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Culture

Le temps qui reste

By Patricia Connell
11/04/2006

Time to Leave (Le temps qui reste)


We went, we saw, we were moved.

This is the type of films in front of which you cannot stay without emotions. At every turn, there is a twist in the story. You know that Jerome (Melvil Poupaud) is dying and that there is no cure and yet Ozon manages to have him making peace with himself in a different way that you would generally be expecting. The acting is amazing. Let’s not forget that it’s an 18 and that some scenes are pretty explicit and crude.
Not for the faint hearted.


Interview with Melvil Poupaud by Patricia Connell


I arrive at the Sofitel St James in London and I am told that Melvil has had a great time the previous night and only went to bed at 5am. Interviews started at 10am and it’s now 5pm. I am thinking that this may be a short but interesting interview. The door opens and he is wearing dark glasses. He immediately removes them. I can’t help saying what I have heard downstairs. He laughs. He is all dressed in black, rather handsome, and not as tall as I thought he would be but not as skinny as in the last few scenes of the film. He had obviously lost a lot of weight for the part. He his no longer wearing the dark locks that you see on the poster. His hair has been cut very short. Pity! I liked the locks.
 I get straight into the subject.

Franceinlondon
It must have been a tremendous opportunity for an actor to be given this great part? It’s the story of a fashion photographer who discovers that he has a terminal illness with no possible cure. He knows that he is dying and takes his life in his own hands to make peace with himself.


Melvil Poupaud
Indeed, I was very lucky. It’s not everyday that you are given a big part such as this one. I was very pleased to get it but I suddenly got very scared before shooting.

FIL
Why scared?

MP
Suddenly, I realised the enormity of the part and I realised that every scene was going to test my acting and some scenes more than others. I was going to have to cry a lot, experience pain and be both a rather hard guy but also sensitive underneath all that.
Not an easy part at all.

FIL
It was your first film with François Ozon. How did you get the part?

MP
François had seen some of the stuff I had done in the past and similarly I had seen some of his films we both appreciated each other’s work. He had initially approached me for two other films for one I was too young and another one I turned it down before going to the casting because it was too homosexual: I had to French kiss an older guy and quite frankly I was not that keen on the idea. On occasions when I saw him after that I thought that he was holding a grudge but he wasn’t.  I think I probably did the right thing because in the end he gave me a big part in a major film instead of starting on smaller parts with him.

FIL
What was it like working with Ozon?

MP
It was absolutely great! We really got on straight from the start and I really felt part of a team. He was always asking my opinion even when we got down to details such as putting together the poster for the film.

FIL
I suppose it’s quite important to get on well with your main character especially when your main character is in every scene.

MP
Yes, you’d better. It would be quite dreadful if you fell out or just didn’t get on.

FIL
What about working with Jeanne Moreau? What was it like to be working with a ‘Grande Dame’ of French Cinema?

MP
It was just wonderful. I was quite intimidated initially but then I started asking loads of questions about her career about herself, some very personal. But she always answered and this got me closer to her. Her acting is just so amazing and she was so generous and easy going. She is still so beautiful. She really does not look like a grandmother.
What I liked about Ozon was the fact that even with Jeanne Moreau, he got her to re-do her scenes even when they were perfect and that made me feel that we were placed on the same level. It made things easier.

FIL
There were two scenes in particular that I liked one is when you are with her; and the other one is where you tell her about your illness and she asks you why you tell her and not the others and you respond with: ‘because you are also going to die soon.’
And the other is when she is in bed obviously wearing not very much and you tell her that you would like to sleep next to her that night. She responds with: ‘you know I sleep naked’ and you say  ‘Don’t worry, I won’t look’.

MP
You know, it’s because of her that these lines were introduced in the script.
Ozon asked her what she should wear for the scene and what she normally wore in bed and she said: ‘You know I sleep naked’.

FIL
Only Jeanne Moreau could get away saying something like that.
The time Jerome spends with his grandmother is the only time that he his himself not pretending to be someone else, not hiding, just telling how he feels.

MP
They are the key scenes of the film.
Jerome is rather screwed up.

FIL
Precisely, there is no indication on why he is screwed up. He seems to have had a normal childhood.

MP
Yes, very close to his sister and no one knows why they are not so close anymore and one can only imagine why. But this is true of other moments in the film. For instance, without giving too much away, at the end of the film, you can still imagine whatever end you wish. Catherine Deneuve and Jeanne Moreau for instance thought that Jerome would get up, and by some miracle get better and carry on living.

FIL
This is a very optimistic way of looking at it.
I really liked that contrast between his dark life, club sado-maso at night and his normal life when he looks at kids playing in the park, walks on the beach.

MP
Yes, this shows that even guys who have some strange sexual inclinations can lead a normal life the rest of time. They can like kids and the beach.

FIL
It must have been quite hard for everyone to film down in the club sado-maso.

MP
It was not hard to act but it was tuff on the system because of the filming conditions. It was 8am and we were down three floors underground, no natural light, stuffy with guys who were wearing leather. Some of the crew got rather sick during some scenes. Imagine that you know that this is really going on down there every night. It’s rather disturbing.
What was strange however was that after a few hours, people who had been recruited from the club scene became more or less like everyone else. They got bored of standing around and were going for coffees and stuff like that.

What’s amazing with Ozon, is that with issues such as this one, he manages to show them and make some pretty hard statement about life and yet they are well received. He is showing a club sado-maso, a guy taking coke as a matter of course, a grand-mother saying that she left her son when her husband died to get into bed with many men to save herself from destruction…Pretty hard stuff and yet no one judges.

FIL
Absolutely, Ozon manages to surprise every time. For instance, when you have accepted to be the genitor for this couple who cannot have a child. You find yourself in bed with her, he is in the room and all three of you end up in bed together. I never began to imagine that this scene would end like that. It was an interesting twist to the story. Ozon presents it in such a way that it becomes totally acceptable.

FIL
Any future projects?

MP
Yes. I have a part in an American movie, which will be filmed in the US. It’s the first time that I will be filming there. I have been once before in an American production but it was filmed in France.

FIL
This will be very different to film in the States.

MP
Yes, it will be but this is not one of those Hollywood multi-million dollar projects. But still it will be very different.

FIL
I’m told your English is very good.

MP
Really who told you that.

FIL
A number of people.

MP
Well, this is really kind and I’m really pleased about it because I really try hard.

FIL
Well obviously it will help you for your part.

MP
Actually, I have been asked to play the part with a heavy French accent.

FIL
And after that any other projects?

MP
A Marguerite Duras play in 2007.

FIL
Have you ever done theatre before?

MP
No, it will be a first.

I leave the room and yet he has another interviewer waiting. Tonight, the partying continues.

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