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TORONTO 2020 Industry Selects

Nicolas Maury • Director of My Best Part

"As Cocteau used to say: too much is just about enough for me"

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- Nicolas Maury discusses his transition to film direction via My Best Part, which was awarded the Cannes Official Selection Label and has now been presented in Toronto’s Industry Selects line-up

Nicolas Maury • Director of My Best Part
(© Mathieu Rainaud)

My Best Part [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicolas Maury
film profile
]
is the first feature film directed by actor Nicolas Maury, who also plays the lead role in this melancholy comedy. It’s a work which is funny and moving in equal measure and which revolves around a jealous and angst-ridden actor struggling under the weight of his unique personality and profound discontentment. The title was awarded Cannes’ Official Selection Label and has now been presented in Toronto’s Industry Selects line-up.

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Cineuropa: How close to home is the protagonist and the subject of My Best Part?
Nicolas Maury
: It’s a lot more personal than autobiographical. In my first feature film, I wanted to make a film that felt close to home, offering a male hero of an unconventional form: I needed a Jérémie that we hadn’t already seen. I’m also a big fan of Nanni Moretti and Woody Allen’s first films, and of the idea that by also acting in the films, we get to see even more. It’s a pretty classic story, along the lines of a coming of age novel, a coming of age film. I’ve always loved Sentimental Education by Flaubert, for example, where we follow the journey of someone who arrives in Paris, and his romantic and social setbacks, etc.

How were you able to explore the topic of jealousy?
Firstly, by approaching it in an unconventional way. Because often in "middle class" dramas, jealousy is all about the lover hiding in the wardrobe, who’s cheating on whom, etc., or it’s seen as the ultimate sin where the jealous character is the ugly one, the baddie. But I’d noticed that jealousy was a taboo among couples and that people were often quick to say they weren’t jealous when the reality was quite the opposite and was slightly more complicated than that. I was interested in looking at jealousy as if it came from a form of restlessness within our hearts, the heart of someone who tells himself too many stories but who also worries too much about others and is seriously lacking in confidence. It’s also a theme that isn’t ever broached in films revolving around homosexual couples: Jérémie is in an exclusive relationship but he’s a bit too emotional. This also allowed me to talk about the legacy mothers leave their sons. Because sometimes in life, we inherit the disaster of our parents’ relationship without knowing it, when we’re children. And this tendency to worry also stems from that, from certain taboos in our parents’ history and in the way they loved each another.

The complexity of this main character is transcribed in various tones which are both comic (at times, outrageously so) and dramatic with some very moving moments. Why this particular blend?
It’s my kind of thing. For me, naturalism à la française, that French garden style of fiction which is something of a science, I see it as a straitjacket which starts to take us too far away from life as I understand it. It even constrains the actors’ performances: they shouldn’t overstep the mark, they should stick rigorously to the script, etc. The character of Jérémie is depressive and the film is a melancholy comedy. These emotions and this dual genre resemble life as I see it. I don’t like to feel pigeon-holed by a French style of thinking which classifies me according to how I do things, whether I’m an actor or a filmmaker. I really like it when the body talks, when, all of a sudden, long periods of silence and disaster can be read on a face. As Cocteau used to say: "too much is just about enough for me". It might create scenes which are heterogeneous, but it also forces us to think about roles, because each character brings their own frequency, their own rhythm to the table. The film turns into something else entirely when Jérémie’s mother is in the vicinity, or when Kevin’s by the edge of the pool. I felt that that was the most accurate musicality we had to architect.

The main character’s profession as an actor allows you to take a look at some symbolic figures in the film industry.
When we talk about actors in films, we often talk about fame and rarely about how to earn a living, which jobs to accept, etc. All of that is very important to me. The actors I know aren’t asking themselves "will I be on the front page of such or such magazine?" Their reality is about having a role, experiencing auditions, paying their rent… And a lot of directors lead very uncomfortable lives since they can write but they can only make a film once every 4, 5, 6 or 7 years, because they’ve been unable to obtain sufficient funding. It’s a far more brutal profession that we think, and I wanted to home in on this brutality.

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(Translated from French)

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