For several years, Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau have been writing and directing distinctive films that take a sunny disposition on what are generally serious issues. Their first collaboration, “The Adventures of Felix,” is about a gay man who leaves his lover to find a makeshift family on the road. “Jeanne and the Perfect Guy” is a musical about AIDS, and their documentary-like “My Life on Ice,” is a teenager’s video diary with a dark twist. The couple’s latest effort, “Cote D’Azur,” is a droll and very sexy comedy featuring horny parents, horny teenagers and a few musical numbers thrown in for good measure.
The plot involves adults Béatrix (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Marc (Gilbert Melki) summering at a villa in the Mediterranean with their son Charly (Romain Torres), Béatrix is convinced that Charly is gay, and she confides as much to Marc. However, it is really Charly’s friend Martin (Édouard Collin) who is queer, and harboring a crush on Charly. Things get muddled further when Charly leads his parents on, Marc finds himself attracted to Martin, Béatrix meets her own lover in secret, and Charly discovers his father’s old flame. Ducastel and Martineau spoke with indieWIRE to sort out all of the sexual confusion.
indieWIRE: Why did you choose to make “Cote D’Azur” a sex farce?
Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau: Is it a sex farce?!
OD: We had this idea of doing a comedy—not a farce—more Eric Rohmer in tone. In the writing and casting process, it became more and more farcical. It’s something that was emphasized in the editing. In the beginning, the first idea was that Marc meets his first love again.
iW: Finding your first love—did you base this on any experience?
OD: I don’t know what became of my first love, so it is like a fantasma to have some news one day from him if he sees the film.
JM: That’s why we make movies, to find our first love.
iW: Your films are not bound to traditional genres, yet this may be your most genre-specific film to date. How do you decide upon “Cote d’Azur’s” style?
JM: Ooh, la la! What is complicated, I think, at the beginning of the process, is that we don’t think in terms of genre, we have an idea about a character. During the writing process, we enter in to a genre. Jeanne was a musical, obviously. But when we wrote “The Adventures of Felix,” we didn’t think we were writing a road movie, it just suddenly came to me.
iW: Once again you include musical numbers to punctuate the action. Why did you do this?
JM: I don’t know. When I wrote the third draft, I just wanted to put a song in there.
iW: Was it important to cast straight or gay actors for the gay or straight roles?
JM: We had straight actors playing gay—Jean-Marc Barr, for example, whose background as a gay icon is obvious. But we wanted to find a gay teenager to play Martin, because we felt it would be something very special. Éduardo is openly gay, and we thought it was a good idea. There was something touching about him.
iW: Did the actors have concerns about the nudity/sexuality of the characters?
JM: We talked about it with Gilbert Melki when we met him. He is very shy and is only half-naked. With Jean-Marc Barr, it wasn’t an issue because we saw movies where he acted naked. With Valerie, she’s very shy, she doesn’t like it very much [but she appears half-naked]. For us, it was very important to do a sexy, sexually appealing film. We wanted the audience to feel the freedom of the body. We didn’t want to do any explicit sex scenes, but we tried to find a balance between nudity and modesty, which can be erotic without being pornographic.
iW: As teenagers, were you as horny as the younger characters in Cote d’Azur?
JM: Not so much. I wasn’t so openly gay at that time.
OD: Me either.
JM: But being in love with your best friend is a very common experience for gay teens.
iW: What was your coming out like? Did your mother assume you were gay like Béatrix does?
JM: It was very easy. I never came out—my mother just knew. I didn’t have to do anything—it was very natural and special. And kind of weird, because there was no crisis.
OD: It was quite different for me. I wanted to come out when I was 19, but my mother had a very conservative boyfriend, so it was complicated to tell her, since he was homophobic. I think she really knew I was gay 10 years ago when I met Jacques and introduced him to her. I never did “come out” to her.
iW: You made the gay cruising area in the film rather idyllic. Was this deliberate?
OD: Our producer, who is not gay, is afraid of the cruising area, and for him it was a very dark and dangerous with rough [associations]. We tried to explain to him that it can be a nice place, and we tried to make it romantic. There is a sunset the first time you see it in the film. It is glorious, not sad, or dark.
iW: Another theme in the film is “letting nature have its way”—which allows the characters’ love to bloom. What are your thoughts on relationships?
OD: We agree on one point, that if people are comfortable with their feelings and their relationship, they will be happier than if they are forced to do things because society wants you to act/think like that. The way to find your own harmony is your feelings. See, I’m being a little bit Buddhist.
iW: Speaking of harmony, how do you divide the work as filmmakers?
OD: For the editing, we both work with the editor and it is very unfortunate for her to have both of us in there with her. On the set, we both work with the actors. We try to be careful to say things in the same direction to the actors. Jacques finds it boring and stressful to organize the film—find locations, discuss things with the crew, etc.—I find that exciting. Writing, I speak with Jacques about the character and the genre, but I left him alone when he writes. He reads me the scene and if I laugh it was well received. If I didn’t find it funny, he missed his goal.
JM: That, or you’re just a bastard.
iW: So, you don’t find being in a relationship and working together difficult?
OD: It is much easier to work together. After we did Jeanne, I thought that maybe I would do something on my own since he teaches at a University. But I prefer that we work together. It is more comfortable. We never argue when we work on films. Sometimes during the writing process, or when we meet with the producer, or the distributor…
JM: I agree. It is very easy to work together. I wouldn’t do a movie without Olivier. I would stay home with my books.