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Tribeca 2011: Cédric Klapisch Shares His “Piece of the Pie”

Tribeca 2011: Cédric Klapisch Shares His “Piece of the Pie” (photo)

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In the past two decades, Cédric Klapisch has become one of the most internationally renowned French directors due in large part by making the entire world part of his films, even if they take place in a single location. In his wildly successful “L’Auberge Espagnole,” he traveled to a Barcelona apartment building where a group of students from around the globe shared the same wild life of being young and in love, and in his last film “Paris,” he encapsulated the diversity of his native city with the stories of people from different ends of the earth all grappling with more somber aspects of the human condition.

Much of Klapisch’s work has spanned the gamut of countries and emotions, but his latest film “My Piece of the Pie” is at once a smaller film in scale and a bigger one in scope as he shows the fallout from the global financial crisis of 2008 through the eyes of a callous day trader (Gilles Lellouche) and the woman he hires to clean his apartment (Karin Viard), a relationship that should teach him to have greater sensitivity to the stocks – and the people – he short sells on a daily basis and allows her to get a glimpse of the high life. For Lellouche’s Steve, a pristine view of the Eiffel Tower from his apartment is referred to as merely part of the decor and the inauspiciously named France, as played by Viard, gets an education in the market whims that led to the layoffs that shut down the factory that employs nearly all her friends and family.

Though he’s long brought social issues to the fore, “My Piece of the Pie” is Klapisch’s first since his 1992 feature debut “Riens du tout” to deal with institutions, which in turn resounds with an unfamiliar feeling in the writer/director’s films to date — of frustration and rage — that happens to be particularly appropriate to create such a wicked farce. During the Tribeca Film Festival, Klapisch sat down to describe the alternate reality he encountered while making a film about the out-of-touch moneyed men on whose shoulders so many of our fortunes rise and fall, how reality mirrored what he depicted on screen and the “sum of desires” that led him to make “My Piece of the Pie.”

How did this film come about?

This was really a reaction to what was happening after the financial crisis where I realized there were two things in the newspaper and on TV –factories [were] closing down and [executive] bonuses were going up. Everyone said there’s no connection where it’s just obvious there is between industry and finance, so it was strange that everyone was denying that. And I [researched] a lot about traders, brokers, financial worth and about factories and workers and I realized it was too much – I needed to talk about that. I think it’s not [documented] enough in the movies. After 1929, it created movies and novels about the result of that and I think we have to face the reality of something that’s really important to everyone on the planet.

MyPieceofThePie_05022011.jpgThat was also a period of some of the greatest escapist cinema. How necessary was it to make the film feel light on its feet even if it was dealing with such heavy subject matter?

It was complicated to manage that story because there were many traps. The first one was I thought it was a movie about rich and poor, which it’s not. I realized it’s more about people who live in virtuality [versus] people who live in reality — the opposition [between the two characters] is more about that. It’s also very complex to talk about finances in a movie because it’s very easily boring and un-understandable, so at one point, I said, why do I want to make a movie because it’s so complicated?

I think what was interesting for me was what’s happening at the end. I saw Patti Smith yesterday in the streets, so I’ve been thinking about the song “People Have the Power.” This sentence, “People Have the Power,” is very true — the fact that we believe that people have the power with democracy. [But] you say, okay, people have the power, but they don’t because [the financial] professionals deal for the others. When Obama wants to moralize the [financial sector], he can’t do it and then all the problems that everyone sees, he’s not able to solve them. No one is able to solve them and I think that we have to give back the power to the people. It’s really important right now. So the ending of the movie is really about the fact we feel the crowd has something to say.

There’s some irony that you’re dealing with subject matter that is more practically complex than many of your previous films, but this isn’t an ensemble piece like you’ve been making in recent years. Was that intentional for a more specific focus?

It’s true. What I’m talking about is really organization, about rich and poor, about people who have the power and people who are submissive. And I tried to take a very simple example about a cleaning lady and her employer and if you put those two characters in an apartment, you have an image of the whole world in the scenes. That was interesting for me because as you said, I made a lot of movies with a lot of characters and it was a good training for me to focus more on the story and the amount of characters.

MyPieceofThePie2_05022011.jpgThere’s a wonderful sequence early on in the film where Steve takes a supermodel (Marine Vacth) to Italy to wine and dine her with the end goal of sleeping with her, only to never see her again. It’s a great demonstration of his attitude towards anyone he thinks of as inferior, but would likely be cut from most films for time. Was that a challenge to keep?

Definitely. It’s probably the same thing in France as in America about digression and the fact that in a storyline you need to be illogical and to follow just the narration. That scene was important since the beginning and I think it’s got the right rhythm now because I couldn’t just shrink everything to a very small thing because otherwise it’s just fucking. [laughs] But for me, it’s a very good example [of] the whole film about the fact that he thinks that he can buy everything and the money gives you both the power and the ability to do almost everything, but it’s that almost which is interesting. He gets what he wants, but he doesn’t get what he [really] wants. Okay, when you’re rich, it’s easier, but there’s still something that’s lacking.

You’ve long made a point of portraying France in an unadorned way at an urban level, but when you’re making this film showing a glamorous life that’s real for very few, was that something different for you to present?

Yeah, and very often people don’t believe that. For example, when I [researched] traders and I went to London [and] Wall Street, some people, especially in London, when they’re between 30 and 40, they’re very rich, they’re traders, they’re bachelors – I had to lie about the reality because reality is too dark, ugly and awful. So I had to smooth things out with the character, otherwise it’s too dislikable. It was strange to [do the research] and to know the reality and then to adapt that reality so that it’s acceptable for the audience because what I saw in real life was too hard to convey and to talk about.

It was complicated to deal with because as you said, in my other films, people are more normal, I would say. For this film, I’m not a worker, I don’t know the life in factories and I don’t know the life on trading floors, so I had to [research] in the two directions and in a sense, I needed to do a documentary of the two things for the audience, so that’s why there’s a kind of financial class in the movie to begin the story to understand what he’s talking about.

MyPieceofthePie3_05022011.jpgYou were apparently considering an American film at the same time when you decided to make “My Piece of the Pie.” Was this more pressing?

I think so. And I needed to do [a film with] a smaller budget, I needed to do something that mixed actors and non-actors, in a sense, documentary and fiction. You never know why, but when you make a movie, it’s always a sum of desires that you have, so it was a desire to shoot with Karin Viard, a desire to shoot outside of Paris, to have less characters, so you put that in a pot. Also, it may be because of what’s happening in the French government. I think the period is very cynical because of that government, which is lying all the time and it’s a new period for politics where politicians deal more with media than with politics. This is tiring, this is revolting. I made this movie also because of that.

Once you’re filming, you’re in a bubble, but does the meaning of the film change for you as you’re shooting when you’re dealing with a subject that’s evolving right outside your shoot?

You can’t really have ideas beforehand. For example, when I went to Dunkerque, it was pretty normal, the industrial life, and then when we got there, the exact same thing happened as what I described in the movie — the whole company, they kicked out 400 workers at a refinery. So the extras in the movie were the real workers and it was a strange combination of dealing with reality and what was really happening at that time.

I think it’s something about our period, maybe because we’re dealing with the Internet and the fact that we’re getting information online in a second.. For example, I thought it was great — “Social Network” was the first biopic that happened seven years ago and the idea’s just crazy that you can tell the story of someone who’s not dead, he’s just 30 years old. I think that sticking to the reality and to the instant is very much our times.

What kind of things are you interested in making films about?

I know I’d like to make a movie about wine, so I’m writing something that would take place in France about people who make wine. And I would like to make a movie in New York. I studied two years in New York, and there’s something about the city I’d like to do. I don’t know exactly what, but I’d like to make a movie here.

“My Piece of the Pie” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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