Presented in Cannes in 2021 and in theaters this week Ouistreham is a free and romantic adaptation of Florence Aubenas’ book, a real immersion within a group of precarious workers. Meeting with a team finally brought to light.
It is in Cannes on the Terrasse Albane of the grand hotel Mariott that the Ouistreham team was installed this Wednesday, July 7, 2021, relaxed, joyful, in its place within this world famous festival, ready to put it in the spotlight. This team is that of Emmanuel Carrère, famous novelist, back to directing fifteen years after La Mustache, thanks to the joint impetus of a determined Juliette Binoche and a Florence Aubenas finally convinced. Their film, important in more than one way, is finally released in theaters on January 12.
An adaptation that was not at all obvious
“Originally, Florence didn’t want us to adapt her book, Juliette worked on her body year after year and she ended up dropping my name, she confessed it to me afterwards, a bit like a way to I got out of the woods. I found myself getting stuck where I wouldn’t have gone on my own but if I find this great book. Sometimes luck brings you much closer to yourself than your own will “, Emmanuel Carrère tells us, himself a novelist four times adapted for the cinema.
When asked about Florence Aubenas’ initial reluctance to see her beautiful investigative work reflected in the daily life of precarious housekeepers, the filmmaker specifies: “I don’t think she was worried about disrespecting her book but disrespecting her characters, which she painted with authority and force. One of the issues in the film was to ‘have the same attention to the characters. “
By resuming his adaptation, Emmanuel Carrère added to it, necessarily, as a novelist as we have said, more inclined to mix zealous documentarism and welcome romanticism:
“Florence’s book is really a documentary, she is there as a narrator but does not expand at all on her moods because she thinks that this is not her job as a journalist. Me, I have more tendency to focus also on me as an observer. Here, then, the fictional character invented from Florence, but who is not her, finds himself embroiled in a story of friendship which includes a real moral ambiguity. “
“If you want to do what Florence is doing, you have to lie”
At the heart of the film is indeed an ethical question, when to better reveal and denounce the invisible daily life of these women, the heroine (luminous Juliette Binoche) passes herself off as one of them. . At the risk of threatening the strong bond that she will forge there on the spot, a bond immediately tinged with lies and an identity theft with which the heroine sometimes finds it difficult to come to terms. A discomfort that Carrère himself knows?
“I have already done immersion journalism but I am putting my card on the table for myself. This is not the case with Florence and if you want to do what she does, you are forced to do that, to lie. At one point for the film, I needed a dramatic stake. Even though everything is done with the best of intentions, for a good cause and the feeling is sincere, the stake emotional and the risk revolve around this friendship which is based on a lie. “
“This film is not a feel good movie on this subject, moreover: the class struggle, it exists. This world speaks of the violence of the world of work and here a fortiori the one who is at the bottom of the hierarchy, the less qualified, hard, badly paid jobs. Even if the profession of the actors does not overlap completely with their characters, the latter are well paid, or badly paid to know him precisely. This is why the film does not open on Juliette Binoche but on Hélène Lambert and closes in the same way. “
The Hélène Lambert revelation
So that his film keeps the authenticity of the documentary, Emmanuel Carrère took care to cast around Juliette Binoche non-professional actresses, overwhelmingly authentic. Among them, you will discover the aforementioned Helene lambert, heroine literally bursting through the screen from beginning to end of the film. During these rather formal interviews in Cannes, we took pleasure in seeing her bustle about in front of the media around the world. She took the time to come and talk to us, between main course and dessert, relaxed, happy to be surrounded by her fellow travelers and adventurers.
“I was cast in a ‘wild’ way, when I was in an interim box and came to hand in my hours sheet. I immediately said ‘yes, why not’, I love the unknown and try things. I then read Florence’s book which is still relevant today, it must be said. Hours of sick people for stones. My heroine has three children and has to manage so that they have to eat on their plate. The hours of cleaning are the fastest to have money at the time of the month “, she confides to us without doubting, before specifying:
“We put real me in the film and the children playing are mine, my three boys. If the hardest part on the set was the hours of walking required, which we don’t see in the film, the hardest part beautiful to play was to play precisely with them. “
Larger than life, without filter and solar, the actress testified to a gift for improvisation on the set, that everyone recognized her. Coached by Emmanuel Carrère “who has several hats” and by Juliette Binoche “a golden woman who came up to us and not the other way around”, she took a liking to the profession and will continue it but only if we come to look for her: “I won’t go on my own, I don’t like to be seen, I’m not like that”. Not to be seen is missed, so much it illuminated, let it be said, the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes this year.
Juliette Binoche was a real chameleon, who provoked and threw balls at Hélène …
“Helene improvises, and did it all the better as she was pushed by Juliette Binoche who was a perpetual springboard and who had the delicacy of being so for everyone, before serving herself”, explains Emmanuel Carrère. Juliet was a perfect chameleon, provoked, threw balls at Helene, threw her again. There was real joy in playing together. In another way, the days with Cedric, the only man in the cast, were easy days. There was a very charming kind of seduction between them. “
Around Hélène, in fact, gravitate actors who are just as talented and colorful. Didier Pupin alias Cédric, construction worker spotted in a working-class restaurant, Patricia Prieur alias Michèle also cast at her workplace in the restaurant business, or Léa Carne alias Marilou, spotted in an emergency center:
“Acting was not an apprenticeship. We were asked to be natural, in terms of reactions. In terms of the text, we helped each other. But everything had to be natural, that’s the strength of the film. Juliette Binoche us reassured all the time, played the role of mom, took the time to explain all the subtleties to us on a technical level, behind the scenes of the cinema “, they confide that day with the same voice.
Evelyne Porée, invisible precarious worker who became a proclaimed actress
Among these improvised actresses, Emily Madeleine (Justine) and Evelyne Porée (Nadège) stand out in that they were really part of the original universe of Florence Aubenas, one while she was on the famous ferry for a student job and experienced this moment “complicated but important and understandable” where the reporter came to tell her who she really was; the other who was really Aubenas’ team leader and who did not recognize her at the time even though she knew her work. “She gave me an autographed copy of her book one day, I was so surprised, but I never took it as a betrayal, on the contrary. Which was not the case for all. We stayed. very connected, she even came to my wedding, and years later came back with Emmanuel to tell me about this adaptation project. The rest was done naturally “.
It is the case to say it so much this actress is natural precisely, endowed with a “irresistible verbal talent, with bite and humor” crazy. “This way of never admitting defeat is specific to all this casting and has governed the choice. We selected those who had this fishing, this energy and the desire to jump into this crazy adventure. They are and also embody on the screen women subject to an overwhelming social order but they are not overwhelmed women. They fight with great courage, energy, humor. Humor is common to all as characters but also as actresses. “
“We were taken for crap. I hope this film will change our reality”
Humor and resilience: that’s what fundamentally emanates from Evelyne Porée, as jovial as she was involved when around a coffee she reminded us of how badly she was considered in her hard work and not respected.
“We were taken for shit, you know. I hope this film will further change reality. There is a real painfulness in this work that I can no longer do at the moment because I am in state of convalescence “, she confides. When suggested that she change her profession and become an actress, she admits to considering it if it is offered to her as she is “exploded”, without being in any way hampered by the cameras.
Let be rather than lead
Cameras that were definitely forgotten on the set, we understand more than ever, thanks to a director more adept at letting exist than directing at all costs.
“Juliette gave me a lesson in directing actors by taking me aside and telling me “Don’t direct me yet, let me do three or four takes without telling me anything and if you’re not happy we’ll do it again.” First of all, when you let go of Juliette Binoche by telling her “you do what you want”, she brings things, she tries. It’s varied, colorful. And it taught me to withdraw even more than I am spontaneously inclined to. “
“It really is the best lesson of director of actors received, it came from her. By temperament I am rather inclined to let things happen. You had to direct when it was complicated, you had to go fast but for the main thing I rely a lot on what people bring, whether it is the actors or the technicians. “
Humor, let be, commitment and harmony: this is what emerges from the team finally highlighted by Emmanuel Carrère, to whom, after Cannes, we hope for the best of theatrical trips and finally recognition, real.
Discover the heroines of “Ouistreham” in pictures: