Canailles: why did this comedy with François Cluzet take a long time to see the light of day?

On the occasion of the release of “Canailles” by Christophe Offenstein, here are five things to know about this sarcastic comedy led by François Cluzet, José Garcia and Doria Tillier.

Scoundrels of Christopher Offenstein

With François Cluzet, Jose Garcia, Doria Tillier

What is it about ? Following a heist that went wrong, Antoine, injured in the leg, arrives by force at Elias’s to find a hideout. Nothing destined the robber, a trifle anarchist, to cross paths with this uneventful history teacher. A strange relationship then begins between the two men where influence and complicity mingle. But that was without counting on Lucie, the somewhat special investigator in charge of the case…

Originally a novel…

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Canailles is inspired by the novel Une canaille et demi written by the British Iain Levison and first published in 2006. The director Christopher Offenstein discovered it thanks to François Cluzet (which he spun in Alone) as he recalls:

“After En solitaire, we had considered working together again. We both fell in love with Une Canaille et demi, which seemed to us the right story for a film adaptation. There were all the ingredients for a story that I wanted to tell: the dysfunction of society, the singularity of the characters and the satire of everyday life.”

Long-term adaptation work

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Christopher Offenstein and the screenwriters Narjiss Slaoui, Gabor Rasov and Jonathan Koulavsky struggled to find the right angle of attack since, in the book, the story takes place in the United States (where the cultural codes are very different from ours). The director recalls:

“The interest of the novel resided above all in its psychological dimension and we had to transpose the intrinsic anguish of the characters in order to create grotesque situations, sometimes tender, sometimes tense, sometimes funny.”

“The writing work to adapt this novel was long-term, and after three years of work with the help of Narjiss Slaoui and Jonathan Koulavsky, the screenplay was finalized.”

Narjiss Slaoui adds: “The story was very interesting but it was fundamentally part of a cynical America, hungry for money and recognition. It therefore had to be transposed into a current French context.”

“I met Iain Levinson when he was in Paris and he gave us complete freedom to adapt. (…) Between the moment when the idea for the film arose and the moment of the theatrical release, it is an incredible journey that I discovered at every stage of its construction.”

Spatial framework indeterminate

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Christopher Offenstein voluntarily placed the story of Canailles in an indeterminate space. He explains: “It can happen in the suburbs of a big city as well as in an average provincial town, or even outside France.”

“It also joins my desire to involve the spectator in individual stories, almost like the satisfaction of a guilty pleasure which is that of curiosity. Here we enter the intimacy of this house among the others, in a place where lives seemingly intersect, without ever really revealing themselves.”

American references!

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From baseball to cheerleaders, Christopher Offenstein has chosen to multiply the references to American codes. He wanted to keep these nods to American culture to shift the film a little (especially since these are not the usual situations found in French cinema).

“The presence of the cheerleaders was also a way of representing the evolution of our new generations, whose geographical and cultural differences are increasingly blurred, especially with social networks…”, notes the director.

Aesthetic choices

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Christopher Offensteinthe production designer Olivier Radot and the director of photography Martin De Chabaneix mainly worked on the house of the character of Elias, the main setting of the film. They sought to make the light timeless and geographically imprecise, as the filmmaker explains:

“This approach allowed us to accentuate the humorous dimension. I wanted the film to borrow certain codes from thrillers, but without the torpor being omnipresent. On the contrary, I wanted moments of daily life to avoid any unnecessary excess of suspense. “

“But the main thing was that the natural and the life insinuate themselves everywhere so that we don’t ask ourselves questions and we never know where the film is taking us.”

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