Sylvain Chomet, director of Attila Marcel

Attila Marcel (see article) is the first live-action film by director Sylvain Chomet, following his animated movies Belleville Rendez-vous and The Illusionist. Presented at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013, Attila Marcel is currently available via video on demand in Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Austria and Hungary.
Here are some excerpts from an interview with the director:

What is it that made you switch from animation to this live-action film?
It was a childhood dream of mine to film with actors, but I never thought I would be able to pull this off: I worked with drawings; for me, it was a different trade. It was Claudie Ossard who gave me the chance in 2006, by offering me a segment of Paris, I Love You. Animation is more costly than live-action filming, funding the project was difficult and, once the money was finally secured, we had the problem of the timelines, which were much longer than for the other short films in the project. So I suggested to Claudie that I make the film a live-action one. Eiffel Tower was a founding experience: I really felt I was in my element.

Attila Marcel is originally a song from the soundtrack of Belleville Rendez-vous.
One day, I had the idea for the title. I scribbled it down on a Post-it, which I left lying around on the dining-room table, thinking: "This will be a film!" It was 2000, I was working on Belleville Rendez-vous and this song came to me [...] I only had a few scenes, and I also knew that it would be about wrestling and there would be lots of music.
Attila Marcel is the story of a young man who lives under the thumb of his aunts and whose emotions are frozen in the state they were in when he was two years old, when his parents died.
His aunts did the opposite of what a mother should do: they smothered him without trying to understand who he really was or what he wanted to do. [...] Basically, the film is the full story of his relationship with women: his mother, his aunts, Madame Proust [...], and of course Michelle, the young Chinese cellist.

The character of Madame Proust is incredible.
She is the antidote to the aunts! In her home, you really are in the light; completely the opposite of the apartment that Paul shares with his aunts, which is very dark, very clean, very bare (except for a few ancestral paintings) – rather sinister! When Paul discovers it, he is so dazzled by it that it hurts his eyes.

Madame Proust cultivates her garden on the fourth floor of a Haussmann building, makes incredible potions, fights to save the planet and gives paid consultations...
When promoting this film, I would gladly have written: 'Attila Marcel, a tribute to drugs, Buddhism and the ukulele!’ [...] There is a mysterious side to Madame Proust's apartment: as in Buddhist mythology, one must pass through a long corridor in order to come out into the light.

Every time he is at his piano, Paul gorges himself on sweet pastries.
I liked the idea that, in order to make up for his boredom, Paul eats non-stop. The sweet pastries leave crumbs, and once you start eating one, you can't stop. [...] There is also a childish side to the sweet pastries: Paul is allowed to go and get them from the bakers’ and to go to the park. These are the only moments of freedom he is allowed. And this is what will cause his downfall, or rather what will save him. 

Music always plays an important role in your films.
Without it being a musical comedy [...], in fact I see Attila Marcel as a musical. With Franck Monbaylet, who wrote all the piano pieces, we made it sort of like each character had their own theme, and each piece was in three-four time: when you dance in three-four time, you sway, a little like when you cradle a child or take someone in your arms.

21 October 2015, by Cineuropa

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