UniFrance: You know Japan through often coming here to accompany Anne Fontaine, and also Patrice Leconte, among others. What do you feel about the Japanese love for film and its relationship to French cinema? It's always talked about as a Francophile and "specialized" country.
First of all, we are talking about a country with a large population, of a considerable size, and among these 125 million inhabitants, there are indeed moviegoers and Francophiles. But to go from there to speak about a strong trend is a little exaggerated, it is just that when the Japanese are passionate about something, they develop a sense of acute perfectionism, they study thoroughly whatever interests them, and they have great knowledge, all of this acquired through modern technological means. Hence when they know a subject, they know it extremely well. Or they don't know it at all!
Do you have any particular memories about one of your films in Japan? Did something happen at the moment of Coco Before Chanel, which was a tremendous success here (629,000 admissions) ?
Strangely enough, I didn't make that trip – which had been organized by Warner – with Anne Fontaine and Audrey Tautou. So I didn't live through that moment, but on the other hand I remember a highly spectacular moment with Nathalie, again by Anne Fontaine and starring Emmanuelle Béart, who was then at the height of her fame. Her trip here generated considerable excitement, with autograph hunters lurking in the most improbable places. I felt like I was with Johnny Hallyday or John Lennon.
What I've also always been struck by, during the two or three releases that I've accompanied, is the quality of Japanese press books, which are exceptionally well-researched, illustrated, laid out. They are genuine works of art, and yet, in principle, they don't concern anymore specialist journalists in Japan than in France. There would be even less for French films. And the fact that the Japanese go to such lengths for marketing details destined for sixty people has always amazed me.
Do you think Reinventing Marvin will finally find a distributor in Japan? It was one of the few films without a local distributor presented in the festival.
Interested distributors were in the theater the day the film screened, and the sales agent, TF1 Studio, is fairly confident. But there is a double reticence surrounding this film, not necessarily only in Japan: there are those who are afraid or not interested in the subject – repressed homosexuality – and others who, on the contrary, feel that the subject is fundamental but that cinema should not treat a serious subject of this kind in a fictional film with a view to entertainment. It received a positive reception here, even though, during the discussion after the film, no questions were asked about the main theme. I don't know whether this is a good or bad sign. It's a film that is selling relatively well, little by little, but in conditions that are no doubt less relaxed than for other films by Anne, who has become an export champion since Coco Before Chanel, which very clearly allowed her to cross a threshold and to appear on the radar of many distributors. Whether in Japan or elsewhere, distribution is a job without rules, and when a film doesn't have a clearly defined audience, it can provoke a bit of a herd mentality effect. We go where the herd goes! When a filmmaker makes one of the five most successful French-language films of the last twenty years in many countries, she is bound to be more scrutinized than others. A huge success changes everything, it creates habits for the films that follow, whose results are closely observed. It's very clear in Japan. Anne has often had different distributors here. This country is no longer – because it has been – hugely loyal in terms of distribution, but, in a certain way, so much the better. The fact that a distributor remains loyal to a filmmaker despite everything is of course very heartening, but it also creates moral and tactical obligations that are not always pleasant to experience – if only for the reason that if someone were to offer a higher price for a film you don't dare pull it from another distributor who has remained loyal to you for ten years. Although less loyalty is cruel for some, it's not such a bad thing. Each film must find its proper distributor.