally, this choice made it much more difficult for me to find the right actors and created quite a few problems in the writing and screenplay stages too.”

Does that mean the film is different from the book?
“Yes, absolutely. As well as the dialogue, that I rewrote almost entirely, I did a lot of work on the characters. They were not developed in the same way in the book and I wanted them each to be as complex as the other. I rewrote Maxime, the “playboy”. In the book he was something of a “primitive” and driven by his instincts. I made him into a compulsive prisoner of himself and his need that is really more of an illness than anything else.”

Returning for a moment to the characters, they all seem to be going through a crisis in their lives, not just in terms of couples, but individual crises too...
“Yes. Every one of them has to deal with a brusque interruption of the balance of their albeit unstable lives. It’s like the Chaos Theory: a butterfly’s wings beating can bring everything down and when that happens it is no longer possible to hide in lies.”

Even though both the butterfly and the couples pay the price...
“You often hear talk of couples in crisis, or our inability to live together but I think this depends on the fact that we delude ourselves as to the difficulty this really entails. We think that all you need for it to happen is to want it and the couple is there, perfectly formed and crystallized forever. But that is not how it works. You have to work at it night and day. Talking, quarrelling and never choosing lies over truthful confrontation.”

You also play Lulù’s (Carole Bouquet) husband, a man who is is pathologically jealous. In real life are you a jealous husband too?
“I’m not jealous of the beauty or success of others and I satisfied with what I am. But I admit to being jealous when it comes to the sentiments. Without going to the extremes reached by my character, I admit that I have experienced those feelings of anguish and anxiety when you fear you might lose your beloved.”

Bertrand’s (Jacques Dutronc) last words sum the film up and it’s almost a warning...
“Yes, it is one of two or three sentences from the book that I wanted to keep precisely for that reason. Not only do they define the character perfectly but especially and above all, these words are the summing up of everything. I don’t think there is any need to add anything else after: “Life is strange... it tears your heart... but if you zig-zag across, it’s more fun.”

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