Visible in the cinema, “The Last Trip” by Romain Quirot transports French cinema to other horizons with an ambitious, passionate and impressive first science fiction film. Meeting with the director.
Winner of the short film prize at the Audi Talents Awards in 2014, Romain Quirot impressed the jury with The Last Voyage by the enigmatic Paul WR. A project that contains a post-apocalyptic and lyrical world with a singular tone and ambitious special effects. Seven years later, the filmmaker unveils the feature film, simply titled The Last Trip, in which he finds Hugo Becker, who is reprising his role of Paul WR AlloCine was able to meet the director during the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival in August 2020, where this crazy bet was presented in preview. Interview.
AlloCiné: How did you get started in the adventure of this film, which was initially a short film?
Romain Quirot: When I took part in the Audi Talents Awards in 2014, I thought to myself: “If you win, you make a feature film. “Receiving this award was a real relief because in France, making a sci-fi short film is very complicated. Fortunately, we had good visibility thanks to the festivals in which it was presented. But very quickly , there was a frustration, we had to lay the foundation stones of a universe, we were just starting to play with it and there was a will to continue.
I had the beginning of a story on the flight of a man, accompanied by a teenage girl. I made sure that this idea of road movie can relate to the world of Paul WR. We added a character that we only evoke in the short film, Lucie. In this film, I wanted her to become a strong heroine, who is played by Lya Oussadit-Lessert.
France offers few films like yours. How difficult was this project to carry out?
Coming up and putting on a movie like that was crazy. But I wanted to go all the way. I thought : “You can’t complain and say that you don’t see enough genre films in France, if it is to finally align yourself with the others.“It’s fundamental that a generation tries things out. So yes, the production was a nightmare from start to finish. story-boarding mounting. Fortunately, I had a great team and producers who believed in it, but on the financial side, we felt that there was a fear.
We even asked ourselves the question of doing it in English because it was so compartmentalized with us. But it was important that the film be French. For example, only here could you create an old flying Peugeot. And then there is a personal dimension. It’s a first film that I’ve been wearing since the short film, but even long before that. I would say since childhood because I made comics and digging through my old drawings, I found elements that were found, unconsciously, in my film.
On the set, it was worse than a sprint, we slept 2 hours a night.
The Last Voyage is a highly referenced work, which evokes a lot the cinema of the 1980s and 1990s. What were your inspirations?
I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s and was very marked by American cinema. But I wanted to approach science fiction in a poetic way and use codes that we all know, such as flying cars or the hero who saves the world, to better divert them. I wanted to mix the spectacular with the intimate. In terms of inspirations, I turned as much to The little Prince as the works of writer Ray Bradbury.
You shot in Morocco. The landscapes of the film are full of impressive special effects. How did you work on the artistic direction and on these many plans?
Everything has been thought of upstream. I drew, for several months, each image, each plan. Everything you see has been storyboarded. We had to be as precise as possible because we only had about 20 days to shoot. Which is very little. The shooting was efficient because I was framing myself so I instilled a rhythm in the technical team and the actors. On the set it was worse than a sprint, we slept 2 hours a night. There was a real dynamic and I hope it is felt in the film.
The special effects were made by a French company?
Yes, by Digital District. The post-production was very long because there are a lot of effects. We were supported by one of our producers, David Danesi, who put a lot of energy into the project. It’s a film made with passion. But it is not enough to have successful special effects. They also had to correspond to the sensitivity of the film, to its universe.
You will find part of the team for your short film, but also new arrivals, such as Jean Reno and Philippe Katerine …
I like the idea of being faithful, of pursuing an adventure alongside the people with whom I grew up. It was important for me to embark Hugo Becker, who plays Paul WR, and Etienne Forget, who composes the music, in this new stage. We needed new characters so we organized castings. For the role of Elma, I met a lot of actresses and Lya’s profile became obvious. She had a spontaneity that was perfect for the movie. On Eliott’s side, I needed an actor who could be funny, but also a little creepy. Paul Hamy is a bit crazy, he is very generous, he offers and tries a lot of things, it was a real pleasure to work with him.
I was very lucky to have Jean Reno. For this role of father, a sort of French Elon Musk, you needed someone who could carry this character with credibility and a certain international influence. And Jean Reno is also a nod to all his cult films that we have in mind. He’s a very touching actor because he has something poetic about him. As for Philippe Katerine, I wanted to have this somewhat fanciful radio host. I had thought of artists like Orelsan or Romeo Elvis, but ultimately, Philippe Katerine is the one who came closest to this character. He has such madness and such sensitivity.
Are you working on another project?
Between the short and the long, I wrote a saga of novels for young adults called Gary Cook. It takes place in a futuristic world covered in water. It’s a bit like the marine equivalent of Paul WR (laughs). It’s a story that focuses more on the upheaval of youth, the end of the world as well as the end of childhood. We are in the process of developing the adaptation of these books in series. I also have other projects with my producers, who are crazy enough to trust me.
Interview by Thomas Desroches, in Angoulême, in August 2020.