I can’t really complain about professional recognition of my work. All of my french movies, without exception, have had at least 3 nominations. In total I have had 49 nominations, and have won 17, including 6 personally. TS Spivet won the Cesar for photography, which recognizes not only Thomas Hardmeier, but also the entire team for their cinematography and 3D work.
(Where Polanski was arrested). The festival proposed hosting a tribute to my work. They would give me a sort of “Lifetime Achievement Award” and project all of my films. Having had no news from them, I saw on the Internet that Haneke would be honored instead. Having been informed of what was going on, Harvey Weinstein had banned the screening of Spivet. So the festival changed their mind. And Weinstein was be there to… give a master class!
… signed TS Spivet for the United States, he had seen the finished film. And Gaumont had made it clear that since I had the final cut, I would not change even the smallest detail. A fact that didn’t stop him from trying to bully his way into redoing the film in his own way. As he always does with films.
He had already tried to do so in 1991 with Delicatessen. An English editor came to me with a list of all suggested cuts. He was going to remove the scene with the creaking bed, Ms. Interligator’s suicide… in short, all the funniest scenes. Caro and I patiently listened and then suggested one more cut: “removing our names from the credits”. The editor left shaking his finger at us, “You haven’t heard the last from Harvey Weinstein!” After that I expected to find my dog’s head on my bed one morning … Finally, having not yet signed with UGC, the film was released without the cuts, in spite of Mr Weinstein…and would eventually become a cult film. 10 years later the same thing happened with Amelie. We had five Oscar nominations. But we were out of luck. That was the year that the Academy, tired of Weinstein’s vote-collecting “abuse”, decided to boycott his films. “We will not vote for Amélie”, wrote the American industry magazines. Whoopy Goldberg, president of the ceremony, spent the entire ceremony making fun of Weinstein. The result being, out of 19 nominations, he won only one Oscar.
Weinstein is like a gallery owner that says to a painter: “Americans don’t like green, so I’ll ask the framer to use blue” … Weinstein is actually all about power. Like a dog marking a tree, he MUST change all the movies he buys.
In addition, he forced a “holdback” on Gaumont, which meant that no non-Francophone country could release the film before him. So Spivet remained blocked for 8 months. As the holdback ended in June, in some countries, like England or Spain, it was released in the middle of the World Cup. Flop.
In 1987, Michael Cimino was editing his film The Sicilian, and his American sound editors were having a hell of a time adding the sound of the trampling of panicked horses. Too much confusion, too much dust, too many hooves; impossible to properly synchronize the sound with the images.
So, without saying anything to the director, the French film editor, Françoise Bonnot, took the sequence to Paris, and showed it to Jean Pierre Lelong, the awesome sound effects engineer.
In two or three movements, Lelong, assisted by his faithful Mario, much as Terry Gilliam in The Quest for the Holy Grail maybe didn’t clap together coconuts , but took out a few unlikely instruments out of his surreal bags…
Cimino was so impressed that he gave all the film’s sound effects work to Jean-Pierre.
To get an idea of Lelong’s extraordinary work, take a look at this short clip from the making of A Very Long Engagement.
In the 60’s and 70’s there was no such thing as a “sound designer” equipped with computers. It was the sound effects engineer, in his studio, that did everything that hadn’t been captured on the spot, or which needed to be redone to be played over foreign language dialogues.
But where Jean-Pierre Lelong was a pure genius is that his work resembled a number from Cirque du Soleil. Indeed, not only did he recreate sounds and totally realistic noises with objects that have nothing to do with the sounds, but he had the unique distinction of directly syncing them perfectly.
He looked once or twice at the image, spotted the location of the sound to be made using the numbers running under the image, and he was off.
It was rare that he had to do anything twice. He crushed crates to smash a pontoon for The City of Lost Children, twisted the wheels of a salvaged supermarket trolley to make the swing squeak in Amelie, threw nuts and bolts on drumheads for the pills Ms. Interligator spat out in Delicatessen, and waltzed with a dancer’s step on the studio’s wooden floors, wearing his old rotten shoes, that even Charlie Chaplin would snub … to bring a subtlety, as if by magic, to lame Matilda running through the grass.
And all that perfectly synchronized to a 24th of a second!
It was quite a sight to see. But about noon, when hunger set in, it was not a stomach growling that you heard, but this colourful guy glaring at you and pronouncing “Stomach!”
Jean-Pierre worked on all my movies. The last few years were less happy, because technical advancements had made his genius of syncing a little obsolete. But he worked all his life for the masters. He even won an Oscar and worked on several James Bond films, always with the same sense of perfectionism.
His last film was TS Spivet and I’m proud to have stayed loyal to him.
The press has recently announced the very important information that Amelie will be produced as a Broadway musical (interviews on Europe 1, RTL, BFM…).
This is true. But why have I waited twelve years? Well, because I absolutely loathe “musicals” and so I have resisted all proposals for all these years, whether French or American. I cannot find a better definition of this genre than that of Gad Elmaleh’s comedy sketch… “We make love, we go to war… we make love… you’ve already said that!”… Jacques Demy’s films are, to me, the epitome of absolute delusion… Ah, and why not some figure skating in this supremely has-been genre? Maybe I’ll be presented with a choreography on ice between Amélie and Nino Quincampoix…
So, you ask, why did I finally give in? Very simply because I support an association called “Heart Surgery Sponsors”, whose goal is to bring children with heart defects here from poor countries. They are welcomed into families, and operated on in France before returning home, healed.
So after hearing that a “musical” could, if successful, earn a lot of money, I thought it was perhaps time to rethink my decision. If this show can save the lives of some children, so be it… “Amelie will change your life… you’ve already said that”… The worst thing that can happen after all is that the show is a flop!
The Young and Prodigious Spivet is now being edited. Filmed in 3D, it will be in cinemas on the 23 of October!
The filming took place in Quebec and Alberta. Rather than wax on about it, here are some images that will pay homage to my precious artistic collaborators and give you something to whet the appetite…
To live happy, live hidden!
A film is often a war, a battle. This photo shows it well.
Here you can see the two “Alexa M” cameras that we were the first to use to film in 3D. In the background, Julien Lecat, longtime author of this site, and for TS, author of the “making of” and of provisional work that takes place on site, a really valuable member of the team…
Christophe Vassort had already been my first assistant for “Amelie”.
He should charge for his good mood and humor (not always understood by the Canadians…). He speaks a special language, what I call ‘Vasoravian’, and speaks English with the worst accent on the planet, with phrases such as “Don’t take me for a noodle”!
Jean Umanski, my trusty sound engineer, fitting TS, otherwise known as Kyle Catlett. My Kylitto is a child prodigy. We haven’t seen the last of him!
Jean-Marc Deschamps, production supervisor for all of my films since Amelie has always boosted morale in the most difficult and complicated moments.
Aline Bonetto, my set designer, who has been with me for all of my films except Alien. A powerhouse of work and talent.
Reif Larsen, author of the book, visiting the set, and signing his book for Helena Bonham Carter.
To the left, in the foreground is Madeline Fontaine, my head costume designer since Amelie (she also worked with Jean Paul Gaultier for The City of Lost Children) and to the right, Anne Wermelinger, my script who has also been with me since The City.
Kyle Katlett, who is, incidentally, also the world champion of children’s martial arts…
… so he did most of the stunts…
Demetri Portelli is our stereographer. He also worked on Hugo Cabret, which had been, in my opinion, the best film shot in 3D…until TS Spivet…… (Ah ah…)
Callum Keith Rennie plays TS’s father, and has got a truly western “look”. He was in Battle Star Galactica, among other films.
Dany Racine started the film as first camera assistant and finished as cameraman. I can never thank him enough for his passion and his help. Seen here with his own invented view finder made with a Canon D5.
Helena Bonham Carter is already known to be an astonishing actress, but I have never found it so easy to get along with an actress. To the left, Nathalie Tissier, my head of make up, who’s also been with me for forever…
A natural pose… To my right, my head cameraman Thomas Hardmeier, whose work I have admired for a long time.
Sophie Chiabaut is Jean Umanski’s “perchwoman”. Another loyal member of the club. No, to the right, that isn’t a character in the film, just a docile stand in for TS…
The storyboard drawn by Maxime Rebière.
The ranch, built for the film in Alberta.
Judy Davis. I told her “make me laugh”. She did.
Dominique Pinon. Because a film of mine without Pinon, wouldn’t be a film of mine.
Photographs: © Yann Thijs
La plupart des réalisateurs de pub (les vrais…) enchaînent les films les uns derrière les autres. La production fait le casting, les repérages de décors, les costumes etc., sans eux. Ils arrivent le matin du tournage et sont sur un autre film le lendemain même. Comme ce n’est pas ma façon de travailler (J’aime participer à tout…), je suis présent à chaque étape de la fabrication, y compris la postproduction. Donc que je suis au montage (ces films ont été montés par Hank Corwin, monteur entre autres pour Terrence Malick et Oliver Stone) et continue à superviser les effets spéciaux numériques. (Ceux-ci ont été faits par Animalogic, à Sydney, qui ont réalisé le long-métrage d’animation Le Royaume de Ga’Hoole).
Naturellement quand le réalisateur a fini son travail, c’est l’agence et le client qui s’emparent des films et en font ce qu’ils veulent. Pour cette série, je n’ai pas trop à me plaindre, les films sont très proches de mes montages. Sauf en ce qui concerne les musiques. Nous avions livré les films avec des musiques temporaires qui marchaient magnifiquement (Genre Gladiators sur le film avec le cricket), mais dont les droits étaient évidemment inaccessibles. C’est donc l’agence qui a fait ces choix musicaux… No comment.
Sinon la lumière, comme pour la série précédente, est signée Bruno Delbonnel. Pour l’anecdote, le “Tintin” qui remet la coupe au gamin est le Zidane du cricket…
L’extravagant voyage du jeune et prodigieux T.S. Spivet (en Anglais The selected works of T.S. Spivet) est un livre magnifique de Reif Larsen dont je suis en train d’acheter les droits. Plutôt que de mal en parler, je vous invite à visiter le site extraordinaire de ce livre extraordinaire :
J’ai rencontré Reif Larsen il y a deux semaines à New York et ai eu l’impression de découvrir un frère jumeau juste vingt-huit ans plus jeune que moi. Il m’a dit : “Quand j’ai vu Amélie, j’ai eu l’impression que quelqu’un avait gratté au fond de mon crâne”… Quant à moi, j’ai été conquis dès la sixième ligne du livre :
Le téléphone a sonné un après-midi du mois d’août, alors que ma sœur Gracie et moi étions sur la véranda en train d’éplucher le maïs doux dont les grands seaux en fer-blanc. Les seaux étaient criblés de petites marques de cros qui dataient du printemps dernier, quand Merveilleux, notre chien de ranch, avait fait une dépression et s’était dit à manger du métal.
Ce film-là, si l’aventure va jusqu’au bout, sera un film tourné aux USA, avec des acteurs américains.
Ci-dessus couverture du livre et photo de Reif Larsen.
Une information court sur le net comme quoi je vais réaliser un remake de Blanche Neige avec Nathalie Portman. Cela donne une idée de la crédibilité de ce qu’on peut lire sur la toile… Il suffit qu’un site nase écrive une connerie pour qu’elle soit aussitôt reprise par d’autres. J’ai effectivement reçu de mon agent américain une proposition concernant ce projet, que j’ai refusé pour des raisons très simples :
- Je n’ai pas besoin d’un producteur américain pour penser à Blanche Neige.
- Je pense que si j’écrivais le script avec Guillaume Laurant, on pourrait faire un peu mieux…
- Et si un jour je décide d’écrire l’adaptation d’un conte célèbre, je le produirai moi-même pour garder la liberté.