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Xavier Giannoli • Director

Superstar: "a disaster film, but with a glimmer of hope”


- Cineuropa met the French director at the 69th Venice Film Festival where he had come to screen Superstar in the competition.

Xavier Giannoli • Director

Cineuropa met French director Xavier Giannoli at the 69th Venice Film Festival where he had come to screen Superstar [+see also:
film review
interview: Xavier Giannoli
film profile
in the competition only a day after its release in France. An opportunity for him to respond to a wave of reviews describing his work as “contemptuous” of the average man ...

Cineuropa: Many films have discussed fame over the last 15 years. What was your approach to stand out?
Xavier Giannoli: I wanted my film to be a disaster film, but with a glimmer of hope. I wanted to offer a human response to all this confusion ruling our world in which it is impossible to know who decides what and in which one has the impression that politics no longer impact our lives.

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As opposed to this humanity, you have represented the public as a wild, incoherent, and absurd mob. Is this not somewhat of a simplification?
I rather see it as a form of courage as opposed to demagogy. I started writing the film with a quote from Victor Hugo : "often the crowd betrays the people” and for me it’s the main idea in Superstar. This particular public is like a horde of zombies. There is this line, "I can’t even read a book anymore" that evokes a kind of illness, and I really like this sentence because this is what the film will then tend towards, towards a book that no one will read, without an author or any interest in its content. It’s a tendency in our society that scares me. Fury, Fritz Lang’s first American film, is a very important work for me and it’s the same story, as I am obsessed with the desire for idolatry and sacrifice. I think that the crowd can turn out to be blind and dangerous.

And you don’t feel like you are insulting the “average” man by reducing him to a brutal, blind mass?
My father directed the most influential television magazine in France for 10 years and, when I made him read the screenplay, he didn’t find this representation outrageous or exaggerated. Television is a drug and you don’t have the choice. Programmes come to you and consume your time, your intellectual capacities, and perhaps also a part of the stress and frustration linked to the crisis, to a job that you don’t like, or who knows what else. Frankly, I hope that my film will insult some people if they do spend hours in front of stupid, meaningless television programmes. It’s good that they feel bad after having watched the film.

The film starts on an absurd premise, and throughout its first part leads the audience to believe that there will be an explanation to Martin’s situation. But the explanation never comes. Aren’t you scared that the audience may feel cheated?
The greatest philosophers did not find the answer to this question why. It’s true that there is intended suspense throughout the whole first part. Then it disappears to give place to another reflection that, for me, is much more important than any conspiracy theory that should have been in the screenplay. I didn’t want to give an explanation and I think that the audience will understand.

Fame has its downsides, but also its advantages. Did your own fame and that of your actors help you to fund or direct the film?
No, I don’t think so. I have my own production company. I started it up with Édouard Weil with whom I studied and we are independent. I had already worked with Cécile de France, and Kad Merad has been a friend for 20 years. And the film wasn’t exactly very expensive to produce.

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