Suzanne Lindon, the 20-year old star and filmmaker of “Spring Blossom,” was born into French cinema royalty, being the daughter of famed French actors Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain; but the spirited young woman was determined early on to plow her own path towards acting. While Lindon initially wrote “Spring Blossom” as a vehicle to make her first foray into acting with an ideally-crafted leading part, the film has now established her as a promising young director.
“Spring Blossom” is handled in international markets by Luxbox and will be released theatrically in France by Paname Distribution on Dec. 9. The coming-of-age tale was part of Cannes 2020’s Official Selection, played at San Sebastian, Toronto and New York film festivals, and screens at El Gouna Film Festival on Saturday.
Lindon spoke to Variety about the genesis of “Spring Blossom,” as well as the making of the movie, its singularity and the unlikely romance at the center of the story.
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You started writing this script years ago, at such a young age. What compelled you to do so?
I’m from a family of actors and I had always wanted to act in films but I needed to feel legitimate. I knew that the only way for me to accept a first role was to write it for myself. That way, if I failed I would be the only one to blame. So I needed a role and a film. I started writing this story when I was 15…. I was about to enter high school and I felt that I was no longer a child and not quite an adult yet either. Adolescence is a moment when we discover things about life and it inspired me like many authors and filmmakers before. I love “Bonjour Tristesse,” Maurice Pialat’s “A Nos Amours,” Sidney Lumet’s “Running on Empty”…. and so many other films dealing with adolescence.
How did you work on the script and how personal is it?
I wrote it little by little, as if it were the personal diary of another Suzanne. It wasn’t a difficult exercise because when I was that age I was making up stories all the time! I wanted the film to be short, and I know the script is clumsy, but that’s because I’m young and foreign to this world even if both my parents are actors — I had never even been on a set during filming before! I refused to act in anything before and didn’t want to ask too many questions around me because I wanted to keep my inocence intact for this film. I did it all in an intuitive way.
How did you manage to get this great cast – Arnaud Valois and Frédéric Pierrot — for your directorial debut?
We shot with a very small budget in three weeks, and we made it thanks to a crew of guardian angels; we had true artists working on every aspect of this film and everyone was extremely kind and generous with me throughout the entire process. It helped me to work with a tiny budget because I felt insanely free and because we had to shoot it fast the script had to be very precise. I was also lucky to direct these brilliant actors on my first film. I love Frederic in every movie he does. We have a deep affection and respect for each other. Arnaud, I saw him act in “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” (…) I was very touched by his grace and modesty in this film. He has a powerful presence on screen and at the same time he has a way of shining a light on his acting partners.
The romance which is at the center of the film – revolving around a 16 year-old woman and a 35-year old man — is considered quite politically incorrect in our era. Of course you started writing it years ago but did you think of tweaking your script after the #metoo movement started?
The scenario hasn’t changed much since my first draft. I thought that if I was able to make this film I had to take the opportunity to be the voice of my generation, at a time in history where a strong adolescent can have a relationship with an older man and still stand her ground without being influenced. Their relationship is also deeper, more chaste than one with people who have the same age. I wanted to portray a young woman who is a bit innocent about life and love but at the same time knows exactly what she wants and doesn’t want, and doesn’t apologize for it. She’s the one leading the relationship and taking the decisions, setting the pace. In that sense the film is grounded in today’s social norms.
Your character seems to have an ideal life and she doesn’t have any troubles. Didn’t you want to portray a girl going through a teenage crisis in “Spring Blossom”?
I know it’s unusual for a film about adolescence but my character doesn’t have any problems. Her solitude is exacerbated by the fact that she doesn’t have any problems in her life, she has no excuse. She just feels that she doesn’t belong to any group. That’s her only struggle. I can relate to that because I have loving parents, great friends, good grades, but like everyone I’ve had qualms. We all go through the same things, that’s what makes the teenage angst so universal.
The movie features some dream-like musical scenes, what was your intention with these scenes?
They show that although these two people love each differently, they feel the same thing towards one another. The dances are their way of communicating, of expressing their feelings. When they dance together they are in symbiosis, it’s magical. The music in the film has a very pure, operatic vibe that gives the film that dream-life dimension. Sometimes we don’t know if the two characters are really together or it’s just their imagination.
Since it’s movie about adolescence, it’s surprising to not see any allusion to social media!
That was my intention from the start. I wanted the film to be about the encounter between a man and a young woman, without any elements that could indicate the time period. It was an interesting challenge to get these two people meet each other without using a phone.
Did this experience of helming “Spring Blossom” make you want to direct rather than act going forward?
I hope I will have the luxury to never be obliged to choose. I discovered that I had a passion for acting. When I’m acting I liberate myself fully and I think of nothing else. And when I direct I think about everything but I feel very free as well. One thing that is sure is that it’s very natural for me to act.