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Tribeca 2011: Jean-Pierre Améris Delights With “Romantics Anonymous”

Tribeca 2011: Jean-Pierre Améris Delights With “Romantics Anonymous” (photo)

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Even before the credits begin on “Romantics Anonymous,” Jean-Pierre Améris’ comedy wins its audience over with a simple interpretation of “I Have Confidence” from “The Sound of Music,” made even more adorable by the way it’s sung by Angélique Delange (Isabelle Carré) as she strolls down the street. It’s bold, which is something the film’s characters Angélique and her soon-to-be boss Jean-Rene (Benoît Poelvoorde) are not, but that’s the charm of Ameris’ love story where the barrier to romance isn’t just getting the other person to let down their guard, but to overcome their own social anxiety. Which is a shame since besides a shared lack of self-assurance, Angélique and Jean-Rene have a love of good chocolate that they’ll need to sell if they’re to save Jean-Rene’s confectionary from bankruptcy.

Fortunately, Ameris didn’t let his own confidence issues come in the way of making “Romantics Anonymous,” instead drawing inspiration from it to make his first comedy after a career making dramas that have largely dealt with the subject of fear. Here, it is Jean-Rene’s fear of sweating through his shirt and Angélique’s dread at drawing attention to herself as an exceptionally talented chocolatier that often lead to the film’s considerable laughs and naturally, it came as a relief to the French writer/director that the comedy was received as one of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival’s word-of-mouth sensations. While in New York, Ameris spoke through a translator about what the Stateside reception has meant to him as well as what went into making “Romantics Anonymous” and how it can sometimes be very lonely making a comedy.

How did this film come about?

It was actually a long process. About 10 years ago, I started going to these Emotions Anonymous meetings [that Angélique attends in the film] and it was a stage in my life where I started developing fears of a lot of things, of even leaving my apartment. I refused dinner invitations. I didn’t want to go to film festivals anymore. And so I found out about the existence of this group, Emotions Anonymous and I joined them.

When I started attending those meetings, I was really touched to find out that there are so many people affected by this and people that you never would guess have this problem. For example, you’d see an apparently successful businessman or some really pretty women who go there and share that any kind of date is an issue for them. Because of the way I am, everything becomes cinema in my life, so I thought there could be a good movie to come out of that — talking about people whose fear is so deep, and their biggest fear is being looked at by others.

RomanticsAnonymous_04302011.jpgYou’ve almost exclusively directed dramas in the past. How did you know the subject matter lent itself to a comedy?

When I first started writing, it was very clear to me that the subject itself was comedic. When you go to these groups where you share your experiences, at the moment you experienced it, it seemed like catastrophe, but then the simple fact of talking about it makes you realize how funny it can be and people end up laughing. That laughter has a relief component. It really makes you feel that it’s fine. I think actually it would been pleonastic to make a drama out of such suffering.

Was it difficult for you to make the transition from comedy to drama?

It’s actually very difficult, as I found out, to work with comedies — when you write, when you shoot, when you edit. It requires you to be a lot stricter with the way you work and you never know at the outset whether a scene will make people laugh. For example, when we worked with a scene where [Benoit Poelvoorde] comes back with a shirt with ruffles instead of the plain shirt [during a dinner date], my actor didn’t believe in it and the people that were around us when we shot weren’t laughing that much, so I actually experienced some moments of true solitude as I was doing that.

You never know whether something will be successful until you show it to people and that’s something a lot of comedians that are well-known have said, that you always need to wait until you have feedback from the audience. I believe that working with comedy requires a lot of trust and a lot of bravery and a lot of discipline as well. It is a true risk and actually, this goes hand in hand with the type of subject I was dealing with. It’s about taking risks because instead of being funny, you can be ridiculous. And that’s a great risk, which I find very interesting and beautiful at the same time.

romanticsanonymous2_04302011.jpg Angélique, played by Isabelle Carré, sings to herself to boost her courage. How did that idea come about?

This idea came from the actress herself. It’s my second movie with her and it’s somebody I totally trust. She has a lot of points in common with the character herself and with me. When I wrote the script, I wrote it for her and when we were talking about it, she shared with me this bit of information about herself, which is that whenever she has to tackle a difficult situation, she actually sings a song and sometimes they’re songs that are on TV or often it’s the song from “The Sound of Music.” And that’s what we chose to put in.

It’s also interesting that this film deals with characters reaching middle age, which is a point where one doesn’t necessarily meet new people and a certain comfort sets in. Was that an interesting starting point for you to make a romantic comedy?

I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but you actually have a very good point. Actually, I wanted to show characters that were closer to my age – that was the initial idea. And this condition is something that starts out when you’re young, you’re growing up, but it continues. It never really stops. I think it’s really painful when we reach age 40, let’s say, and we realize we’ve failed at our love life and at our jobs because we’re paralyzed by fear. So I wanted to show people that we’re halfway through our lives and I wanted to show that everything was still possible. It was still possible to find love, to find professional success. I really set out to show that positive outcomes were possible.

Has seeing the film connect with audiences in New York been gratifying?

It was a pleasure, of course, to find out that the subject I tackled is truly universal and I’m particularly happy about the success in the United States because the film is nourished by my love for American romantic comedies of the ’50s, so it’s a little bit like going back to the source.

“Romantics Anonymous” does not yet have U.S. distribution, but will play the Tribeca Film Festival on April 30th at 9:45 p.m.


Final Countdown

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


Rev Up

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.


Give Back

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…