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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.