Asked to describe her attraction to Francois Ozon’s curious new film, “Ricky,” French actress Alexandra Lamy said she was drawn to the story of a unique little boy. “I think it’s a film about difference,” she explained today at the Berlin International Film Festival. “This is a child that is different from the others.”
EDITORS NOTE: This article reveals a surprising plot element of Francois Ozon’s new film.
Ahead of the packed first press and industry screening today, fest attendees here in Berlin were earerly anticipating Ozon’s latest, buzzing about the posters hanging around the Berlinale’s Potsdamer Platz central area. The ads feature a huge close-up of a baby’s head and the image has piqued a fair amount of curiosity. “What is this film about?” asked one industry person last night at an informal gathering.
At the outset, “Ricky” is a seemingly somber story of a working-class mother and her 7 year-old daughter who live in a modest, if somewhat dismal, Franch apartment block. While on a cigarette break at her factory job, the mom meets Paco, resulting in quicky trist and a pregnancy. After the infant is born, Ricky toddler inexplicably goes missing and the mother and her daughter find him atop a bedroom closet. And then the film’s big twist is revealed. [NOTE: SPOILER ALERT] The baby is growing wings!
Inspired by a British short story, French filmmaker Francois Ozon’s new film is a family drama and fantasy tale all wrapped into one. “I was fascinated by the story of a flying baby,” Ozon explained through a translator, talking about the take that inspired his movie. “I thought this was more something the Dardennes or Walt Disney would do,” he quipped, during a Berlin press conference this afternoon.
Berlinale veteran Ozon, whose “8 Women” (Huit Femme) was a hit at the festival several years ago, returned to Berlin this year with his latest film in competition, just days before it opens at home in France. He said he wanted the film to contain both a sobering realistic element combined with an aspect of the magical, all revealed in an atypical fairy tale fashion. “My idea was to have a feeling of reality, but then this ‘fantastic’ element is introduced. I wanted it to [also] have a working class environment and not bourgeois. Casting was also a long bit of work.”
Actress Alexandra Lamy expressed her thrill to be in the film, saying it was quite the opposite from the acting work she gets at home. “In France, I’m known as a comic actress, so people would not expect me to do something like this – I was happy [Ozon] asked me.”
“With casting, I try to keep an open mind,” chimed in Ozon. “I don’t want to be a snob. I work with lots of people, both known and unknown actors, and we just work the scenes and make it work.”
Winslet in Berlin
The Berlinale kept one eye out for Oscar with best actress nominee Kate Winslet at the festival with “The Reader” today. Asked about the race for her role in Stephen Daldry’s best picture nominees, during a press conference in the German capital this afternoon, she said proudly, “I’m thrilled to be nominated.” Follow-up quesions about the Academy Awards resulted in a sharp retort from the moderator, who exclaimed, “This is a conversation about ‘The Reader,’ not the Oscars.” So that was that, but Winslet’s role continued to be a focus of the packed forty minute conversation.
“It was a big responsibility to play Hanna,” said Winslet. “The shame she fills is unbelievable…” In one of the awkward moments during the press conference, an over-zealous reporter asked Winslet about her decision to take roles that involve nudity and whether it was something she had a problem doing. “For me [‘The Reader’] is a love story and [nudity] is sometimes a part of my job, so I just get on with it.” She also praised Daldry and her director/husband Sam Mendes who directed her in “Revolutionary Road.” “I never like comparing directors, but if there’s a similarity, it’s that they have a background in theater so they really appreciate actors. It’s a joy to walk on set and be surprised by the character you’re becoming, and it’s a result of the direction you’re given.”