Interview with Stéphane Malandrin

I had the pleasure of chatting with Stéphane Malandrin after the screening of his latest film, Kill Me Please, which he co-wrote and produced, at the Hyde Park Picture House as part of the ‘fanomenon’ theme at the Leeds Film Festival on 13th November 2011.

Kill me Please is a blacker than black comedy set in an ‘assisted suicide’ hospital for those who want to end their lives but cannot face doing it themselves. It’s a potential cult favourite, and rather niche marketed film. It isn’t strictly about euthanasia, however. During the post screening Q&A Stéphane remarked the film targeted the modern consumerist society, the notion that even ones own death can be bought (these clinics do exist).

Someone in the audience complained about the subtitles, asking why he chose subtitles that can’t always be read. This was clearly a technical issue but he jokily responded that they chose the cheapest. The film was shot quickly shot on location in 3 weeks due to the low budget. The choice to shoot in black and white was partly budget driven. French actor Benoît Poelvoorde appears at the films opening, and starred in it for free as he loved the script, going against the advice of many.

Stéphane Malandrin clearly just loves film making. He isn’t shy to praise his work, and says he loves the film and finds it very funny. He comments that the English are quite reserved and were ‘calm’ during the screening, he had the sense they restricted themselves from laughing due to the darkness of the humour. The Italians however, he says were bawling in the aisles, and he demonstrates their raucous laughter. The film was very well received over there and won the Marc’Aurelio Award for best film at the Rome Film Festival.

He has loved writing since a young age. He recalls writing a love letter aged 13 and was more amorous about the act of writing the letter than its subject. When fresh out of university, he wrote a letter to the Cahiers du Cinema magazine to ask for experience, as he aimed to be a publisher. He ended up as a film critic. He often had a different attitude to his fellow critics, finding Four Weddings hilarious on release, as they stuck up their noses at it. He didn’t plan to direct and produce, but was helping out his brother and friends. He likes to test various creative mediums. In addition to script writing, directing and producing, he is writing a historical fiction novel about Beethoven and his mysterious lover.

Unfortunately, my phone audio was of dire quality and this was all that could be revived, my apologies.

[SH] Is this your dream job?

[SM] Ah, my dream job…Well, I’m a writer. My main ambition is to write and finish a novel. I make films for pleasure, because I’m with my friends and it’s very funny to make a movie, but I’m more committed to literature.

[SH] Well, you started off with writing didn’t you and then diverted?

[SM] Yes, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager. I studied Philosophy at university. Then I wanted to go in to publishing but ended up working for Cahiers du Cinéma and I thought, well this is a nice job, I can do this on the side of my other writing. I became a film critic, which I enjoyed, for three years. Then I had a love story in India with a woman I met in Paris. I spent four years in India then I came back and worked with my brother in Belgium and started to make movies with him.

[SH] Do you write everyday?

[SM] Yes sure, if you want to be a writer I think it’s important to write everyday. Anything! Just write. As a film critic I kept a film diary.

[SH] Do you ever get writers block, and how do you cope?

[SM] No, never.

[SH] Never!

[SM] Well, a child with toys never runs out of ways to play.

[SH] So film making is like a toy to you?

[SM] Yes, of course.

[SH] Who is your favourite director? Who inspires your work?

[SM] I think David Lynch. I did a movie with my brother that wasn’t so much inspired by him, but tried to go somewhere through a door that he opened. We made a film, which I directed, called Hand of the Headless man (in French: Où est la main de l’homme sans tête), starring a French actress called Cécile De France, and a German actor called Ulrich Tukur.

[SM] You don’t speak French right?

[SH] No, but I wish I could. It’s a beautiful language.

[SM] Can you speak any other languages?

[SH] No, but if I could it would be French. I think it sounds lovely.

[SM] Thank you. Yeah it does.

[SH] What is your proudest film achievement?

[SM] Well it’s not as if I can look at my life span of work, but I did a few, maybe five films as a scriptwriter. I am proud of how much we enjoy making the movies. We are out of the market and working against the market, but still people like it. We are just having fun. We don’t care about money. I mean, we’re not rich. We are not doing adverts on TV or anything; we are doing it for pleasure. I’m proud of our attitude. Our actors enjoy it.

[SH] This was obvious in Kill Me Please. It seems there could have been a lot of improvisation.

[SM] Yeah, they were improvising. We were proud of that. It was just like a jam with musical instruments, when you jam with your friends you just let yourself be with your music. It’s just like an evening with your friends. We have that feeling on set. There were special moments that happened on the set that could not be created.

[SH] What’s your favourite film?

[SM] Oh wow, let me think. It’s called Sunrise. It’s a silent film from the twenties. It’s the most beautiful piece of cinema you can see. It’s a love story and the images are beautiful. It’s like a poem.

[SH] So do you think then it’s also important for cinema to be a great visual form, without dialogue?

[SM] Yeah I mean, nothing can beat the old silent movies, the Charlie Chaplin movies. They couldn’t be re-created.

[SH] Can you offer advice to an aspiring film journalist?

[SM] The way to make money from it is to do as many interviews as you can, with famous directors, and sell them on. Not me though, I’m not famous!



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