The veteran French director talks to Sarah Cooper about the joys of shooting on home turf and why financing doesn’t get any easier.
Based on a short story by Madame de La Fayette, The Princess Of Montpensieris Bertrand Tavernier’s first entry in Competition at Cannes for two decades. Set during the French religious wars the period drama stars Gaspard Ulliel and Melanie Thierry and Lambert Wilson in the story of a woman forced to marry one man while in love with another.
Your last film in Competition at Cannes was Daddy Nostalgie in 1990. Is it nice to have been selected again?
Yes, I think it’s the best festival in the world and it means a lot. I’m a bit frightened, but it’s exciting, and I’m pleased for the people who worked on the film and who shared my passion.
How did the film shoot go?
Trying to find the money was very depressing, but the making of the film was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. My last film, Electric Mist, I spent 14 months in Louisiana. It was nice to be back in France, telling a French story again.
Despite being such an acclaimed director do you still find it difficult to raise financing?
It’s always difficult. Round Midnight took more than a year to get the money and all the studios turned it down. Life And Nothing But I had to put my own money in. What’s funny is that practically all the films that have been difficult to finance have been successful. So I hope it will be the same with Princesse.
The film is set in 16th century France. Is this a period of history you are particularly interested in?
I knew very little about the period, but, as my mentor Michael Powell always said, I do my films because I want to learn, and it’s a pleasure to communicate to people what I have discovered. I fell in love with the story [written by Madame De Lafayette], and I liked the idea of making a very lyrical love story with a young woman at the centre. Melanie [Thierry], who we cast, was a joy to work with.
Princesseis a historical epic with no special effects. What do you think of the technological advances in cinema today?
Technology can be exciting when it is used by good directors and with intelligence. But when it is overused, it can become boring. It has become a sign of laziness. I would like to get back to the time when directors used the power of suggestion. Hitchcock created a feeling of fear with practically nothing.
After this I need to swim and to read and to watch about 50 DVDs of classic films that I have missed. I’m working on three or four subjects. I’m in my late 60s, but I still try to do every film as my first film, and give myself a challenge.