Can you tell us about your close ties with Japan? Do you remember the first time you came here?
Yes, of course. It was for the release of A Man and a Woman, and I remember a little story from that time. I always wake up very early, and one morning I went for a run in the streets of Tokyo. It was around 8 a.m. and I noticed that in one street there was a huge line of people queueing up. I wondered what they were doing there, so I followed the queue, only to discover that they were waiting for the opening of the movie theater to see none other than A Man and a Woman! I didn't know people could see movies so early! That's my first memory of Tokyo, and after that I must have come back five or six times, once to present Challenge in the Snow, a film about the Olympic Games that made a big impression on people here, then again for Bolero, Chances or Coincidences, and Le Courage d'aimer with UniFrance around twelve years ago. Also, Pierre Barouh, someone I was very fond of and spent a lot of time with, was married to a Japanese woman, and he helped me discover a lot of sides of Japan through the short films he made here. So, I've always felt a certain closeness to Japanese culture in my own life. My connection with this country is a very friendly one. The music composed by Francis Lai has had a big impact in Japan, so I like to think that we've left an impression here.
Of all of your films, is A Man and a Woman the one that Japanese movie enthusiasts know the best?
It's not the only one. Bolero can also account for a big part of my connection with this country. The film was re-titled Boléro [original French title: Les Uns et les Autres]. Japan is a country where audiences are very interested in matters of the heart. Japanese people are very sentimental, and I think that my films speak to them in a very direct way. In 2016, the French Embassy organized a big celebration around the 50th anniversary of the release of A Man and a Woman, although I was unfortunately unable to travel to Japan for it. But, you know, I live so much more in the present and the future, and, ultimately, I leave the past for my children and grandchildren, who one day might be able to have some fun with my films ... I am, personally, still working on the creative side of things, like with the film workshops I organize in Beaune, which make it possible to bring together industry professionals and amateur filmmakers in a serious learning environment aimed at making films. I made The Best Years of a Life and my upcoming film, La Vertu des impondérables, through this system. The best way in the world to learn is to watch a team of professionals at work.
Jean-Paul De Vidas and Les Films 26 have handled the international sales of your films for some years, but that's all changing now.
Yes, I've now enlisted the services of Metropolitan Filmexport, with whom I made my last three films and who have a good understanding of my work, to take care of the international career of my films. We are currently in the process of restoring my films. Some have already been restored, but we're now completing the catalogue. That means that in the years to come, it will be Metropolitan who will handle the French and international distribution of my films. I hope that by giving people the chance to see these films again, it will inspire them to discover French auteur cinema, not just my films, of course, but also those of other directors, and I don't mean just French films. I don't want to think that there will only be superheroes and super-baddies that can attract the interest of audiences. These kind of characters don't exist. Auteur cinema, on the other hand, shows characters who might be bad guys that become heroes, or the other way around. We are allowed to be one or the other. Just like the man and the woman who meet again after fifty-three years, who are neither one nor the other. They're just looking for love, and they understand that that's the only thing that gives sense to the contradictions of life. To be in love is a moment when this special state of awareness gives us the chance to love someone else more than we love ourselves. It's here that we learn about generosity.