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Monday
Mar252013

SPACE MAN: THE ARMEN EVRENSEL INTERVIEW

Journeying from Whistler, British Columbia, to the furthest reaches of the galaxy may seem a tad ambitious for a first-time feature filmmaker. But for Canadian native Armen Evrensel (pictured, below; far right, directing star Kristen Kreuk), the auteur behind the high-concept/low-budget science-fiction comedy Space Milkshake, the voyage was inevitable.

“I drew on what I loved most in the sci-fi genre,” Evrensel tells SCREEN-SPACE via email from his home in the Great White North. “A huge inspiration was Dark Star, the John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon low budget masterpiece. I think it deserves a lot more credit as the prequel to Alien.” Also citing the likes of Scorsese, Lynch, Kurosawa and Werner Herzog as heroes (“I’ve been meaning to rewatch Herzog’s Nosferatu”), the fanboy-at-heart melded pop-culture iconography to tell the story of the outer-space garbage ship caught in a life-or-death struggle with a villainous slug-like alien and a shifting time-space continuum.

“In doing some homework I discovered the fascinating spider web of collaborations between of many of the sci-fi artists, writers and directors of the 60 through the 80s, and how so many of my favorites had found ways to work together,” he says, also acknowledging the lasting impact of tomes such as the Dark Horse Alien comics and authors such as the late Jean Giraud (aka Moebius).

That said, he is quick to point out that his Saskatchewan-shot debut, starring recognizable genre faces such as Billy Boyd (Lord of the Rings), George Takei (Star Trek) and Kristen Kreuk (Smallville), is very much a singular vision. “There is a lot of reference and homage in there, some hidden and some really on the surface, but it was always my firm goal to avoid making the film itself a homage, or worse, a parody,” says Evrensel (pictured, right; on-set). “My goal was to make it stand alone, proudly unapologetic as a low budget sci-fi comedy, and have a story non sci-fi fans could enjoy as well.”

Just how low-budget is hard to determine, as the film has a polished sheen and ironic B-movie nods that hardly indicate monetary stress. But Evrensel is not shying away from the effort it took for him and his crew to get his vision on screen. “If you knew the budget we had for things like props and costumes, you'd really appreciate the miracles that our crew pulled off,” he says. “The trick for the film was to avoid predicating the drama on anything that was expensive, like smoke and fire and explosions and instead to do as much with performances as possible.”

The experience has led to a steep learning curve in industry practices (“Getting sales in a marketplace that tends to compartmentalize films is a challenge right now”) but Evrensel is buoyed by enthusiasm from the genre crowd. “We're getting great responses from the festival circuit,” he says, stressing that young filmmakers should do all they can to hone their craft then present it with elan.

“Tell a strong story with interesting characters and prove yourself with whatever tools you have at hand,” Evrensel imparts, referencing forgotten shorts from the likes of Kubrick and Scorsese as inspiration. “If you do your homework and raise the flag for a well planned, well written project, you will find support in the film industry. Make stuff you are proud of and you'll probably become the kind of director that other people will want to work with.”

Read the SCREEN-SPACE review of Space Milkshake, which screens at the A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet Film Festival on Thursday April 11 at 9.00pm

Tuesday
Mar192013

THE SHORT FILM THAT SAVED JANE CAMPION.

For Oscar-winning filmmaker Jane Campion, the environment in which her key protagonists exist is as crucial to her narratives as her characters and the actors who play them.

Her latest project, the highly-anticipated TV mini-series Top of the Lake (pictured, above), features breathtaking South Island locations from her native New Zealand. The city of Queenstown and several vivid, remote wilderness regions of the Otago district are utilised to stunning effect. At the other end of her homeland you will find the majestic cliffs and fierce seas of Karekare Beach, in the Waitakere district of Auckland on the North Island, used to symbolic perfection in her breakout film, 1993s The Piano.

But it is in The Water Diary, a little-seen short film that was part of the 2006 portmanteau film 8, that Campion most directly addresses her landscape. The project, which also featured directorial efforts from Gael Garcia Bernal, Gus Van Sant, Mira Nair, Wim Wenders and Gaspar Noe, came to fruition under the guidance of French producer Marc Oberon. It was Oberon’s aim to provide artistic support to United Nation’s Millenium Development Goals, a vast humanitarian endeavour designed to eradicate such dire social ills as poverty, hunger and child mortality by 2015.

Campion immersed herself in an Australian outback scorched by drought and the tensions it brings to a young family living on the land. Seen largely through the eyes of two early-teen daughters, The Water Diary puts a stark, honest face on the social impact on the rural sector of extended dry periods. Filmed at Nimmitabel in the New South Wales southern highlands with a beautifully detailed visual acuity courtesy of DOP Greig Fraser (Bright Star; Zero Dark Thirty), it is heartbreaking study in the consequences on real people of our leaders refusal to address the changing climate.

Jane Campion had undertaken a self-imposed exile after the troubled shoot and subsequent commercial failure of her American effort, In The Cut. The 8 project would inspire her to write again and return to the director’s chair. Proving to be a turning point in her career, she would go on to receive some of the best notices of her career for 2009s Bright Star, a Palme d’Or nominee. That film's success afforded her the confidence and artistic freedom to write (with longtime collaborator Gerard Lee) and direct (with Garth Davis) the 300 minute-long Top of the Lake (pictured, right; Campion directing star Elisabeth Moss). Following it’s jubilant Sundance premiere, trade paper The Hollywood Reporter called Top of the Lake, “…an edgy, disturbing and altogether first-rate crime drama.”

Tellingly, one Top of the Lake review noted in particular Campion’s use of the setting to convey mystery and foreboding. “The landscape,” wrote Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times, “which is huge and powerful and makes mites of men, does much of the work for her.” It suggests that Campion, reunited with the creative energy she draws from her picturesque settings, is back on solid ground as one of world cinema’s most compelling directors.

Following a screening of the first two episodes of Top of the Lake, Jan Campion and Gerard Lee will front a Q&A session at the Cremorne Orpheum Cinema this Wednesday, March 20. Tickets available via the Popcorn Taxi website and at the venue.

Friday
Mar082013

HOLLYWOOD GRIND: THE MICHAEL BIEHN INTERVIEW

If you are a forty-something male with even a passing interest in film, Michael Biehn needs no introduction. The lean, physical actor has crafted a highly respected body of work in Hollywood since his debut opposite Cathy Lee Crosby in 1978s high-school comedy, Coach. Now, he has taken on multi-hyphenated auteur status with the grimy, grindhouse shocker, The Victim.

Fate has dictated that A-list fame would prove elusive for the Alabama native. He passed on the Kathryn Bigelow films Near Dark and Point Break; was cast as the lead in James Cameron’s take on Spiderman only to have the project collapse; and, got to the final two for the role ultimately played by Stephen Lang in Avatar. Regardless, Biehn will be forever remembered for a series of action film performances in the 80s and 90s that left an indelible imprint on the key movie-going demographic. Most notable amongst them were his collaborations with directors James Cameron (The Terminator; Aliens; The Abyss), William Friedkin (Rampage; Jade), Franc Roddam (The Lords of Discipline; K2), Michael Bay (The Rock) and Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror). His seething villain ‘Johnny Ringo’ from the George P Cosmatos western, Tombstone, is an audience favourite.

He has a particular fondness for Australia, having worked with director Carl Schultz (Blue Fin; Travelling North, Careful He Might Hear You) on the 1988 apocalyptic thriller, The Seventh Sign (pictured, right, with co-stars Jurgen Prochnow and Demi Moore). “I thought Carl did a great job directing that movie,” says the 55 year-old, talking to SCREEN-SPACE from his Los Angeles office.  “It was a movie that was not marketed properly. Sometimes you make a movie that is a great work but, for whatever reason, just can’t find an audience. But a lot of people come up and talk to me about that film, saying how much it means to them. I’m very proud of that film.”

Having established the production company BlancBiehn with his creative partner and wife Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, he was under no illusion that The Victim was any kind of ground-breaking vision. “It was so small and we had such a small amount of money, we just wanted to make this little grindhouse, exploitation movie,” he says of the film, which has played prestigious genre festivals such as SITGES, Horrorfest and Fantasia. “I wrote it in three weeks and during that time we also did pre-production on it. We rolled that into a twelve day shoot, working twelve hour days.”

Biehn also takes on acting duties as backwoods loner Kyle Limato, a dark figure happiest when humanity is kept at arms length. His life is upended when a scratched and muddy stripper named Annie (played by Blanc-Biehn) screams for help late one night; her friend, Mary (Danielle Harris) has been killed in a particularly graphic bout of rough, outdoor sex (the film opens on the act, so be warned) and Annie is a witness. Complicating things are the identity of the killers – two corrupt cops, played by Biehn’s friends Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkwood.

The shoot was tough, he readily admits, but having worked with the reputedly volatile likes of Bay, Friedkin and Cameron (pictured, right, on the Aliens set with Biehn and actor Ricco Ross), Biehn knew how to crack the whip when needed. “If you took the three of them and wrapped them together on their worst day, that would’ve been me when shooting The Victim,” he says with a laugh. “We were literally running from shot to shot, with me screaming the entire time. Not at anyone for anything they did wrong, but just ‘Get out of the way’ and ‘Who’s talking?’ and ‘Shut the fuck up’, stuff like that.”

Most mainstream critics have not warmed to the film’s grunginess, but genre sites are trumpeting The Victim. “Frankly, I never even thought it would be reviewed,” says Biehn, genuinely humbled by the acceptance the film recieved. “It got reviewed by the New York Times and I’m like ‘What!’ I couldn’t believe it. It played the genre festivals and it started getting good review after good review through outlets like Ain’t It Cool News and Huffington Post and San Francisco Chronicle.”

The film’s success has been reinvested into their production company, which has several new projects set to shoot. Especially ambitious is an English-language remake of the acclaimed Chilean thriller, Hidden in the Woods. Biehn has shown tremendous faith in the original director, Patricio Valladares, taking him on to helm the Americanized version. “He is very young and enthusiastic and I want him to make it in English,” Biehn says.

Such bold commitments fit well with the BlancBiehn business plan (pictured, right, Biehn and partner, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn). “We are focussed on making small movies now, quality films but films that can also turn a profit. We grew tired of going out on casting calls or just waiting to be called in for acting gigs,” he says. “We’ve created this company so that we can make all our own calls and make our own movies. Maybe, if we make enough of them, we can one day make a big one. Or maybe not, because making these small ones are a lot of fun.” 

Transmission Films will release The Victim in Australia on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on March 27.

 

 

Friday
Jan112013

OSCAR 2013: LET THE CONTEST BEGIN...

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) kept the 2013 nominations relatively close to the industry’s spiritual home with the announcement overnight of this year’s Oscar contenders. Ceremony host Seth McFarlane, hinting at the low-brow/hit-miss humour we can expect on the big night (a Hitler joke? really?), and actress Emma Stone (pictured below, right) fronted the media throng in Los Angeles to present this years list of hopefuls.

Records were set in the Best Actress category, where 85 year old Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) and 9 year old Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) represent the oldest and youngest nominees ever in that category. Although a handful of nominees came from the international sector (Amour; the Brit pics Les Misérables and Anna Karenina; and, three Australian acting nods) or were low-budget indies (...Beasts; the documentary Chasing Ice), the finalists were mostly from the not-unexpected pool of studio pics that have figured heavily in the award season to-date.

Building what many analysts believe to be insurmountable momentum is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which leads the pack with 12 nominations. Coming in the same weeks as its sweeping of the BAFTA categories, the historical epic’s leading man, Daniel Day Lewis, seems to already have the Best Actor trophy in his cabinet. In line with many of the recent end-of-year honours, other leading contenders include Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (11 nominations); Les Misérables and Silver Linings Playbook (both with 8 nominations); Argo (7 nominations); and, Amour, Django Unchained, Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty (each with 5 nominations). Filling out the field are Beasts of the Southern Wild (4), Anna Karenina (4), The Master (3), The Hobbit (3), Flight (2) and Snow White and The Huntsman (2).

As is often the case, the list of names not nominated makes for far more compelling reading. We break down the major categories below. The ceremony will be held on February 24 at the Dolby Theatre inside the Hollywood & Highland Center.    

BEST PICTURE
It’s early-season release and only-ok box-office took some of the lustre off Beasts of the Southern Wild’s awards momentum, so credit to the Academy for keeping the little film’s dream alive; Moonrise Kingdom wasn’t so lucky. No consideration here for what the public loved (The Avengers, Ted, Magic Mike, The Hobbit, Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises all missing out). The Hollywood Foreign Press corps love for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen also, oddly, did not resonate with Oscar’s voting body.
Amour, Argo, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life Of Pi, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Silver Linings Playbook.

BEST DIRECTOR
Much noise is being made about the omission of Argo’s Ben Affleck and Zero Dark Thirty’s Kathryn Bigelow, but Tom Hooper (Les Misérables), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master), Robert Zemeckis (Flight), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) and Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom) could all rightly feel aggrieved.
Life Of Pi - Ang Lee, Lincoln - Steven Spielberg, Amour - Michael Haneke, Silver Linings Playbook - David O. Russell, Beasts Of The Southern Wild - Benh Zeitlin.

BEST ACTOR
Even with his film scoring 11 nominations, Life of Pi’s leading man Suraj Sharma was left out, though he is in good company. Jean-Louis Tritignat (Amour), Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), Bill Murray (Hyde Park on the Hudson), John Hawkes (The Sessions), Richard Gere (Arbitrage), Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock), Matthew McConnaughey (Killer Joe) and Affleck again were all rightly in the running. Beasts... Dwight Henry couldn’t ride that films good favour to recognition. But this is looking the night’s sure-thing category, with Daniel Day Lewis’ towering performance as Lincoln a lock (pictured, left).
Denzel Washington – Flight, Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook, Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln, Hugh Jackman - Les Misérables, Joaquin Phoenix - The Master.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
No clear front-runner, as is often the case with the support players (hence left-field surprises like Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda). Arkin may take the career-vote honours; Waltz and Jones (who did his best work this year in Hope Springs) are past-winners; Hoffman is also Oscar friendly but The Master was wildly divisive. De Niro may takes home the gong, ensuring a trophy for Silver Linings Playbook, which may get swamped elsewhere. Glaring omissions – Leonardo Di Caprio flavoursome bad guy in Django Unchained; John Goodman, who was superb in Argo, Flight and Trouble with the Curve; Javier Bardem’s Skyfall villain; McConaughey again, for Magic Mike or Bernie.
Alan Arkin – Argo, Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained, Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook, Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master, Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln.

BEST ACTRESS
It was too much to hope that the LA-centric AMPAS voters would honour two French actresses here, thus explaining the absence of Marion Cotillard’s highly-touted turn in Rust and Bone; Riva was favoured. The octogenarian aside, the category reflects a refreshing acceptance of the new young wave of leading ladies; no Meryl Streep (Hope Springs), Maggie Smith (Quartet), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) or Judi Dench (Skyfall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour, Jennifer Lawrence (pictured, right) - Silver Linings Playbook, Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty, Quvenzhané Wallis - Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Naomi Watts - The Impossible.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will probably be the category that allows AMPAS to tip its hat to the love it/hate it musical Les Misérables; Hathaway’s better-than-expected turn as Catwoman will also help her chances. Notable no-shows include Nicole Kidman, who had season momentum for her sad small town tramp in Lee Daniel’s The Paperboy; National Board of Review winner Ann Dowd from Craig Zobel’s Compliance; and, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s reforming alcoholic in James Ponsoldt’s Smashed.   
Amy Adams - The Master, Anne Hathaway - Les Misérables, Helen Hunt - The Sessions, Sally Field – Lincoln, Jacki Weaver - Silver Linings Playbook.

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Some big names missed out here - Ice Age 4, The Lorax, Rise of the Guardians, Madagascar 3, the wonderful Hotel Transylvania. Brave has the popular vote and Pixar has the runs on the board, but the pick of this category is Frankenweenie. Will AMPAS honour the brilliant career of Tim Burton with a nod for his pet project (no pun intended)? Good - the category contains three hand-configured stop-motion works; bad - a tad all-American. Apparently no room for short-listed works such as Japan's beautiful From Up on Poppy Hill, France's The Painting or U.K's A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman (below, the film's trailer).
Brave; Frankenweenie; Paranorman; The Pirates!; Wreck-it-Ralph.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Hobbit could find no love in this category, and it needed to as an indicator as to which side of the ‘brilliant/indulgent’ argument the Academy sided with. Hard to see where Beasts... will find traction if not here, but there is the behemoth that is Tony Kushner’s Lincoln script to contend with. The ‘old-man institution’ tag fits the Academy’s bias when superb portraits of teenager angst such as Stephen Chbosky’s reworking of his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower are overlooked.   
Chris Terrio – Argo, Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin - Beasts Of The Southern Wild , David Magee - Life Of Pi, Tony Kushner – Lincoln, David O. Russell - Silver Linings Playbook.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
If AMPAS want to honour Haneke with more than just the night’s Foreign Film honours, it will be here. Would be too edgy for the voting members to honour another of Tarantino's ‘n-word’ littered scripts. John Gatin’s Flight over Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is this categories most egregious miscalculation.
Michael Haneke – Amour, Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained, Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola - Moonrise Kingdom, Mark Boal - Zero Dark Thirty, John Gatins – Flight.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Claudio Miranda’s contribution to the mostly-CGI Life of Pi is hard to pin down to casual observers. Richardson perfectly captured old-school western iconography through his lens and may be Django’s sole winner. But if Lincoln takes picture honours, these top-tier tech categories could easily follow suit.
Anna Karenina - Seamus McGarvey (pictured, right), Django Unchained - Robert Richardson, Life Of Pi - Claudio Miranda, Lincoln - Janusz Kaminski, Skyfall - Roger Deakins.

COSTUME DESIGN
Heartening to see the specific skills of Ishioka and Atwood honoured in otherwise poorly received works; would have been entirely fair to see Kym Barrett’s and Pierre-Yves Gayraud’s work on the equally maligned Cloud Atlas similarly honoured. Maybe Les Mis, probably Lincoln.
Anna Karenina - Jacqueline Durran, Les Misérables - Paco Delgado, Lincoln - Joanna Johnston, Mirror Mirror - Eiko Ishioka, Snow White And The Huntsman - Colleen Atwood.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
As great as it is to see outside bolters like 5 Broken Cameras (pictured, left) make the cut, the absence of Bully, West of Memphis and, in particular, The Imposter, hurts this category’s credibility. With several awards in the bag already, expect Searching for Sugar Man to pip the The Gatekeepers.
5 Broken Cameras, The Gatekeepers, How To Survive A Plague, The Invisible War, Searching For Sugar Man.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Inocente, Kings Point, Mondays At Racine, Open Heart, Redemption

BEST FILM EDITING
William Goldenberg’s masterful touch with Ben Affleck’s handheld aesthetic will earn Argo the nod.
Argo - William Goldenberg, Life Of Pi - Tim Squyres, Zero Dark Thirty - Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg, Lincoln - Michael Kahn, Silver Linings Playbook - Jay Cassidy & Crispin Struthers.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Not even the Harvey Weinstein touch could up mega-hit The Intouchables into consideration. Haneke’s time has come; Amour will win. But why no Asia Pacific films in the mix? Are AMPAS members missing out? Or is the region’s cinema just in a creative lull? Hong Kong’s Life Without Principle, India’s Barfi! and Thailand’s Headshot all must have come close, right?   
Amour – Austria, Kon-Tiki – Norway (trailer, below), No – Chile, A Royal AffairDenmark, War Witch - Canada


BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
The vastness of the task she faced and the skill with which she brings it off should ensure Lisa Westcott’s efforts on Les Misérables are rewarded.
Hitchcock - Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater; Les Misérables - Lisa Westcott.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
He has four Oscars, but John Williams hasn’t won since 1994 (despite being nominated 17 times since then!) Certain to be one of Lincoln’s gongs.
Anna Karenina - Dario Marianelli, Argo - Alexandre Desplat, Life Of Pi - Mychael Danna, Lincoln - John Williams, Skyfall - Thomas Newman.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
The year’s sleeper hit, Ted, gets its only nod here so may be rewarded (director Seth McFarlane has clearly wooed AMPAS power-brokers to get the hosting gig). But Adele’s Skyfall theme song is a classic Bond tune in a year when Bond hit big and celebrates its 50th anniversary.
'Before My Time' from Chasing Ice, 'Everybody Needs A Best Friend' from Ted, 'Pi's Lullaby' from Life Of Pi, 'Skyfall' from Skyfall, 'Suddenly' from Les Miserables


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Traditionally where the historical epics are rewarded, meaning this category is between Anna Karenina (did enough voters see it?), Les Misérables (did enough voters like it?) and Lincoln (will the inevitable backlash have kicked in by then?). Probably Lincoln...
Anna Karenina, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables, Life Of Pi, Lincoln

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Having only seen Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare and Paperman (pictured, left), it’s tough to make a call. Paperman accompanied Wreck it Ralph into cinemas and offered more magic over its few minutes than all of the feature presentation, so I’ll side with it for now.
Adam and Dog, Fresh Guacamole, Head Over Heels, Maggie Simpson In The Longest Daycare, Paperman.

BEST LIVE FILM SHORT
Asad, Buzkashi Boys, Curfew, Death Of A Shadow, Henry

BEST SOUND EDITING
The ultra-realism of Zero Dark Thirty does not come easy and its stunning soundscape may see it take the category here. Although, the same could be said of Argo...
Argo, Django Unchained, Life Of Pi, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty.

BEST SOUND MIXING
Skyfall’s five nominations mean that it has already wowed the tech guild AMPAS members, so expect it to take a few of these below-the-line honours. Unless it’s a Lincoln sweep...
Argo, Les Miserables, Life Of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Given the whole movie is a ‘special effect’, this will be Life of Pi’s trophy. The Dark Knight Rises and the otherwise well-received The Amazing Spiderman were unlucky.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey , Life Of Pi, The Avengers , Prometheus , Snow White And The Huntsman.


Tuesday
Dec112012

LIVING IN ALLEN TOWN - THE SOPHIE LELLOUCH INTERVIEW

A life-long obsession with the wit and wisdom of Woody Allen has led to French director Sophie Lellouch's film debut, the eccentric Parisian romantic-comedy Paris Manhattan. In her charmingly staggered version of English, she discusses her first feature, stars Patrick Bruel and Alice Taglioni and directing her idol.

Screen-Space: What inspires you most about the works of Woody Allen? Why is he such an important author/artist/filmmaker?

Lellouch: Because I think he answers with the very words I imagine. Do you understand? When you watch a Woody Allen work, you can see and believe that everything is possible. He is a director that works a lot with dreams, poetry and the imaginary. When I saw, for the first time, The Purple Rose of Cairo, it was a shock because I remember as a young girl a dream I had to be inside of a movie, to be part of a movie. And it’s weird because a lot times and for a lot of people, he makes true your fantasy. Even for this movie, Paris Manhattan, I was inspired by Play It Again, Sam. (After that film), everyone was dreaming of having Humphrey Bogart as a friend, to help you seduce women. I immediately imagined Woody Allen as my friend.

Screen-Space: Did you ever tell Mr Allen of the depth of your adoration for him?

Lellouch: No, no. I was too shy and I think he was very shy also. We would exchange some nice words. He would say, “So, this is your first movie?” So, no, I never told him but I think he may have figured it out by now (laughs).

Screen-Space: We should get this question out of the way, I suppose. What is your favourite Woody Allen film?

Lellouch: Right now, it is Midnight in Paris. It is a beautiful, beautiful Woody Allen movie.

Screen-Space: Allen is often guilty of casting actors who are then called upon to do their own version of Allen, such as Kenneth Brannagh in Celebrity or John Cusack in Bullets Over Broadway. In casting Alice Taglioni as your leading lady, how determined were you that she would resemble or even mimic you?

Lellouch: Alice and I (pictured, right; on-set, from l-r, Patrick Bruel, Lellouch and Taglioni, seated) spent a lot of time together and she very clearly understood what I needed. Alice is not at all like her character; she is not a dreamer, she is very rehearsed and responsible. But she understood and she is very good actress. But it is true that sometimes when I saw her, I would think it is me. It is true! When you know Alice in real life, you realise her character is not her but the more I looked the more I was able to see what she was doing with the character and what she was doing with me and my words. She is a very good actress.

Screen-Space: Working with someone as experienced as your leading man, Patrick Bruel, must have been a thrill. What did he bring to both the role and the set?

Lellouch: Patrick is very charming, very natural and authentic. I needed that for the character. I needed someone who was able to fit in everywhere. When ‘Victor’ is invited for the dinner, you don’t feel uncomfortable for him; he certainly doesn’t seem uncomfortable. There is no place for him, but he still eats and he talks. He is at ease everywhere. And that’s Patrick. He has lots of qualities so it was easy working with him.

Screen-Space: You directed the very well-received short, Dieu, que la nature est bien faite!, in 1999. Some reports say you were disheartened by a tough shoot. Why the long gap between projects?

Lellouch: No, it wasn’t tough. Time, for me, is not something that is very concrete. For thirteen years, time was very good for me and I didn’t feel its passage. But the moment I felt older, I decided to make the step and make the movie. Do you understand? I am a real dreamer, not really into real life, so I didn’t have a real one year or two year strategy. Now, I am a bit more like that (laughs). And life was different, too. I had children so my life was more focussed on that. I did not feel the urgency to make a movie. I knew it would come later.

Screen-Space: So you chose as your return to directing a project that featured your idol, Mr Allen. Describe that first day on set. Did you ever have to say “Cut! Woody, can we do that one more time...?”

Lellouch: (Laughs) It was crazy! It was my first day on my first movie, so I wasn’t going to say “No, no good! Repeat please!” (laughs) I would have to do a first and second take, but it was more for Patrick (laughs). He was not the usual Patrick. He was there but he would take me aside and say, “This is hard!” It is very unusual to be playing alongside Woody Allen; we were all startstruck. But Mr Allen was perfect. He knew his text and he would always lighten the mood. He was very generous.

Paris Manhattan will be in Australian cinemas on December 13.