In theaters since Wednesday, “The Innocent” is Louis Garrel’s fourth feature film as a director. A lively comedy worn by Roschdy Zem, Noémie Merlant and Anouk Grinberg.
With Roschdy Zem, Anouk Grinberg, Noemie Merlant…
What is it about ? When Abel learns that his mother Sylvie, in her sixties, is about to marry a man in prison, he panics. Supported by Clémence, his best friend, he will do everything to try to protect her. But the meeting with Michel, his new father-in-law, could well offer Abel new perspectives…
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The story of L’Innocent is reminiscent of that of Louis Garrel and his mother, the actress and director Brigitte Sy. She led theater workshops in prison and married a prisoner. She made this experience the subject of her first feature film, hands free.
According to Louis Garrel, “The Innocent is the story of this marriage from the son’s point of view. It’s a bit of a reverse shot.” He adds: “On the other hand, when my mother got married in prison, I was 18 years old, I was not there. Through this film, I therefore became embedded in her marriage!” Like his character, he spent a long time with prisoners during his adolescence, and got along well with his stepfather.
Despite the autobiographical base of this feature film, he did not want to make it an intimate chronicle but on the contrary to play with the genre, “including that of comedy. To avoid the pathos of the tragic dimension. The relationship of a mother to his son is a difficult thing to deal with in the cinema. It is easy to switch to the visceral. The more light-hearted one is, the better the film and the spectator are doing.”
A variety film
The film’s music is composed of great titles of French variety, such as Pour le Plaisir by Herbert Léonard, Nuit Magique by Catherine Lara, Another Story by Gérard Blanc or I Maschi by Gianni Nannini. It was a question of bathing in the musical universe of the character of the mother.
Louis Garrel Explain : “Francois Truffaut said that people like variety songs because the phrases relate to everyone. Variety song lyricists, in two sentences, it feels like they’re telling our story. I tried to make a “variety” film. Not just the variety of genres but a film that everyone can relate to.”
A long-standing project
Originally, The Innocent was to be the second film by Louis Garrel and succeed to The two friends but the scenario took time to mature. He has meanwhile made The Faithful Man and The crusade.
Garrel started writing alone before being joined by Tanguy Viela writer of “existential detective novels who likes to seize the genre to tell intimate things”, then by Naila Guiguetwith whom he had worked on The crusade. “All this time has been very beneficial for the script,” he says.
Whether Jean-Claude Carrierea loyal collaborator of Garrel, did not participate in the writing, he had however read the scenario: “He suggested two or three things to me, one of which I put in the film: the little cat who licks my shoe and eat the caviar when I’m at the cemetery. He also had very visual screenwriting ideas.”
The Innocent of the title refers to the character of Roschdy Zem then to that of Louis Garrel. The latter explains: “In a way, when you commit an offense for noble reasons, you are a little innocent. Which, I agree, is not very moral in the eyes of the law. It is the famous sentence pronounced in Rules of the Game of John Renoir“The terrible thing about this earth is that everyone has their reasons.”
Louis Garrel appealed to a former thug, Jean-Claude Pautotwho plays in the film the accomplice of Roschdy Zem and the one who directs the rehearsal of the household scene with Noemie Merlant and Garrel for the heist. This former prisoner who served 25 years in prison served as a kind of technical adviser on the set.
A model of the heist set was developed and Pautot rehearsed the scene with his friends, former mobsters, depending on the layout of the premises. “At the end of the day, I realize that if I take their indications into account and want to be realistic, I will not be able to film the scene. There comes a point, in terms of the perception of the scene, of time dilation , alternating editing with the rule of “during this time”, realism prevents cinema. It was an exciting work session, a necessary passage to arrive in the end at a geometry of cinema”, says the director.