Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cédric Klapisch's MY PIECE OF THE PIE explores money, employment & obligation; a quick Q&A with the filmmaker

A rom-com drama about French society today -- working class vs. ruling class -- MY PIECE OF THE PIE (Ma part du gâteau) is a smart surprise that points no fingers and makes no judgments but by simply offering up behavior to view lets its audience come to its own conclu-sions. Written and directed by popular French filmmaker Cédric Klapisch the movie also features two resonant per-formances from leads Karin Viard & Gilles Lellouche that are full-bodied and subtly layered to keep us rooting for them both. For awhile, at least.

Eventually that behavior takes its toll, and part of this movie's strength, as well as its charm, can be found in how decently it treats its characters -- who grow and change over the course of the film. Lellouche's Steve (below, right), a would-be "Master of the Universe," seems to humanize under the ministrations of Viard's France (below, left, and aptly named, if a bit symbolic). How these two meet and then learn from each other over the course of the film is rewarding for them, as much as for us. And if a snake remains true to its character, despite occasional moments of non-snakelike behavior, we should not be surprised.

Klapisch begins his film in the provinces where France and her fractured family live, where we experience the rising unemployment level and see it played out in this family. He then takes us to Paris and to the high-life of Steve. We enjoy the change in life-style, must as does France, who soon comes into his employ. By the end we're back in the provinces, where something an awfully lot like Occupy France (the country, not the character) appears to be taking shape.

One of the things that sets Klapisch's film apart is his ability to modulate the tone to fit the scene, thus creating a movie that easily flows from drama to romance to comedy, from politics to economics and sociology, and back again. The filmmaker is usually good at this; here, he is aces.

While the two leads provide the backbone of the film, the subsidiary characters are well handled, too --from the various women who move in and out of Steve's life (including an ex-wife) to those in France's galaxy, ex-husband, sister, father and kids. The allure of the other, whether is be class or persona, is brought to life, as well. M. Klapisch, who, because of his innate abilities can sometimes seem like a facile filmmaker and entertainer, appears to have simply rolled this little movie out of his camera on a lark. But what it teaches us is important and worth seeing and hearing.

My Piece of the Pie, from Sundance Selects, opens tomorrow, Friday, December  9, in New York at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and at the IFC Center -- as well as On-Demand, beginning yesterday, December 7. Check your local TV reception provider, or click here, for details.


We meet with Cédric Klapisch (below) in the way-over-west offices of his NY publicity team Brigade Marketing. He's a big man, in both senses of the word, appealing and friendly and eager to talk. In the following conversation, TrustMovies appears in boldface and M. Klapisch in standard type.

How long are you here for?

Well, I have been here already three months, but I am leaving on Thursday.

Three months! And they waited till now to let us interview you?! So what were you working on here?

I am working on a script that is going to take place in New York.

When do you start filming?

Probably in September.

Great. I think I have seen, if not all of your films, most of them, and I’ve liked them all to one extent or another. But when I try to find a stylistic consistency to them, I never really can.  But that’s all right, because to me you might me the Stephen Frears of France.

Oh, yeah? (He laughs)

What I get from your films is a kind of “alertness” to so many things: people, their characteristics, politics, economics, society, all kinds of things. So you don’t go to a Cedric Kapisch film and not have to think a bit and put things together. How do you decide what films to make, what films you want to do?

It’s really intuitive. And with this movie, I had actually planned to do something else. I wrote a script for six months, but it didn’t really show that it was possible to make it. It was expensive, and it was not relevant. And so then I thought, well, I want to write something quickly because I had already spent so much time writing the other script. The first thing that came up was what was happening right then – and at that time it was just the end of the financial crisis.

It’s unending, I ‘m afraid.

Yes, I am quite sure that is not ending right now.

Yet at the end of your movie, it’s looks like the beginning of Occupy France!

Yeah, that’s strange how it looks like that. I was amazed when I arrived here, and this (ED: Occupy Wall Street) was happening -- because it looked like my film!

It’s so timely, and yet you made it quite awhile – at least one year ago.

That is what I mean about being intuitive. You are always a victim of your time. Whether you are young in the 1906s or the 1920s, whatever story you come up with, it will be talking about your own time. So even if you don’t want to, you are taking about your particular time period.

And if you are talking truthfully, you are also talking about other times, too, because history repeats itself.

Of course. You know what’s frightening?  I was looking into the year 1931 recently.  That year was the year that Hitler became popular.  Then he was elected in 1933. That was four year after the Depression began. So I think that in periods where there is financial crisis, it does create something very cold in real life, and not just about being poor or being rich. When you are talking about the financial world,  then you are also talking about how that world has changed society.  But not in a very clear way.

But it is getting clearer now, because the behavior of the financial community is getting worse. I was never that well off in my life, but I think my daughter and my grandkids may end up much poorer than I ever was.  So it behooves us to start paying attention to the financial community. And movies like yours help us do this. But in a sort of roundabout way….

Yes, because you don’t want your movie to be a political movie. 

But it cannot help but be.

But I look for, How can I speak about politics while I am doing a comedy?  In comedy I am more on the side of entertainment, but even then you can be deep. I beieve you can make people think about society.

Yes.  And your two leads sure are wonderful.

They’re great, yeah.

Gilles Lellouche (above) is going to be huge, I think.

Yes, and last year he made a lot of movies.

He is such an everyman, but he also fits nicely into the role of this nasty financial guy. He’s very versatile. And the chemistry between him and Karin Viard (below) is remarkable. She’s remarkable in this, too.  I am more used to seeing her how you used her in Paris.

Yes? Also this year, she has made good movies  I would not be surprised if she wins a César this year.

For this film?

Either this film or for Polisse. She is really outstanding in both movies.

I saw Le Bal des Actrices, which I really enjoyed.

Yeah, me too.

It’s the same director, right (Maïwenn )?


Also, the way you used Fabrice Luchini in Paris.  I don’t think he’s ever been funnier.

(He laughs) Someone else told me that just yesterday.

You use people very well.

Because I like actors.

You clearly do like them.  In a way, my favorite of your films – and I didn’t even realize it was yours when I first watched it -- is Neither For Nor Against.  It’s so much darker than the others.

Yes, it is darker.

Will you ever make a film like that again?

A lot of people ask me that.  It’s funny because people were surprised that I would make such a dark movie. That’s why I made it. I didn’t want to be like a “light” person. Yeah, I’d like to make a movie like that again. For me this movie is the one I prefer visually, for the way it is shot.  

Really?  I should see it again, just to notice that.   Morally speaking, it forces you to identity with everybody, and so you are shaken up a lot. It very interesting! Can you talk about your new work?

Yes!  It the follow-up to L’Auberge Espanole and Russian Dolls.  So there will be a trilogy. The idea is that the characters are 40 years old now.

Will Romain Duris (below, right) be in it?

Yes and Kelly Reilly (above, left).  She lives in NY actually, now.

She’s so good in that slasher movie Eden Lake, with Michael Fassbender. Did you see it? 

No, I didn’t see that…

You should watch it. It’s so dark and ugly.  But she is so good.

She is a great actress.

Audrey Tautou will be in in, too?

Yes, and Cécile de France.

Now there’s another really versatile actress, too. I just saw her in The Kid With the Bike. And she is aging so well -- like European women age.  Naturally. What’s the name of your new movie going to be?

Chinese Puzzle in English.

Ah:  Espanol, Russian and now Chinese. 

Yes, it will be set in New York’s Chinatown.

When do you think you’ll finish filming?

Probably one year from now.

We’ll have to wait that long?!  Will this be another big budget for you?

Yes, It will be like Paris.

Was that your biggest budget film?

Yes Peut-etre and Paris were my biggest budgets.

Peut-etre?  (Maybe)  Was that released here? I don’t think I saw that one.

No, I don’t think so.  It’s my most oneric, fantasy-like movie. It’s about Paris in 2070, when it is covered with sand, as if the desert had taken over. In the film Jean-Paul Belmondo is the son of Romain Duris. It is like traveling in two different times frames.  The idea of the movie is that Duris is 25 years old, and with his girlfriend but he does not want to have a baby. So he meets his own son in the future, and his son tries to convince him to do it. 

You know there really is a resemblance between the two of them – Belmondo and Duris. I had never thought of that before.

There really is a family thing there. And it was really great to work with the two of them.

And we are not going to be able to work with Belmondo for much longer.

No, he is too sick now.  He had got a – how do you call that, when you cannot speak anymore after a…. 

A stroke?

Yeah, a stroke.   Now, he can speak, because it happened three years ago, but the more time he spends, the more he relearns how to speak.

It’s like Kirk Douglas.


I think Douglas made one movie after his stroke, and but it was sport of painful to watch. (Our time is up, and so...) Well, thank you Cedric. It has been a pleasure to finally meet a man who films have given me so much pleasure over the years.

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