With Icare (but I think he prefers to be known as Courgette), Camille and Simon on show at the Studio des Ursulines in Paris, we took the opportunity to have a quick chat with Claude Barras, the director of My Life as a Courgette.
[Benshi] We know you thanks to your work in the short form. For you, is My Life as a Courgette a switch through the long form or to the long form?
[Claude Barras] I see it more as a switch to the long form, especially as I am currently working on a project very dear to me, an original idea rather than an adaptation this time. That's in terms of directing; as for production, with Hélium Films I'm still working on short film projects, namely, at present, those by Albertine and David Toutevoix, such as La Femme Canon.
[Benshi] You previously worked on a long film in Switzerland with Max & Co by Frédéric and Samuel Guillaume, but that is not the same as directing one.
[C.B] True. For Max & Co I worked on character development during the film making stage. That's very different. But the Guillaume brothers gave me a lot of tips before I undertook the My Life as a Courgette project.
[Benshi] That project took you far from home for a long time, and with a much bigger team.
[C.B] As it happens, I studied in Lyon and have friends there. I also have an emotional bond with the city, which I like very much. Moreover, I was able to ask people whom I'd worked with on previous short films to handle the teams, which they set up themselves. So there wasn't much of a culture shock and it was all quite easy. Beyond that, of course, it took a little while to get the right balance and achieve a certain fluidity.
[Benshi] You've been going around theatres and festivals for a while with this film. What has a struck you most about your meetings with viewers? Have you have been surprised by anything?
[C.B] Yes, I've been pleasantly surprised when I've been in theatres to see that viewers have generally reacted in the same way at the same parts of the film no matter their ages. I think that, along with Céline [Céline Sciamma, the scriptwriter - Ed.], we succeeded in making the film accessible to everyone, avoiding having several layers of interpretation. The idea was to make a film that addresses adults and children in the same way.
[Benshi] On that note, one thing that is quite surprising is the film's slightly "punk" tone. Where does that come from?
[C.B] From me, I think. It goes back to my teenage days. When I read Gilles Paris's book, I imagined it happening in the 1960s and I thought I'd like to move it into the current period. So it's completely paradoxical that I find myself inserting these types of references but the idea was to make a family film, and music can act as a bridge between generations.
[Benshi] Here's a question that we always ask in Red Panda interviews: what films would you recommend to children? It can be old films or one you've seen recently...
[C.B] Wolf Children by Mamoru Hosoda. Or Princess Mononoke, though that one is known much more widely.
[Benshi] There is a close connection between those films; do you have a special fondness for wolves?
[C.B] Let's say that it relates to what I'm interested in at the moment, even if my project has orangutans rather than wolves.
My Life as a Courgette was included in the Directors' Fortnight official selection at the 2016 Cannes festival. The following month it also won an honorary Cristal for feature films and the Audience Award at the Annecy international film festival.