Cannes Film Festival 2022. Interview with Arnaud Desplechin, whose film Brother and Sister shot partly in Lille and Roubaix is ​​in the running for the Palme d’Or

Back in competition at Cannes, the Roubaisien Arnaud Desplechin presents Brother and Sister. A family drama shot largely in Lille and Roubaix. Meeting with the child of the country.

A brother and a sister on the verge of fifty …Alice (Marion Cotillard) is an actress, Louis (Melvil Poupaud) was a teacher and a poet. Alice has hated her brother for over twenty years. They haven’t seen each other in all this time. When their parents die, they will meet.

With Brother and sister, in competition at Cannes, Arnaud Desplechin signs a family drama against a backdrop of hatred. A theme that the director from Roubaix had already tackled in A vsChristmas Eve. He confides in our journalist Christelle Massin.

Christelle Massin: Why is hate a subject that works for you so much, that perhaps haunts you?

Arnaud Desplechin: This motif certainly haunts me on an intimate level, because being the object of anger, of hatred, these are things that scare me. Intimate shots interest me. I remember when I was putting on my play, it was a Strindberg. And the reason for the play was the hatred in a couple. Each time, I thought, yes, but hate is just another face of love. If it’s not another face of love, I’m not interested. So how do you take it apart. In A Christmas tale which is a film where there was already this motif of a sister, Anne Consigny, who hated her brother Mathieu Amalric, the film was so built around a lot of digressions, that I had left Elisabeth a bit with her grief at the end. I left her, I filmed her on a balcony. She seemed more relieved but I hadn’t settled. There, I said to myself, no. I’m going to make an obsessive film, there’s no longer any digression. There is a target, an arrow, full stop. We just do that. We only say that.

video length: 01min 06

“Hate is just another face of love”


CM: Having a family member amputated is like having a limb amputated?

AD: I believe. The issue of amputation is something that cannot be repaired. You see friends, you can have others. You can even divorce, have other wives etc… you cannot have a different father, mother, brother, sister. You have those given to you. Of course, you can have a friend who says to you: “you are my brother”. You can have a friend and tell her: “you are my sister”. But it’s never the same thing. So yes, it’s an amputation.

CM: Is mourning a living being more difficult than mourning a dead person?

AD: yes, I don’t think it’s possible. We have to find other techniques to solve this question and that’s what I had proposed, which seems totally pretentious on my part. I remember very well when I wrote the first letter to Julie Peyr, the co-screenwriter. Right after showing Roubaix, a light in Cannes, I had left for a few days at the beginning of July and I told him here we go, we are going to fix life. What I can’t do in life, we will do in fiction. And in fiction, we will get there. We will find solutions, we will offer them to the spectators. We’ll say that’s the way to live.

CM: what do you read on the face of Marion Cotillard and what do you read on the face of Melvil Poupaud?

AD: I read Marion’s face like a map. And what I find magnificent is that it is an enigma. I read from childhood. I also read a grief. I read a loneliness. I don’t know if it’s the grief of a child or of a woman coming of age. It is this card which is indecipherable, which for me, makes the price of the film. In Melvil’s face, I read a mourning that has no end since this kind of mourning has no end, which is the mourning of a child.

video length: 27sec

“I read Marion’s face like a map”


CM: in this emotional climate of extreme tension, we spoke of great violence of feelings, on the set, do you sometimes get carried away?

AD: never. I’m thinking of the most tragic films I’ve seen, the most violent. I see Communicants by Ingmar Bergman, and when you buy the edition of Taschen by Bergman, you see the photos of Ingmar with his actresses, they laugh like hunchbacks on set. Personally, I believe that when things get along, cinema and theater are tiny closed worlds. What is good is that it is enchanted. I don’t believe at all in mythologies that say you have to torture the actor, brutalize him, not at all. Good understanding, dialogue, that’s what’s important. It’s to make them laugh especially when they have to play tragic things. To relieve them, you try to find good jokes to make them laugh between two tears. That’s what you’re trying to do

CM: Does a filmmaker like you still have doubts?

AD: Of course. Verry much. It’s like stage fright, it doesn’t get better. I thought it got better with the first films, that’s not true. There is no change.

CM: you are a filmmaker, could you become a psychoanalyst?

AD: I wouldn’t be interested. I did this year In therapy, a great experience, and I identify so much with neurotics that I have no desire to be the one who knows. Me, it suits me very well to be ignorant. I know I’m neurotic, that’s how it is and I don’t want to improve at all. I never wanted to be the one who knows. Even as a director, I don’t want to be a dictatorial director à la Stroheim. I admire Stroheim. I don’t want to be like that. It suits me very well to doubt, to be wrong.

CM: When you shoot in your region, in the Lille metropolis, land of your memories, is it always a pleasure or sometimes a pain?

AD: I have a sweet pleasure to shoot there. There, for me, it was the adventure because it was not happening in Roubaix, it was happening in Lille. I remembered when I was little to go to the cinema, we hitchhiked in Roubaix to go to Lille or sometimes we took the tram, but that was a very long time ago, the tram was longer at the time, there was not yet the metro. So when we arrived in Lille, the city where there was the cinema, obviously it was magical. There we were filming at the Théâtre du Nord. I still kept in the location scouting, some scenes in Roubaix to be able to return to lands that I know.

video length: 00 min 24

“Shooting in Roubaix is ​​always a pleasure”

CM: How did you feel when you learned that your film had been selected for Cannes?

AD: A very, very great relief. I don’t know why I was so relieved. It’s a very small family story that takes place in this city that I filmed so much, in Roubaix. I even find the name of the family, the Vuillards. Is it just my business or is it the world’s business? And suddenly, we are in the official selection. It means that this story is a fable that can speak to anyone. Anyone can use it. And compared to the actors, I was very moved when we learned of this selection.

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Cannes Film Festival 2022. Interview with Arnaud Desplechin, whose film Brother and Sister shot partly in Lille and Roubaix is ​​in the running for the Palme d’Or