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Director Robert Guédiguian on Working With a Troupe, CNC and Streamers

When Robert Guédiguian returned to this year’s Venice Film Festival to premiere his latest film, “Gloria Mundi,” he brought nearly the exact same cast that joined him at the 2017 Venice festival for his previous outing, “The House by the Sea.” That is because the French director has built a tightknit troupe over the years, working with the same actors time and time again. Variety sat down with the filmmaker in Venice to ask about his stable of collaborators and his thoughts on recent industry trends.

For your past several films you’ve worked almost exclusively with the same cast of actors. That’s a somewhat uncommon model in modern filmmaking, so what do you think it brings to your work?
It’s like working in a theater troupe, and I’m the leader, the spokesperson for group. I have known these actors for a long time, so they tell me stories, and we share a lot between ourselves. I know their views on the world, on art, cinema, and theater, so I’m the scribe – I write. Of course, it would be tough if we had to work together all year long, but that’s not the case. Everyone has their own diverse projects, and from time to time we meet to see where we are and what we think of our profession. We talk about the world and modern politics, and we start building our common home.

All my work could be summarized by a shared concern: How to live together, how to create a society that can reconcile individual and collective interest. I’m a communist, and always have been. With my films, I try to ask those questions of how to live together – not against each other but with each other.

This film has a darker edge than some of your previous work. Does that reflect your conversations with your troupe?
You have to do comedies and tragedies. Sometimes to show the world as it is, and sometimes how it could be. When you want to show the world as it could be, you make a comedy. I like both and I think both are necessary. According to my mood, my condition, my annoyance, I’ll write one or the other. I’ve made darker projects like “Gloria Mundi,” some more optimistic things like “The House by the Sea,” and some very comical things a few years ago. Maybe I’ll have to do one of those again.

You recently protested the naming of Dominique Boutonnat as the new head of France’s Centre National du Cinema (CNC). Could you explain your issues with his appointment?
The new head of the CNC is a former film financier. We didn’t contest the man, we contested the manner in which he was appointed. He was with Macron from the very beginning, and thus was given a reward for his support. These are practices we do not like very much all over the world, but in France we say it loud and clear.

In any case, the director of the CNC does not decide French film policy all by himself. There is the Ministry of Culture, the Parliament, the President of the Republic – they all have a say. Culture remains something protected in France, but we must be careful. If France has a particular relationship to culture – cinema in particular – it is because people are constantly fighting to maintain a certain level of diversity, a quantity of films produced. However, it is a constant struggle. If we let down our guard, we will be overwhelmed by new dangers like streaming platforms, which will result in the death of the author.

What do you mean by the death of the author?
A film can be added to the Netflix database without anybody ever finding out. And when you do stumble upon a work on Netflix, you never know who made it, and don’t really care either. People bring up Scorsese [whose film “The Irishman” will be released on Netflix later this fall], as a counter-example, but Scorsese is the tree that hides the forest, the exception that proves the rule.

I come from a film festival generation, where the press really took an interest in directors. They would help the public connect work with the artists who created it, and that advanced the mythology of cinema. There will be no similar grandeur for the films released on platforms. [On a platform,] a film is just more content, another commodity, without an author or a story attached to it. That worries me. I fear artistic diversity, and I’m afraid of algorithms that want to create homogenized taste.

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