Marrakech: Cesc Gay on Darin, Truman the Dog, His New Movistar Series

Catalan helmer presents his seventh feature at Marrakech film festival

Cesc Gay
Courtesy of Imposible Films

BARCELONA– Cesc Gay’s seventh feature, “Truman” has Javier Camara (“Talk to Her”) as Tomas, a college instructor in Canada who travels to Madrid to bid farewell to his old friend Julian, an actor diagnosed with terminal cancer played by Ricardo Darin, star of Juan Jose Campanella’s Oscar-winning “The Secret in Their Eyes.” Julian’s main concern is finding a new family for Truman, his ageing boxer.

Directed by an audience-friendly auteur and produced by Marta Esteban at Imposible Films and Diego Dubcovsky at Argentina’s BD Cine, “Truman” is a comedy of melancholy, wise, wistful and well-observed,” said Variety reviewer Joe Leydon. An emotionally raw, even harsh dramedy, balancing dark twists and the excesses of the soul, “Truman” is performing well in Spain where it cumed $2.7 million, ranking No. 8 in its fifth week at theaters. In Argentina, “Truman” has punched a highly creditable $2.6 million.

Most Cesc Gay features (“A Gun in Each Hand,”) have performed healthily or better at the B.O., being modest of budget, framing straightforward simple stories depicting ordinary characters, played by actors whose performances – as well as Gay’s direction – excite consistent praise.

“Truman” plays out of competition at this week’s Marrakech Festival. Filmax International handles sales. Movie has closed Australia and New Zealand, all Latin America and Western Europe, except for the U.K.

Are you surprised by the success of “Truman”?

After its premiere at San Sebastian [where Darin and Camara shared the best actor award], we thought that the movie could perform, well.  I’m convinced the shared prize helped too. But prior to that we had some fears, yes.

How do you think people leave cinema theaters?

Moved. No question. With that weird combination of a certain sadness and good feelings.

Being a raw story about friendship and death, audiences really have a good time.

Yes, but you have to persuade them to buy a ticket. I think that cinema was the only place where people went to see stories, some time ago. Now everything is so diversified with TV’, VOD, computers, tablets, cells…  that theaters are just one more thing, not the only one. So if you go to the theater expect an “impact quota”; If I go to see a comedy I want to laugh my guts out, or be shot-scared, or moved. You have to hit home. If you pull your punches, the film won’t perform well at the B.O. It might be an excellent movie, but it won’t make money.

And also there is Darin, who seems to guarantee a B.O. to all pictures where he’s involved.

Ricardo is amazing. His empathy with audiences of all kinds and ages is extraordinary, very special. As a person, he also has this magnetism. He’s a hard worker, not just on set.  He needs to work, tries to understand his character as soon as he can.

It’s interesting the importance of the dog. Although its a character without words, he injects fresh air into some emotionally tough situations.

Yes. And I was lucky to find a very similar dog to Darin [Gay laughs], –aged, lame, broken… The boxer works as an alter ego of Darin. And I think [Gay laughs] that Darin also made the movie for the dog. He really enjoyed being with the animal.

If you consider your other six movies (including “Krampack,” “In the City,” “A Gun in Each Hand”), do you detect some points in common?

They may all be movies with a premise, plot –whatever you want to call– that depict situations with absolutely ordinary and contemporary characters that anybody could feel an empathy with. “City” was that way, “Krampack…” all of them. I always work with ordinary people. On the other hand, I think I always work with the most repressed, hidden side of ordinary characters –especially the male ones.

Yu are one of the very few storytellers who talk about feelings, tenderness in males…

It has to be death what awakens feelings between me. These situations force them. As Javier Camara’s character says at the beginning: “My wife forced me to come. I did not want to.” And this is very authentic; I mean it’s very difficult for a man to face his emotional side.

What do you think when you hear Cesc Gay is the Catalan Woody Allen…?

[He laughs] I don’t really know, maybe the press needs to make this kind of associations… There should be some reason. Maybe because Allen always works from a very emotional universe, beyond that… his stories are built from an absolute comedy conception; not mine.

Allen’s films are also intensely character-driven, like yours and very fond of very ordinary people.

In this sense, yes. Also by urban environments. Obviously, he has made so many movies that some are located in other spaces. Maybe also because some of his stories are choral. But I think there’s a need to find referents that are not always accurate.

You have recently debuted as a playwright and legit director

They’re really very different. I have minimally controlled the mechanisms when directing cinema, but with the stage I have learnt that I have no idea at all. I always wanted to do it but never dared. I feel too much respect about it. I began writing a story (“The Neighbors Upstairs”) that was re-routing too much towards a comedy arena and I thought it was better suited for the stage. I was lucky with the producers and everything was very quick. I had a great time doing it. I think it has to do with making new things, with the challenge to be involved in things you do not know about. This generates an incredible energy, adrenaline, and exciting fears.

Any project in the drawer?

I received a proposal from Movistar Cine to do a series that is currently in development. I was delighted to accept. It has to do with what I was talking about  –it’s exciting to be involved into an unknown structure, with other rules. It’s a different genre –it’s a thriller– than I am used to working with. Also the length (45-minutes) is very different from the 90-120’ minutes of a feature. I love to nosedive into something new. In addition, I’ve received the freedom to develop the project and we should be thankful that companies [in our country] exist that do invest in development, and pay for screenplays.