Echoing stories

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet on Anaïs In Love (Les Amours d'Anaïs)

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) with Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) in Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s lively Anaïs In Love (Les Amours d'Anaïs)
Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) with Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) in Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s lively Anaïs In Love (Les Amours d'Anaïs)

My first interaction with Anaïs In Love (Les Amours d'Anaïs) director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet was when I sent in a question during Unifrance’s 10 Talents To Watch in 2022 panel in Paris: “Which film you saw did you particularly like in 2021?” Her response included Leos Carax’s Annette (seen at Cannes), Bruno Dumont's France, starring Léa Seydoux, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World, and Mathieu Amalric’s Hold Me Tight (another highlight of New York’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema).

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet with Anne-Katrin Titze on Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet: “It mattered to me that the film was situated in this universe, this world of literature.”
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet with Anne-Katrin Titze on Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet: “It mattered to me that the film was situated in this universe, this world of literature.”

Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) is always late, wears red lipstick to go with floral dresses, and carries her bike up many flights of stairs because she never replaced the lock, and she is too claustrophobic to take elevators. Denis Podalydès as book publisher Daniel tells his mistress in all seriousness that he never cheated on his wife - during the act of cheating on her!

When in the bathroom of Daniel’s apartment, Anaïs inspects the perfumes, lipsticks, and trinkets of his temporarily absent wife Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), who is a famous writer, the moment resembles the multi-faceted allure from Hitchcock’s Rebecca.

Literature is sprinkled throughout, as backdrop to the main characters’ lives and in references to their affinities. Besides the omnipresent Marguerite Duras, a photograph of Alain Robbe-Grillet with Odile (Annie Mercier), the host of a writers’ workshop, a nod to Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s libretto for Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, or a scene with Gena Rowlands from John Cassavetes’s Opening Night expand the horizon.

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet on choosing Denis Podalydès for Daniel with Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier): “I wanted to show the humanity and the intelligence of the character and his humour also.”
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet on choosing Denis Podalydès for Daniel with Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier): “I wanted to show the humanity and the intelligence of the character and his humour also.”

The film’s fast flowing current carries a number of character messages we can fish out, as if they were polished by the stream, all shiny and specific. There is Anaïs’s brother Balthazar (Xavier Guelfi), and his over-the-top, slightly grotesque but ultimately harmless incident with a lemur named Gilbert, that perfectly illustrates his incompetence.

When Anaïs stands by the river with Yoann (Jean-Charles Clichet), the writer/handyman who works at the symposium she attends and where Emilie is a speaker, the body language and the clothes worn by him compared to the two women, speak volumes.

Anaïs visits her parents and a family pattern emerges. She talks at length with her mother (Anne Canovas) about a pool that is being shut down, while a life and death update remains unmentioned. Meeting her ex-boyfriend Raoul (Christophe Montenez) to go to the cinema, she is not only late as usual, but tells him what for most people would be urgent information as an aside.

“You don’t realise what human interaction is,” says Raoul and accuses her of advancing through life like a bulldozer. She responds “You are violent in your inertia,” a great line and one of the many small and big surprises of this charming film.

From New York, Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet joined me on Zoom for an in-depth conversation on Anaïs In Love.

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet: “As this film is a sort of autofiction, it’s very inspired by my own story …”
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet: “As this film is a sort of autofiction, it’s very inspired by my own story …”

Anne-Katrin Titze: Hi Charline, let me start with what just happened. By coincidence this morning, my smoke detector needs the batteries to be replaced.

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet: Your alarm!

AKT: Yes. Perfect timing for our conversation. I would like to speak with you about the beginning of your film because you introduce right from the start so many of the motifs. I love the flowers, the always being late, the rushing, the claustrophobia. Everything is right there from the start and then the motifs come back. Tell me about the structuring!

CBT: To start, something very similar happened to me this morning. Right now I stay on the 14th floor and I had to be accompanied to go upstairs because I am also claustrophobic. I had to be accompanied to take the elevator. About the structure, at the very beginning of the film with the opening scene I wanted already to convey the identity of the film and the tonality of the film in terms of rhythm, in terms of energy, in terms of speed.

I wanted a character that would make the audience laugh, something excessive - I wanted the audience to meet Anaïs. The entire identity of the film is already here from the very start with lots of dialogue, three, four pages of dialogue. I wanted to enter into the realm of the film from the get-go.

Smoke detector batteries replaced by Anne-Katrin Titze
Smoke detector batteries replaced by Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: There’s a lot of madcap action. I was thinking of Katharine Hepburn in Bringing up Baby, for instance. Also, the first time we enter her apartment, we see the Duras poster in the back, a trope that will return many times. We are also introduced to how her priorities may not be the same as for many people. She offers the landlady red berry juice, but she can’t pay the rent. Then comes the great scene with the alarm. Were those heroines like Carole Lombard or Katharine Hepburn on your mind?

CBT: I didn’t think about Katharine Hepburn when I was making the film. I watched her films 15, 20 years ago, but people watching the film brought up this reference.

AKT: The film thrives on conversations. One I found particularly interesting is when we first meet Raoul. Something very serious is mentioned as an aside. He tells her she’s like a bulldozer and doesn’t know about human interactions, she responds with: ”you are violent in your inertia!” That’s a fantastic line! Let’s talk about the men. There is Yoann, dressed in the worst way, and the women next to him are a vision of beauty. The men are beautifully exposed.

CBT: Beautifully exposed, what do you mean exactly?

Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) dances to Bette Davis Eyes as Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) is seduced
Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) dances to Bette Davis Eyes as Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) is seduced

AKT: You expose what they take for granted and them in their awfulness.

CBT: I have a lot of trouble answering the question about the men, because I didn’t think of the characters in the way of, oh, I want to represent men like this and women like this. So there is a whole gallery of characters in the film. Yoann who appears in the second half of the film is there to create continuity between the two halves of the film - there are two parts in this film. And he brings some elements of comedy to this love story that is unfolding during the second part.

Also the return of Daniel to the castle has the same effect as it brings some elements of comedy. I didn’t want to judge Daniel or display him as a man who is weak. That’s why I chose Denis Podalydès as the actor, because I wanted to show the humanity and the intelligence of the character and his humour also. I didn’t want to make fun of this character.

AKT: You very much succeed in that. It’s exactly the casualness you expose. He’s so casual when he says “I don’t want my life to change!”

Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) with Raoul (Christophe Montenez)
Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) with Raoul (Christophe Montenez)

CBT: Yes, yes!

AKT: That’s what I mean. You show that attitude so beautifully. I love how you introduce us to Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s character, by her things in the bathroom. There’s a hint of Hitchcock’s Rebecca in her loving what this woman represents and then it goes from there. Tell me about working with Valeria! She’s wonderful. I love her films, too.

CBT: Valeria’s?

AKT: Yes, there is so much humour and depth.

CBT: She’s a great great actress. For the character of Emilie I wanted an actress who would be beautiful, sensual, and also an intellectual, who would be credible in this role because she is a writer. Valeria accepted straight away but then when we started shooting for the first two or three days, she was very frustrated because Valeria loves being funny and makes people laugh around her. But I didn’t want her to act like this, I wanted her to show depth and play someone who people fall in love with or would be fascinated with.

AKT: Her humour still shines through, when she’s dancing in the Bette Davis Eyes moment, for example. You chose Gena Rowlands in Opening Nights as the clip we get to see them watching in the cinema. Of all the films available, why this one?

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet on Valeria Bruni Tedeschi: “For the character of Emilie I wanted an actress who would be beautiful, sensual, and also an intellectual …”
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet on Valeria Bruni Tedeschi: “For the character of Emilie I wanted an actress who would be beautiful, sensual, and also an intellectual …”

CBT: I chose it because it’s one of my favourite films. It also deals with age discrepancy. Emilie can feel a bit insecure because she is older than Anaïs, she is over 50. But I didn’t want to tackle this issue in a very frontal manner in this film. Gena Rowlands plays a character who feels fragile because of her age, similar to the character of Valeria. Valeria is part of this legacy of Gena Rowlands.

AKT: Literature looms large in the background of all the goings on. There is of course Duras who shows up in unexpected ways. At one point Emilie calls Yoann, Yann (as in Yann Andrea, Duras’s young companion)

CBT: Oh, I hadn’t even thought about that.

AKT: It’s lovely how you weave in the precise references; it never feels like name dropping. Emilie mentions a Rosenkavalier adaptation and working on the Hoffmannsthal libretto. And we see Odile in a photo with Alain Robbe-Grillet. Can you comment on how you sprinkled these into the movie?

CBT: As this film is a sort of autofiction, it’s very inspired by my own story and literature is very important to me, that’s why it mattered to me that the film was situated in this universe, this world of literature. It was also important for me to represent a love story that would unfold through intelligence and sharing similar values and common taste.

Les Amours d'Anaïs poster
Les Amours d'Anaïs poster

I also used to work on Duras and she is someone who really mattered to me because she wrote stories about a triangular love story. It echoes my own story in her novel Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein. Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss also includes the discrepancy in terms of age about a woman who is fragile because her lover is younger.

AKT: I actually asked you a question before this interview at the panel for Unifrance on 10 Talents to watch. I asked the question to the entire panel about the films they liked best in 2021. I agree with your choices: Bruno Dumont’s France and Annette and The Worst Person in the World. I have not yet seen Mathieu Amalric’s film [I have since this interview took place and agree that it belongs on this list].

CBT: They are all very beautiful, yeah.

AKT: Thank you for a beautiful film!

CBT: Thank you very much Anne-Katrin!

The remaining screening of Anaïs In Love in Rendez-Vous with French Cinema is on Friday, March 11 at 3:30pm.

The 27th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, organized by Film at Lincoln Center’s Florence Almozini and Madeline Whittle in collaboration with Unifrance runs through Sunday, March 13.

The Glasgow Film Festival runs through March 13.

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