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Patrice Leconte on “My Best Friend”

Patrice Leconte on “My Best Friend” (photo)

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On American shores, Patrice Leconte is known for sumptuous period films like the Oscar-nominated “Ridicule” (2004) or sophisticated, talky arthouse dramas like “Intimate Strangers” (2004). In his native France, however, the director has moved fluidly between serious fare and crowd-pleasers like his beloved 70s “Les Bronzés” vacation comedies, which he recently revisited with a third installment, “Friends Forever.” His latest film, “My Best Friend,” isn’t such a change of pace, then — the lighthearted comedy finds gratingly self-centered Parisian antiques dealer François (Daniel Auteuil) challenged by his exasperated business partner to produce a best friend by the end of the month. François accepts the bet, only to discover that not only does he not have friends, but most of his day-to-day acquaintances barely tolerate him. It’s not until he stumbles upon a cheery, trivia-loving cab driver named Bruno (Dany Boon) that he begins to comprehend what friendship actually is.

In the press notes you say that you are no longer interested in making serious films. What brought that about?

I have never taken myself very seriously, but I have always taken my work seriously. And more and more I have come to believe that it’s possible to tell profound and serious things with an appearance of lightness. Lightness is always or often considered a defect — we say this person is light or this work is light. As far as I’m concerned, I’d really like people to refer to my body of work as light. I think that would be a compliment, because the time we are living in is quite heavy. It’s weighing on us so we might as well create light works. I just prefer uplifting people rather than weighing them down.

You’ve been a proponent of films being enjoyable as well as having artistic weight. Have you ever come up against resistance to that? As you say, it can be looked down upon when a film is entertaining.

You know, a few years ago, I did have a little tug of war with the critics who said my work was light, but I don’t want to go there anymore. It’s true that having the ambition of being popular or an artist that has a wide audience appeal is a very bad position from the point of view of criticism, but I really don’t care. My sole ambition, and it is an ambitious one, is to make films that I like and that I am proud of and that fill the cinema up and that people enjoy. It’s impossible to have any more satisfying ambition than this, in my opinion.

With this film and your last two you’ve focused on the idea of two strangers meeting by chance and making a deep connection. Why does this scenario hold such an appeal to you?

I don’t do it on purpose, but I do really love the notion of meeting and the word “meeting.” It’s really something that’s close to me. It’s a magical word because to be open to meeting someone and interested in them and so forth means that you’re open to the world, and that is something that is very common to all three of these films.

There’s a sense in the film that you surround yourself with a circle of acquaintances, and it becomes very difficult to break out and meet someone new. Do you see that a particular aspect of modern living?

Yes, it is a characteristic of modern life, but it’s also a characteristic of living in an urban setting. I think that more and more in this time we are living in, people are communicating with each other in all forms and possible ways, but are really falling back on themselves and in the end care only about themselves — it’s really terrible. And I think this factor of no longer having or creating basic communication in our daily activities is something that’s picking up speed and it really frightens me — it chills me. So I try to communicate ideas, emotions, notions that are simple but try to uplift towards the positive rather than the negative.

You’ve set this search for a best friend in very sophisticated urban crowd — it’s a source of the comedy that someone in this very Parisian circle is on the lookout for a best friend. One rarely talks about having a best friend as an adult.

When I was writing the script I was afraid that the notion of Paris might not work because it sort of seemed almost absurd. I was afraid, for such a realistic film as this, that François’ naiveté when he says “I am going to find a best friend in ten days” wouldn’t work. We couldn’t say that to one another — “I am going to show you my best friend in ten days” — it wouldn’t work, in the same way you can’t say “How much do you bet that I will fall in love by the end of the day?” I think it works because of Daniel Auteuil’s talent, this teetering on the limits of credibility, [in portraying] François’ as convinced that he has so many friends, that he takes this crazy bet.

In the film you play with the conventions of a romance in portraying the friendship of Bruno and François. Was that your inspiration, a platonic romance between these two men?

I have thought for a long time that friendships and love stories have a lot of common points. It’s true that their discovery of this friendship which they have between them goes through all these different emotions and does come close to feelings of love. [laughs] But I don’t think they get together.

“My Best Friend” opens in limited release on July 13th (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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