The Rendez-Vous With French Cinema festival is back with the latest and greatest French films, as well as some beloved classics.
Pierre Salvadori’s hilarious The Trouble With You (original French title: En Liberté!) kicks off this year’s Rendez-Vous with a bang. Other notable films in the festival include Amanda, directed by Mikhaël Hers, When Margaux Meets Margaux, directed by Sophie Fillières, and Truffaut’s 1959 nouvelle vague classic The 400 Blows.
The Trouble With You centers around Yvonne (Adèle Haenel), the widow of a beloved police detective (Vincent Elbaz), who discovers that her husband wasn’t the hero their French Riviera town idolized. After his death, an innocent man named Antoine (Pio Marmaï) is released from prison after eight years of doing time for jewel thievery.
Yvonne soon learns that Antoine was sent to jail to cover up her husband’s crime and that she had been married to a crooked cop. A police detective herself, Yvonne tails Antoine to learn more, and the characters soon find themselves mixed up in madcap situations that no police officer would approve of. The cast also includes French star Audrey Tautou, who gives a tender performance as Antoine’s wife, Agnès.
We spoke with the Pierre and Pio on the red carpet at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
The Knockturnal: How did the idea for this film come about?
Pierre Salvadori: It’s very difficult to tell how ideas come. Ideas come if you stand by your desk and wait for them. Maybe it came from a sentence my mother told me once. In French, it has not the same taste, but she said, “Les mères font les pères,” which means, “The mothers create the fathers.” I thought it was strange. I said, “Why do you say that?” And she said, “Because I’ve always told you that your father was a kind of hero. I’ve always told all the nice aspects of your dad.” I thought it was very interesting to make a movie about a mother who tried to tell the truth about the father to her son, about the dead father. And then from that, it started to be something.
The Knockturnal: And how did you balance the grief with the comedy of the film?
Pierre Salvadori: I always do that — I don’t know exactly why I do it, but I know that most of the comedies are based on their tragic story of the times. If you look at Chaplin, at the beginning it’s never a very light story, most of the time it’s something a bit dark.
The Knockturnal: Like The Great Dictator.
Pierre Salvadori: Yeah. Most of the movies, it’s about the point of view. So my point of view I have, I try to make something light of most of the times or topics that are sometimes sad. But those are most of the best comedies, I think. But I learned that from American classic movies.
The Knockturnal: And why is the film called En Liberté!?
Pierre Salvadori: I called it En Liberté! because it’s not the original title. When the movie was finished, the original title was a bit sad. The distributor, everybody was panicking. So I had to look for something else. And then I realized that, for the first time, I did it en liberté, with more freedom with my work. I authorized myself another way, and I was more free. Years ago I would not have done this movie the same way, so I had this feeling that I was very free. “En liberté” also means “unleashed.” When you have people [unleashed] they can do crazy things. It could have been a title, “unleashed.” But they decided to call it [The Trouble With You], I don’t know exactly why. But to me, I call it En Liberté! because it was about a guy who was in jail, and I call it En Liberté! because I did it like that. I dared a little bit more. Because when you do comedy you have to have boundaries. And for the first time I mixed up a lot of emotions, I authorized myself to be more free.
The Knockturnal: First of all, I wanted to hear about your character.
Pio Marmaï: It’s about a young guy, he’s about my age, he’s 35, he’s just going out of jail. He’s a completely innocent guy, he gets out of prison, and he estimates that for the eight years he did in prison, the state owes him eight years of his life. He decides to have some kind of revenge. He also meets the woman of the guy who put him in jail. It’s definitely an explosive meeting together.
The Knockturnal: And what was it like to play such a crazy character?
Pio Marmaï: A lot of difficulties. The most important thing is the density of the dialogue that Pierre writes. This is very difficult to digest and then to play, to act, so it was a very technical shooting. A lot of fun, but a lot of work.
The Knockturnal: And a lot of what seem like very crazy stunts as well.
Pio Marmaï: A lot of stunts too, and a lot of fighting. It was one of the first times that I did some action shit, so it was very exciting.
The Knockturnal: It must have been great working with Pierre Salvadori.
A: Yeah, it was the second time we worked together. We also worked together four years ago [for In the Courtyard]. We have a close relationship together.
Photo courtesy of UniFrance.