French actor, director, producer and writer Edouard Baer, in Lyon for the premiere of “Adieu Paris!” at the Lumière Festival, drew endless laughs from his audience at his masterclass in the city’s Comédie Odéon theater.

Displaying a gifted talent for improvisation, Baer amused the audience with self-deprecating tirades and anecdotes. Commenting on the short introductory film displaying his career highlights, he told the crowd: “It’s easy to make me look good with smooth editing and good music. Really, it’s just a succession of small accidents. There aren’t just masterpieces there. But from bad movies to acceptable ones, you build a small career and then you die happy,” he smiled.

Baer brings together a stellar cast in “Adieu Paris!” including Gérard Depardieu, Pierre Arditi, Jean-Francois Stévenin – who passed away in July and to whom the film is dedicated – and Belgian duo Benoît Poelvoorde and François Damiens, who came with him to Lyon for the film’s launch. Their riotous song and dance numbers throughout their stay delighted audiences.

“Some directors are able to take everyday life and transcend it. I guess it’s easier for me because I choose characters that are out of the ordinary. I love it when I see someone who moves me, who upsets me. I am fascinated by people who are full of pain and joy,” Baer said.

“I spent all day with Benoît Poelvoorde yesterday, he has this amazing energy, he’s bigger than life, there is so much generosity in him, he’s exhausting… and exhausted,” he joked about the popular Belgian actor.

“I write my films for the actors. If they succeed in making you believe they are improvising that’s because they are so talented. I love that “live’ feeling,” said Baer, who himself became a household name in France thanks to a now-famous monologue he improvised during the shooting of Alain Chabat’s “Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” (2002).

“I would love to make a film where you would get the feeling, if you saw it one evening, and then you watched it again the next day, that it was an entirely different movie because the actors wouldn’t be giving the same performance.

“There are moments in comedy where there’s something in the air: It’s the way it’s interpreted that’s funny, not the sentence itself. You can give Poelvoorde and Damiens a sentence like “Do you want a coffee?” and this magic occurs, you see it in their eyes. You have to trust the actors,” he added.

“Adieu Paris!” tells the story of eight friends, mostly in their seventies, who meet up for an annual lunch that has become a ritual over the decades. A newcomer, played by Poelvoorde, turns up but is not welcome, and spends the whole time at the bar. As for Gérard Depardieu, his character can’t seem to make up his mind whether he wants to go to the lunch or not.

“I needed someone whose absence would be terribly powerful,” explained Baer later, during a Q&A session after the film premiere. “Depardieu has that in him: His face is like this mad landscape.”

Depardieu’s, just like the other actors’ faces, are often filmed close up, as if the camera were another guest at the table, showing each and every emotion in this movie which often resembles a theater play.

“I love theater where the lights are so strong that you can see the actor’s skin close up, it’s exhilarating to see a character blush or sweat when they get embarrassed. We all have those moments,” added Baer, a prominent figure in the French theater world.

Asked where the women are in his movie, he said: “That’s the subject of the film: it’s a men’s lunch – a generation of men who thought you were more free around other men. But each one has a woman behind him who helps him play the man: They are like boys who go out to play and the women say, ‘Go on then’.”

Shot in the fall of 2020 in between lockdowns, “Adieu Paris!” is set for release in France in January 2022.