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Comme Une Image d'Agnès Jaoui

By Connell Patricia

LOOK AT ME (Comme Une Image)

A film by Agnes Jaoui
Starring Jean-Pierre Bacri, Marilou Berry and Agnes Jaoui

Running time:110 minutes
French with English subtitles

Released by Pathe Distribution on November 5th 2004

The story

Lolita (Marilou Berry) is 20 years old, over-weight and under-confident. Like all 'children', she is desperate for attention and approval from her father Etienne (Jean-Pierre Bacri) who is divorced from her mother. Etienne is monstrously egocentric, as a successful novelist surrounded by friends who indulge his unpleasantness and pander to his every whim, he has no discernible need to treat his daughter - or even his beautiful young wife Karine (Virginie Desarnauts) - with either respect or kindness. Into this tangled web over the course of one summer fall Sylvia (Agnès Jaoui), Lolita's singing teacher, her husband Pierre (Laurent Grévill) whose writing is admired by Etienne, and Sébastien (Keine Bouhiza), a young man whom Lolita meets by chance in the street.... resulting in a sophisticated, funny and engaging film from the Oscar-nominated director of Le Goât des Autres (The Taste of Others). Winner of the Best Screenplay award at Cannes, Comme Une Image explores notions of self-image, the misplaced perceptions we have of others, the corrupting influence of fame, and above all the way in which the ties that bind us can so easily work to hold us back. It boasts an ensemble of excellent performances and a superb classical score.

Our Opinion

What a great film! Wonderful comedy which once again shows that the Bacri and Jaoui combination works in every way. The film is amazingly clever and the story, intricate to the point of perfection.
The difficult relationship between father and daughter is sensitively portrayed and more than one teenage girl will feel compassion for the daughter and may even recognise herself in the character. The script helps you to understand what many stars' children probably have to endure every day of their life: How can they ever be sure that people befriend them because of themselves and not because of their mother or father? Marilou Berry (Josianne Balasco's daughter) gives a great performance in a part that was not easy to tackle. A great future lies ahead of her. How many times these days do we see 'real' (not the skinniest or the most beautiful) girls in big parts? The award at Cannes was well deserved.

You can't afford to miss it. We loved it.

To view where the film is shown

Interview with Jean-Pierre Bacri

The interview is being held at the new Soho Hotel (the place has only been opened a few weeks and even the black cab driver does not know where it is) and I am late. Not a good start! I have heard so much about Bacri and seen all his latest films and yet I have trouble imagining what sort of man he is. Is he more an Etienne (Comme une image) or a Castella (Le goât des Autres)...?

He's there: perfectly shaven, nicely dressed (smart casual of course) and looks slightly uneasy.

FranceInLondon (FIL)
I saw your movie of course and I loved it. You have had amazing reviews so far and Cannes of course. Why do you think that your association with Agnès Jaoui works so well?

Jean-Pierre Bacri (JPB)
I have an opinion about it in the same way that one has an idea about how people meet (pause) absolutely none. (Laughs)
You know what a first encounter is like? It just happens like that, by accident, by chance. You just meet in a room and then you realise that you get on well with the person you have just met. You see the world in a similar way. You have similar important values, and your interaction is so good that you end up discussing things together and as you are discussing them you think that perhaps you could create something together. You try to write together and as you are trying you realise that it's working. Purely by chance.
You can meet someone and that person does not interest you or on the other hand you can meet someone and something happens between you.

Did you have similar working methods from the start? As you progressed did you identify a better working method than another.
Yes, we have a working method that we have found empirically because we had never written together. I had written myself. We had to invent together a method that fitted for us both. It was very much trial and error at the start and we were doing all sorts: we were writing the dialogue before the rest because we were in a hurry then we realised it did not work so we tried something else and eventually we found that the best way to do it was to start with the subject matter, then the characters and so on...
Whilst writing the script for Comme une image, did you have more difficulty with some of the characters than with others?
The difficulty we experienced was more to do with fitting the characters in the interaction they were having with others. The hard work came from the web that we were trying to create between all the stories that were going to cross each other. The characters are chosen before we begin to write the story because we know that they will become useful.
As you know we like to elaborate, make the paths cross. That's the complicated part.

For your film, you chose a father and daughter relationship. It is much more common to see a father and son or a mother and daughter relationship. It is also relatively rare to see portrayed in such a vivid way a father that ignores his daughter to such an extent.
It's rare because you probably had the chance not to meet the same characters as I have. (Laughs)
I was just about to ask you whether this was seen from a personal viewpoint. Have you experienced it personally, have you seen it around you?
It is more or less personal because we have seen it a lot around us. You have met women before who all their lives go out with older men. You know then that they've had unresolved issues. I have frequently seen the case of young women who are 20, 30, 40 who are not stupid and yet they are still waiting for their father's approval or blessing practically all their lives. They still need to cut the umbilical cord. It's not only with a mother that this needs happening.
I see it a lot. I see some extraordinarily unhappy girls. You are perhaps lucky enough to know only wonderfuland united families but we can't be living in the same world. (laughs)

In this case, you have pushed it to the extreme.
Yes but the egocentricity can be found everywhere not only in show business or amongst writers. I am sure that you can find it amongst people you work with.
I can think of a few and not only men but also women.
But of course. It is power that does that. If I have the power then it becomes extremely easy to use it. Some will use it like Hitler others will use it intelligently and in a civilised way. When you have the power and that you say to someone: ' What you are doing is absolutely awful', This is tyranny to some extent. It is tyranny because if you have the power and that you speak to someone like that nobody can say anything. However, if you are in the street and that you say that to someone they may say: ' What gives you the right to speak to me in this way?' It is a relationship between the one who bullies and one who is bullied.

This is something that you show in the taxi at the start of the film when Lolita is badly treated by the taxi driver and says nothing and then her.
Yes, we often do this. We show a little scene that summarises in a way the subject that we are going to be developing in the film.
Did you have Marilou Berry in mind when you were writing the script?
No, it was at the casting, a very long casting, that we found her. We saw tens of girls.
So was it by chance?
There were tons of actresses who were fat, one of which was called Lolita. We did not take her because she was not right. We picked Marilou, without knowing who she was. We found out later. She had a presence and that was what we liked about her. We did not play on her family background. Her talent was enough. When you see her on the screen you know she is right.

She's excellent. Because of her family background, has she experienced anything like Lolita, people pushing her off to get to her mother for instance? Has she mentioned it to you?
She told us that it reminded her of many moments and many people
She never went into too many details. Marilou is someone with a certain restraint. Do you mind if I smoke?
I particularly liked Sebastian. The character is very touching. Although the part is small, it is nevertheless critical. He is the only who stays true to himself regardless. Why him?
Some people are profoundly honest and respectful of others from a very young age. I'm like that. I was brought up in this way. My father was always telling me about respect, honesty...There was one phrase he used that comes to mind: `the president or the street cleaner are both men and therefore should be treated in the same way. I was brought up thinking that way. Of course, others may not have been. They may have been brought up in the `city jungle' and eventually discover, and I know some fortunately, which is reassuring, they discover that this modus operandi is not for them and they become honest. Because they have read, they have learnt something else.
Sebastian cannot stand not being respected, this is partly the reason why he loses face in the bar. He finally reacts at the right time. And Sylvia (Agnes Jaoui), who has ambition and who wants to succeed but eventually realises that there is a limit to what she will accept. At the beginning you could think that she has less scruples than him, she is pushing him and yet in the end, she is the one who says stop because she is losing all her friends and that this is not what she wants because this is not her. She tries to tell her husband and he is completely deaf to her plea.
I like people like that who have their own beliefs and who are true to themselves.

At the beginning of the film, you can't help thinking that she is completely unscrupulous and as time goes by, her personality comes out in a more positive way. I loved the scene where before she leaves Etienne's house she puts Lolita's tape on really loud for her father to listen to her.
Yes, she wants him to hear it despite himself. It's beautiful.
You have an extraordinary facility in playing different characters. In `Le Goât des Autres, You are not particularly friendly, a sort of idiot who ends up being a nice guy.
Absolutely, he enters a world he does not know and becomes passionate about it and he wants to find out more. He asks himself questions about his life. What does he do amongst those pretty flowers? Is there something else out there?
He is the opposite of the self-obsessed man that is Etienne.
I went from a very friendly to a very unfriendly part.
You have done exactly the opposite for both parts. You started with a guy who is rather nice and who becomes dreadful and vice versa for `Le Goât des Autres'.
As the actor, what was it like to play Etienne?
I see this type of guy an awful lot and I cannot stand them. Initially, there was a possibility for me to play Sylvia's husband but we quickly decided that this was probably not the best part for me.
Did you find any one scene more challenging than the others?
The scene where he is in bed, crying after his wife has left him. We filmed it at the beginning and I really was not fully into my part. I had to take a lot on myself to cry at that point.
Were there scenes that you had to change from the script?
Not really but we had to cut a lot at the end. The film was 3 hours long initially. It's always difficult to make cuts.


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