mum— Tbngue twister
Writer, director and star Josiane Balasko tells Trevor Johnston how F renc/z Twist gives the ménage-a- trois a lesbian slant.
‘I heard this story from friends of friends of friends.‘ recalls French actress and director Josiane Balasko. ‘about your typical middle-class couple. Three children. very nice house. the whole lot. And then the husband suddenly realises his wife has been cheating on him. in their own bed. and with another woman. I have to say. I didn‘t really check up l()() per cent whether this was true or not. but it seemed such a great storyline fora movie that l went ahead and wrote the script. It was classic without being classic. if you know what I mean. and vaudeville without really being vaudeville.‘
Balasko speaks with the confidence of the French industry‘s only female writer-director-star (come to think of it. they‘re a rare commodity everywhere else). doubtless boosted too by the fact that Guam Mam/it. the little menage-a-trois number in question. has positively raked in the cerrtirrres at the home box office and since been relaunched as French 'Iir'r'st for the American and now the British markets.
Although most viewers on the slow side of the Channel rail link will be aware of her only as the — shall we say -- ‘plain' rival to drop-dead gorgeous Carole Bouquet in Bertrand Blier's mischievous Tm]; Belle Pour 'Iin‘h in France she‘s an accomplished stage and screen performer. She's also now on her fourth film as director. a task she turned to ‘out of necessity rather than pleasure‘ when she couldn‘t find the right filmmaker to collaborate with in bringing her first screenplay to celluloid fruition some ten years back.
French Tivlst: ‘people forget to be shocked when they're laughing too much’
Having gained in experience since then. it‘s clear. however. that she still approaches movierrraking from the performer"s perspective. ‘The most important thing in a film are the actors and the material.' she pronounces. looking quite frankly fabulous in along satiny shirt and a few months‘ growth on the cropped brill dyke haircut she sports on screen during l’rerrr'h Trr'is‘t as the unlikely object of housewife Victoria
‘If you have a comedy like this one, then you just keep the camera steady and let the performers run around like crazy. They buzz about because of the strength of the emotions involved, drunk with rage or out of their heads with desire.’
Abril's affection and errant hubby Alain Chabat‘s exasperation.
‘lf you have the right cast and the right story for them. then your job as a director should be simply to let them get on with it. If you have a comedy like this one. then you just keep the camera steady and let the
j performers run around like crazy. They bit/.7. about
because of the strength of the emotions involved. drunk with rage or out of their heads with desire. The most important thing in this kind of comedy is to be
as truthful as possible to those emotions. no matter
how absurd the situations the characters get themselves into.‘
And this presumably also explains the sheer affection in her portrayal of Marijo. the cigar- smoking lesbian who throws the Abril-Chabat marriage into turmoil?
‘Absolutely. I know so many gay women who’re funny or sad. terrific or just plain eccentric. and yet l‘ve never really seen the reality of their lives and experiences presented on screen in France. There've been small films for small audiences. of course. but they’ve often concentrated on the downside of things. This was the first time a lesbian has taken the lead role in a mainstream comedy. and perhaps the extreme ends of the political spectrum won't like that.
‘From my own point of view. l‘m against ghettoising people.‘ Balasko adds. ‘putting them in little boxes without any communication. The main thing that makes women suffer is silence. and i hope that seeing this frlm can give them the confidence to be themselves. Anyway. I don't want to make it sound too serious: it is a comedy. and people tend to forget to be shocked or affronted when they're laughing too much.‘ (Trevor Johnston)
l’rene/i This! opens u! the (ilasgmr' I’ilm Theatre and Edinburgh Film/muse on Fri 8.
Video may not produce the same quality of sound and vision as film, but, from the point of view of artists and directors, this far more accessible medium redresses the balance with an emerging body of work that is spontaneous, energetic and experimental. These attributes are all reflected in this year’s Scottish Student Video Festival (SSVF) programme, which celebrates its fourth anniversary with a return to Edinburgh, the place of its birth. With no programming criteria other than that submissions must be made by
Life Is by Andree and Mehrnoosh Sobhani
students currently studying in Scotland, the Festival screenings promise an interesting diversity of subjects, styles and quality.
Students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art are responsible for some startling animation, notably a reappraisal of Lewis Daroll’s nonsense poem Jabberivocky. Dundee gets a once over in Grace Duintinilla’s performance piece Mambo Dueen, and ends up looking remarkany like sizzling South America. Elsewhere, The Real Saap‘s spoof of the BBC’s grossly unrepresentative The Living Soap hits the mark; and Italian Women In The Nineties, a self-explanatory documentary originating from Edinburgh, testifies to the Festival’s broad screening mandate, encompassing topical, gender and
ethnicity issues. As SSVF patron David Puttnam says, ‘Scotland has more than its fair share of talent.’
The event has expanded this year to include a series of workshops run by guest filmmakers. Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival Director Mark Cousins will talk about contemporary documentary filmmaking, referring to his own work in the field; Peter Mullan will lead a practical class on the relationship between his two disciplines, acting (Trainspotting) and directing (Fridge); and Edinburgh- based filmmaker Morag McKinnon will advise on working within a tight budget, something she managed with her feature debut 3, well received at the 1995 DEFF. (Miles Fielder)
SSVF, Fri 15—Sun 17, Pleasance Theatre, 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh.
The List 8-21 Mar 1996 21