Paris-born Emmanuel Blanchard studied and then taught history before becoming a documentary filmmaker responsible for films such as “Bombing War,” “Le diable de la République” and “Après la guerre.” He’s currently directing “Notre-Dame de Paris”, a 90-minute animated part-doc, part-fiction film on the building of the world-famous Paris cathedral. Competing at MyFFF, “The Collection” is his first fiction short. In it, French writer and Honorary Oscar winner Jean-Claude Carrière. Luis Buñuel’s longtime co-writer, plays a main role. Blanchard is developing his feature-debut under the working title “Brumaire.”

What is the “The Collection” about?

It’s about an unscrupulous merchant who “buys” artistic pieces from Jewish collectors forced to leave Paris in the midst of the occupation of France by Nazi Germany. Informed by a janitor, he hears about Mr. Klein’s extraordinary collection.

I think it’s a stylized piece about subjugation and oppression with a puzzling development. It’s inspired by a short story by Stefan Zweig.

Could you talk about adapting the script from the original story?

The idea comes from one of my favorite Zweig’s short stories. But I changed a lot of it, including the historical period, to turn it into something quite different, far less good-spirited. Still, “The Collection” is inspired by Zweig in many ways. The elegance, the culture, the enlightenment of the pre-WWII European civilization, what he called the World of Yesterday was truly an inspiration for the characters of Mister Klein and his daughter Elise. And of course, his mastery in the art of short-story telling was an inspiration in itself.

Why did you choose Jean-Claude Carrière as an actor?

Truth be told, I didn’t have to think twice. Jean-Claude Carrière was Klein. He had to be Klein. He brought to the character his brightness, his exquisite humor, his love for art, the extraordinary texture of his voice. I am very grateful he so generously accepted to switch to the other side of the camera, from being an author to being an actor, without even tweaking the script! It truly was an honor.

How would you define the visual concept and genre of “The Collection”?

With the chiaroscuro photography, the texture of the score and sound design, I wanted the story to lie somewhere in between a drama and a fantastic tale –in an Edgar Allan Poe style.

Can you announce any future project to us?

The project I’m working on with my producers (2425 Films and Worso) deals with history –again. It’s about Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’état in 1799. If I had to summarize what I’d like to do with this as of today I’d say it is the story of a few young men trying to seize power in a corrupt and exhausted country.

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Emmanuel Blanchard