INTERVIEW: Enfant Terrible François Ozon Follows up with Slate of New
by Anthony Kaufman
After the short feature “See the Sea” debuted in New York at 1998’s New Directors/New Films series in New York, people took notice of its young French director, François Ozon. A recent graduate of France’s esteemed FEMIS film school, Ozon had a number of award-winning shorts under his belt, including “X-2000,” “La petite mort,” “Scenes de lit” and “A Summer Dress” (which was distributed in the U.S. along with “See the Sea” by Zeitgeist Films). Even though in the U.S., many directors unfortunately disappear without a trace after their debuts, Ozon is becoming a one-man industry in his native country. His first full length feature, the much talked about S & M family “Sitcom” premiered at Cannes’s Critic Week section in 1998 with perhaps more provocation than positive response — and opens at New York’s Quad Cinemas via Leisure Time Films this Friday.
At Cannes this year, a one-time only, clandestine buyers screening of his new film, “Criminal Lovers” showed to a number of U.S. distribs. In a recent visit to New York, Ozon told indieWIRE that several buyers were in attendance, including Zeitgeist reps, but that all are waiting on its world premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival. “Criminal Lovers,” a French-Japanese co-production, stars Natacha Regnier (Cannes award-winning actress from “The Dream Life of Angels“) and Jeremie Renier (the Dardenne brother’s “La Promesse“); Ozon promises the film to be even “more perverse” than his prior films, because its rebellious protagonists are “pretty and young.”
The dark, twisted and sexually perturbing undercurrent of Ozon’s films will likely continue. With “Sitcom,” a sort of psychosexual Bunuelian farce about the damaging influence of a rat on a picture perfect family, the movie shares some of the sick tenants of “See the Sea,” but remains more comical. As Ozon told indieWIRE at Cannes in 1998, “I like to make one film against the last one. So I wanted to get lighter. On the other hand, what’s similar is the manipulation of the audience, not showing things, and leaving quite a bit to the imagination.” Comparing the two, he continued, “I think it’s more dark. Because it’s the whole family in ‘Sitcom.’ In ‘See the Sea,’ it was just a poor English mother and her baby.”
Inspired by American shows he watched as a kid like “Dallas,” “Dynasty” and “Bewitched,” “Sitcom” is the anti-sitcom, “some kind of adolescent rebellion against my family,” Ozon adds. “I think it will be strong for adolescents and teenagers, because they seem to be reacting the most positively so far,” Ozon mentioned from Cannes. “Because they understand this rebellious spirit and the desire to tear everything apart, but also to laugh at it.”
In addition to “Sitcom” and “Criminal Lovers,” Ozon has a third feature in the can, “Un Goutte d’eau dans l’ocean” which roughly translates to “A Drop of Water in the Ocean,” starring Anna Thomson who drew critical raves in France for her performance in Amos Kollek’s “Sue.” Based on an unpublished play from a 19-year-old soon to be prolific German filmmaker named Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Ozon seems to have found a kindred provocateur. Though with Fassbinder’s output of over 40 features in 16 years, Ozon still has a lot of work cut out for him.
To read our interview with François Ozon from last year’s New Directors/New Films series and the Cannes Film Festival, go to the indieWIRE archive: