On the occasion of “The Last Life of Simon” on CANAL + & myCANAL, find our meeting with the director and screenwriter Léo Karmann and the actor Benjamin Voisin around this first feature film, influenced by American cinema of the 80s and 90s.
- Simon’s Last Life on CANAL + and my CANAL
AlloCiné: Can you pitch Simon’s Last Life for us, and summarize its state of mind?
Léo Karmann, director: The film is about Simon, 8 years old, orphan. Her dream is to have a family. And he has a special power: when he touches someone, he can copy their appearance, as many times as he wants.
It’s a film that is at the same time fantastic, marvelous, romantic… There is even a little bit of thriller. It’s a mix of genres that’s inspired by movies like Spielberg’s ET or Tim Burton’s Edward in the Silver Hands, and maybe a little bit of Stranger Things.
Is it complicated to set up a project like this in France, especially when it is a first feature film?
LK: To set up a project like this in France, you have to have a lot of patience. A lot of patience and determination, because it took 9 years in all, between the first written line and the finished film. When we started to get the idea for the story, the children in the film were not born! We were told for 8 years, with Sabrina B. Karine, the co-writer of the film, that it was not done in France. In France, we don’t do that …
To make cinema geared to the general public, said family, you have to do comedy with big stars in the casting. Either that, or so-called author’s cinema, of subjects. These are two cinemas that I really like, but I find it a shame to deprive yourself of many other genres, and to say to yourself that no, you can’t make family-oriented films if you don’t make comedies. With Sabrina, when we started writing the film, we really wanted to make cinema that looks like the one we grew up with: the cinema of Spielberg, Zemeckis, from the 80s and 90s American, which is not afraid of emotions, who is not afraid of the change of gender, and where really for 1 hour, we dream, we laugh, we cry, and we are also sometimes afraid …
I find it good to go through all these emotions. And when we leave the room, we go from the stomach to the head. We say to ourselves: ‘this tells me something about my life’. It’s really the cinema that we prefer with Sabrina, and that we absolutely wanted to try to do. How do we do ? Well, we hang on, we improve the scenario as much as possible because it’s our only weapon. To make a film in France, that’s what our producer Grégoire Debailly told us, you need one of three weapons, that is to say either a cast of big stars, or a well-known director, or a reinforced concrete scenario. . So, we went back to writing what!
Maybe no stars, but the cast is very promising, new talents in the making, like Camille Claris, Martin Karmann and Benjamin Voisin …
I’m glad they’re stars in the making. I think they deserve it. What was a handicap during the financing of the film became, I think, a strength of the film. We are better able to believe in stories like that a little magical when in addition we do not know the faces that interpret them. I think it would be deserved for Benjamin, Camille and Martin to become stars. I think they are worth it. What was great was that I chose the ones who were the best for me to perform these roles, so good if I wasn’t alone in finding them great.
But I find that we are not really into youth in France. We have a little trouble trusting, whether it is in young directors or technicians, and I find this renewal really important. The team’s average age was 28. We all grew up with the same films. I think we are depriving ourselves of a lot of subjects that we do not trust young directors. Simon’s Last Life, if I had been 40, it wouldn’t have looked like this. It’s still crazy that the average age of first-time directors is 40 years old. It is all the more unfortunate that we cut ourselves off from many subjects.
Benjamin, as an actor, you are in the position of the reader, and you have precisely an overview of the projects that are being done in France …
Benjamin Voisin, actor: I’m pretty lucky. I have the opportunity to read a lot of things, and I am very happy. I still notice that we tend in the cinema to have defined styles: that’s a comedy… This is a drama… I’m at the beginning of my career, but it’s something that begins already bored me. There, I would have to do that, there it would be necessary that … You have to calculate what. It’s a bit boring for a comedian. And when my agent calls me and says: this is a movie, there are different things in it, you have to read. And this is the case with Léo’s film, I read and it is unclassifiable.
The emotions merge and it’s great. I love when in a movie theater you have the opportunity to laugh, cry, be afraid in the same movie… I don’t want to have just one emotion. It doesn’t interest me too much. And as an actor, I also don’t like the idea of playing the same thing for 1.5 hours. When I have the opportunity to be in a story like that, it’s awesome to have so many diverse and varied things.
Léo wants a group, a family, to work together, so I had a blast. It is rare today but I believe it is a movement which is to come. The cinema of tomorrow has this will, and I will be very happy to receive projects as exciting, stimulating, as that of Léo.
It’s crazy to take American cinema, their codes, while keeping French elegance in our game, in our way of working our privacy. When styles merge, and we no longer sell a film because it’s a comedy, because it’s a drama, simply because it’s a film that will convey a lot of different emotions, me , that’s what blows me. There are a lot of people who were scared at the idea of this project, and even today it is struggling to develop. But as soon as it is presented, as a preview or at festivals, people are all won over. But to sell it, this kind of film is quite complicated, because we are told: there is no star, we cannot present the film by saying “it looks like this film” since it is a sort of UFO. It’s Leo’s first film, he’s not yet a star, but he will be, I’m sure of it. But it makes me happy to tend towards that, to go towards a much larger cinema, less tidy in boxes.
The trailer for The Last Life of Simon:
Interview in Paris on January 28, 2020
To discover also
The best movies and series to watch on CANAL +