An interview with Anne Fontaine, director of The girl from Monaco

The girl from Monaco tells the story of a brilliant and neurotic attorney (Fabrice Luchini) that goes to Monaco to defend a famous criminal. But, instead of focusing on the case, he falls for a beautiful she-devil (Louise Bourgoin), who turns him into a complete wreck… Hopefully, his zealous bodyguard (Roschdy Zem) will step in and put everything back in order… Or will he?

Anne Fontaine, director of The girl from Monaco was born in Luxembourg and started her career as a dancer and an actress. She made her directorial debut with Les Histoires d’Amour Finissent Mal en Général (1993), which won the Prix Jean Vigo. Her films include Augustin (1995), Nettoyage à Sec (Dry-Cleaning – 1997), Augustin King of Kung-Fu (1999), Comment j’ ai tué mon pére (How I killed my Father – 2001), Nathalie… (2003), Entre ses Mains (In his hands – 2005), and Nouvelle Chance (Oh la la 2006). Most of Anne Fontaine’s films have been official entries to major festivals (Cannes, Venice, Toronto…) and have won numerous awards, including several French “Césars”.

Bijan Tehrani: The girl from Monaco starts like a light comedy but it turns into a deep story about love, passion and everything else. Did you plan it that way with these different layers?
Anne Fontaine: Yes, it’s a comedy but it’s a dark comedy. I thought it was interesting to show the contrast between the main characters, a cerebral intellectual and the physical bodyguard. I thought of it as a nightmare that had to be funny. Bertrand, the main character of the film doesn’t know how to be in touch with his emotions. I also wanted to build this man to man relationship with more passion than just the cliché of a bourgeois and a bodyguard. I know when you see a comedy, you expect a happy ending, but here it’s an ironic ending.

BT: Both men in the film, Bertrand and Christophe, are very confused but the woman, Audrey knows what she wants. It seems like an interesting approach to woman, reflecting the women of our times.
AF: Yes, she’s not very intelligent but she has this kind of instinct. She knows the effect she has on men, she controls her power, she‘s a predator. For her, sleeping with a man doesn’t mean a thing. These two men are very different. One is all on the brain side, has a successful career, very successful but he is not in touch with his emotions. The other one seems less sophisticated but in reality he is more of a complex person. A bodyguard also can never show his emotions. You have to be at a good distance from who you guard. But for the first time, he opens up. Also, I wanted to say something about class struggle. Bertrand is educated but his education does not help him in building relationships. The other one has no education, he feels things but he’s opaque and ambiguous.

BT: These two men seem to complement each other in a way.
AF: Yes, they are almost like a couple in a way. To make them laugh, I told Fabrice: you are the woman and you have your husband. One has the instinct, like an animal and he is physical, the other one can’t go there., he’s very vulnerable.

BT: How did you cast the film?
AF: I knew Fabrice Lucchini very well and wrote the part with him in mind. I thought he could play the part with his originality and funny intellectual quality. He’s brilliant but very cerebral. Then I had to find an actress but I couldn’t find a professional actress. I came across Louise Bourgoin. It was her first feature role; she’d done parts for TV. No one else had the same charisma and sex-appeal. I found her very natural and incredibly free. As for the bodyguard, I knew him because I had done tests with him on my first film. In France you don’t have too many physical actors.

BT: Why did you pick Monaco for your story location?
AF: Because this place is completely unreal. It’s like a fiction, a cartoon; it seems like a country where nothing is real. I thought it was a good idea to be there for a comedy. I thought it gave more intensity because the main charachter thinks nothing could happen in Monaco, it’s safe, no one could even imagine there’d a jail in Monaco, But the most beautiful view of Monaco is from the jail.
BT: How did you come up with the visual style of the film?
AF: I wanted it to be very sunny. Like Monaco. Artificial and sensual. But very rigorous in terms of frame because comedies require very rigorous angles to allow actors to move freely within the frame.
BT: Any new projects you’re working on?
AF: After this film, I did “Coco Chanel” with Audrey Tautou, on the youth of Chanel, it came out in Paris three or four months ago. I’m now working on a comedy without a dark ending, with Isabelle Huppert and Andre Dussollier.


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