The Ozon layer

François Ozon on Frantz, Hitchcock and what's in a name.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

François Ozon with Katell Quillévéré (Réparer Les Vivants) and Emmanuelle Bercot (La Fille De Brest)
François Ozon with Katell Quillévéré (Réparer Les Vivants) and Emmanuelle Bercot (La Fille De Brest) Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

A highlight of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, Frantz (César winner - Best Cinematography to Pascal Marti) is François Ozon's inspired take on Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 post-World War I drama Broken Lullaby, which tells the story of a French soldier, here called Adrien (Pierre Niney) who locates the family of a German soldier, Frantz (Anton von Lucke) who died at the front.

Based on the play by Maurice Rostand, Ozon switches perspective to that of the grieving fiancée Anna (Paula Beer), an orphan living with Frantz's parents (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber). A painting by Manet of a pale young man, head back, that hangs in the Louvre triggers a variety of Carlotta moments. Cyrielle Clair as Adrien's mother would be perfectly at home in a lineup of dangerous Alfred Hitchcock matriarchs.

Adrien (Pierre Niney) with Frantz (Anton von Lucke)
Adrien (Pierre Niney) with Frantz (Anton von Lucke)

On the opening night at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, François Ozon gave some insight on what's in a name.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Let's talk about Hitchcock and Frantz instead of Lubitsch, although your film has the same source as a Lubitsch film. Hitchcock is looming large. The painting, the Carlotta moment in the museum?

François Ozon: Ah, that's true. That's true. Yes. But my first inspiration was the film of Lubitsch's. In fact, the play, which was written by a French writer. But, yes, I added to the story all the second part in France. And all the story of the painting was in the play, actually.

AKT: Really? This painting in the Louvre?

FO: Yes. But for me it was important to show this painting two times, you know? The first time in black and white and afterwards in color. In all of the violence of the colors, you know? I didn't have Hitchcock in mind, actually. But people told me afterwards that it's a tribute to Hitchcock. Actually I love Hitchcock, so it's not a problem when people tell me that.

AKT: Combined with a shot of the back of her [Anna's] head [Paula Beer], we can't help it. Also Adrien's mother [Cyrielle Clair] had some Hitchcock blood to her.

Ernst Stötzner as Frantz's father, Herr Hoffmeister
Ernst Stötzner as Frantz's father, Herr Hoffmeister

FO: All the bad mothers come from Hitchcock!

AKT: With the title, Frantz, you are playing with the German-French intertwined-ness?

FO: Yes.

AKT: The French since the 17th century can be found derogatorally referred to as "Der Franzmann" by the Germans.

FO: Yes. The "Franzmann", yes, yes. There is a "jeu de mots".

AKT: A play on words.

FO: A play on words. But actually when you say Franz in German, there is no T. And I added a T because for the French, we put a T. And I had in mind that Frantz was so francophile, he loved France so much, that he put a T in his name.

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema remaining public screening: Saturday, March 11, 1:00pm.

Frantz opens in the US on March 15 and in the UK on May 12.

The uniFrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center's 22nd edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, runs through March 12. Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center.

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