PARIS — Jacques and the eponymous Lazare are roommates and uber-dorks. Jacques sets up Lazare for a date but doesn’t tell him that he texted the girl suggesting Lazare is into bondage. Lazare is a horn-dog, but so embarrassed by the physical presence of a girl in the very same room that he has to be fed his lines by Jacques via an earpiece and can’t stop ogling her cleavage in a state of near catatonia. But the girl doesn’t let on to Lazare, as she handcuffs him to the wall, that she’s no blind-date dominatrix either, but has far more sinister intentions. Selected for MyFrenchFilmFestival, the structurally neat comedy of triple deception marks the graduation short of Tristan Lhomme from Paris’ prestigious Femis film school. Lhomme fielded questions from Variety.
”Lazare” echoes some of the beats of adolescent get-your-rocks-off comedy, save that Jacques and Lazare could be knocking 30. Why chose a comedy for your graduation film? And what were your influences?
I love comedy films that work at various levels – combining comic situations with comedy of movements and dialogue. In this case, I wanted to make an uninhibited “total comedy,” that would explore a maximum range of levels. My influences are very wide – ranging from the Coen brothers to Adam McKay’s films, also including Harmony Korine’s films which I think are truly fascinating. In France, I really admire Antonin Peretjatko, especially his short films, “Paris Monopoly” and “French Kiss,” and of course his first feature film: “La Fille du 14 Juillet.” He has a very personal style, and an approach that I think has never been seen before: a cross between an auteur film (with a strong influence of the French New Wave), burlesque comedy and the comedy of the absurd. The richness of his films is a great source of inspiration for me.
Your short could take a prize for worst wallpaper in a French short this decade: Fading wallflowers sinking into a dark green mulch. In general, you seem to have worked a lot – and had great fun – working on the art decoration of Lazare’s pad. Could you comment?
I have always viewed set design as one of the actors in a film. In a short film format, I think that you have to be efficient in relation to certain things, in order to have time to explore others. With this choice of set design, I tried to create a universe from the beginning of the film that is the perfect mirror of the main character: Timeless, surprising, and integrated within the film’s overall poetry.
If “Lazare” talks about anything, what would it be?
I tried to ensure that the entire film could be perceived from the prism of the main character. I think, above all, that the film presents a unique character, whose existence we wouldn’t suspect, but who nevertheless forms part of the film’s fascination, since he’s out-of-step with current society and the standard behavioral patterns of a man of his age.
What were your guiding principles when directing “Lazare”?
My main challenge was to get the spectator to focus on this character. Above all, I didn’t want people to mock him, or even worse, laugh at him. I wanted him to be the main driver of the story’s various plot twists – where everything takes place thanks to him and due to the uniqueness of his reasoning and the way that he thinks about the world.
Do you see yourself as part of a new generation of French filmmakers, and what are some characteristics you see that define that group?
I really don’t feel part of a new generation of French directors. This is probably above all because I haven’t made many films yet. But I never ask myself this question. In any case, I think that if there is a new generation, it would be characterized above all by its diversity. Which is just as well.
What is next for you?
I just finished directing a music video in collaboration with Billie Thomassin for Jean Tonique’s new album. The song is called “Feel Better Now.” And I’m writing a new short film that I hope to shoot this summer in the south of France.