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MyFrenchFilmFestival: ‘The Summer Movie’s’ Emmanuel Marre on Roadtrips, Depression, Male Sensibility

And the ‘strong trend’ of short film directors ‘to embrace the reality of the world and their world'

Having won at IndieLisboa, the Clermont-Ferrand and Fribourg, “The Summer Movie” presents a simple story, the brief encounter between a man who has lost his way in life and a boy on a road-trip through the south of France. The set-up might seem simple but slowly the the story fades into the background of its locations: Roadside eat-places, a pavement by a highway, an anonymous hotel. Those kind of places that are constantly being visited without ever becoming inhabited. Like its spaces, “The Summer Movie” tells a story without truly showing it. Director Emmanuel Marre makes a distinctive and sometimes disconcerting narrative emphasis not on eloquent moments of great narrative weight but on elusive ones of daily life, which are momentarily inhabited and which, though only sometimes, are endowed with greater meaning. Variety interviewed Marre whose “The Summer Film” is one highlight of the just-begun MyFrenchFilmFestival.

Where does the idea for “The Summer Film” come from?

I would more define it as a need, something urgent. Trying to see if I was still able to film, to make cinema. The decision to make that film was taken two weeks before shooting. I just gathered a few actors that were part of a kind of a family. People I love or admire ( Jean Benoit Ugeux, Balthazar Monfé and Vincent Minne).  Jean Benoit already played in a few of my films Balthazar is his neighbor in real life. They have a strong and unusual friendship. No one can figure who’s the adult. One of the goals was to create a record of that.

What were your bases which shaped the narrative of the film? Its story, at first glance, may seem simple but with the passing of time suggests a careful selection not only in what is shown but what is not. In the same way, the duration of the shots oscillates continuously between a sensory and near-documentary emphasis. Could you comment?

As I said, we improvised everything.  I directed and we created the story during the road trip. I let the actors and myself put some parts of their own life if the felt it right, accurate. The first rough editing was one hour 40 minutes. Maybe there is of record, a memory of everything which is not in the final cut.

The duration of the shot is based on the sensation we try to create and convey to the audience. When you’re on the road as well as when you suffer from depression, your sensation of the way time passes can differ a lot from the “normal” importance of those events. A casual conversation can be vital, just as some moments can fly away from you.

It’s not usual to find a masculine look behind the camera that emphasizes the small moments –  a level of detail that creates a very personal feeling in the way the lens captures the story. Again, could you comment? 

Sensibility is not only feminine, I think. What can I say? The artist that inspires me most is Raymond Carver. A man. He’s one of the few artists that decided to dedicates his art not to the 10 %, very few dramatic moments of our life time, but to the 90% non-dramatic material of our every day life. This is what I try to do in the film. The most important things in our life occurs in (apparently) non-dramatic places or circumstances.

At least depicting masculine sensibility is something that really moves me. Men are not educated or encouraged by society to openly show their feelings, their emotions. That’s why I try to find them where they hide them … in little things.

Do you see yourself as part of a new generation of French filmmakers. If so, what are some characteristics you see that define that group?

I live in Brussels. Though French, I’m worked in between France and Belgium for the last 12 years. I would see myself as a part of the great creativity of the Brussels art scene. It goes beyond the field of cinéma. In Brussels artists make do with little. Little money, small crews, little pretention. But the ambition is high.

I think we don’t want to choose between style and meaning. In “The Summer Movie,” there is a formal research on editing and length, but also an attempt  something sociological, describing the melancholy of  the  commercial uniform areas close to the highways and the suburbs of the cities

Do you see any trends in the shorts you have watched for this or other festivals where you have participated?

I see a strong trend of directors trying to embrace the reality of the world and their world. To achieve this they abolish the frontier between documentary and fiction.

What is next for you?

Editing a new medium-length film; writing a feature film based on the low-cost flight attendants’ world.

CREDIT: Emmanuel Marre

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