(Paris) It was in full confinement. While millions of people learned to bake their own bread, François Ozon, a good movie buff, took the opportunity to watch old films he had never seen, including those featuring Carole Lombard, an actress whom he knew little.
“A friend with whom I talked a lot about cinema was just watching The Crazy Confession [True Confessions of Wesley Ruggles], a film in which she plays”, explained the filmmaker during an interview with La Presse as part of the Unifrance Cinema Rendezvous, held earlier this year.
“I found this police comedy rather average when I watched it myself, but I was intrigued by the fact that, like many American films of the 1930s, it was an adaptation of a French theater play by Georges Berr and Louis Verneuil, entitled Mon crime. I then reread this forgotten work from the French repertoire – as are almost all the pieces from this period – and I chose to modernize it. »
To do this, François Ozon transposed the plot into the world of cinema, and, above all, completely diverted the meaning of a play which, in its original form, was in his eyes of an unnamed misogyny. Under his guidance, Mon crime now recounts the journey of an apprentice actress (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) who falsely accuses herself of the murder of a lewd producer who attacked her modesty. Supported by a lawyer friend as broke as her (Rebecca Marder), the actress then becomes the symbol of the cause of women. In his abundant work, the filmmaker sees My Crime as the last part of a trilogy that began 20 years ago with 8 Women, then continued with Potiche.
One of the pleasures of the filmmaker was precisely to integrate this more modern subject into a period setting. In addition to being full of finely chiselled, often funny lines, thus recalling the theatrical origin of the work, Mon crime is breathtaking in terms of artistic direction, sets and costumes. François Ozon has put all his efforts into it.
“It’s more complicated to make a comedy than to make a drama,” he admits. It needs rhythm and it needs to be funny. It’s like serving a glass of champagne. This champagne must be good and sparkling all the time. This time I wanted to be light, to please and to make people laugh. In the life of a filmmaker, there are times when you want more drama and to make people cry, and then there are times when you just want to entertain them. »
The adventure was all the more pleasant as François Ozon was able to train a high-flying distribution in his playground. In addition to the two young rising stars, Nadia Tereszkiewicz and Rebecca Marder (whom the filmmaker claims are the “Isabelle Huppert and Isabelle Adjani of the 2020s”), big names like, precisely, Isabelle Huppert, but also Fabrice Luchini, Dany Boon and André Dussollier have the opportunity to assert themselves in a universe evoking the spirit of comedies from another era.
“At the time I met them, I only knew Nadia and Rebecca by reputation, confides the one whose first feature film, Sitcom, was released 25 years ago. I did some tests and I really felt a chemistry between them. That’s what I was looking for, because it was important that they establish a real bond, without any rivalry. Then, I surrounded them with the best performers. Great actors know instinctively that the quality of the role is paramount, no matter how long they are there. »
Released March 8 in France. My crime has already crossed the million viewers mark there, becoming one of the most popular films of the director of Thanks to God.
“There is a very playful side to doing this kind of cinema, says François Ozon. It’s a bit like playing with dolls. Seeing Isabelle Huppert dressed as Sarah Bernhardt brings in itself a more childish side. When the actors are up for it, it’s very stimulating. I must admit that they were very happy to play their character because the text is still very playful, very amusing. They enjoyed it a lot, I think. »