Anne Fontaine on ‘Boléro,’ New Project About Popular Music

Please don’t stop the music: Anne Fontaine isn’t done with it just yet.

Following “Boléro” — world premiering at International Film Festival Rotterdam — the noted director is developing another melodic project.

“It’s about a character who was a star at 10 years old. He had a ‘magic’ voice, but then he suddenly lost it. Years later, he is ready to come back. It’s a comedy, based on something real,” she says. Admitting that this time, she will swap classical compositions for popular tunes.

“I like songs: they are in our blood. We hear them and remember we lost a lover when they were playing. They mark our lives. There will be so much music [in this film]. And all these amazing voices, including a real-life singer making her film debut.”

New project will combine “cruelty and humor.”

“Our destiny might be cruel, but we are still able to laugh about it. After ‘Boléro,’ I still wanted to talk about music but show another side of it. It’s such a powerful way of expression.”

In her latest film, Fontaine — whose previous credits include “Coco Before Chanel” — focuses on French composer and pianist Maurice Ravel, played by Raphaël Personnaz. Or rather, on his most famous creation.

“I prefer to say I made a biopic of ‘Boléro,’” she observes.

“Alexandre Tharaud, a pianist who acts in the film, told me that when he plays Ravel, he feels his sensibility and personality. We can meet Ravel only through his music: he was so mysterious. You think you know famous people, but you don’t. With Coco Chanel, I focused on her youth. Here, I explore his emotions. It’s an internal journey.”

Distributed locally by Gusto Entertainment, “Boléro” was produced by Ciné-@, Cinéfrance Studios and F comme Film. SND Films handles sales.

Fontaine, who started with Marcel Marnat’s 1986 monograph about Ravel, quickly found a personal way in.

Courtesy of IFFR

“I come from a family of artists; my father was an organ player. I grew up listening to classical music until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Later, as a dancer, I was so impressed when I saw [choreographer] Maurice Béjart’s take on ‘Boléro’ with Jorge Donn.”

Her love for “characters who hide their suffering” also came in handy. Ravel, pining for married Misia Sert (Doria Tillier), is unable to give into emotions. Until they explode in “Boléro,” commissioned by dancer Ida Rubinstein (Jeanne Balibar).

“It’s so sensual, a metaphor of life and death, desire and obsession. But people don’t know how hard it was for him to compose it. I like the idea that his most famous creation was so difficult to complete and that he thought there was ‘no music in it.’ How ironic.”

As shown by Fontaine, “Boléro” has travelled the world. She has similar hopes for the film.

“It was a bit easier with Chanel, because it’s a known brand. But dance and music are universal. Everyone knows this melody. I tested it: I would play it to taxi drivers in Paris. They knew it even when they didn’t know Ravel.”

His fears and insecurities — later exacerbated by illness — were something she recognized, too.

“Everyone who creates has doubts. You never know if you will succeed. He had done all these sophisticated things, but at that point, he was completely empty inside. Also, it shows you can’t choose your legacy. People can connect with something you don’t even like and you cannot control it,” she says.

“I’ve learnt not to be a control freak anymore. When I was about to make my first film [‘Love Affairs Usually End Badly’], I was shattered: ‘Oh my God, now everyone will see I don’t know how to do it.’ It’s a difficult job because ultimately, you are alone.”

Fontaine looked back in time also later that day during IFFR Talk, this time joined by her longtime producer — and husband — Philippe Carcassonne.

“His first comments to me were discouraging. I am self-taught, I have never studied in film school. Later, he said: ‘Maybe I can talk to her again.’ I didn’t want his advice, but we ended up having a meeting. It’s hard for me to admit he said intelligent things, but it’s true,” she deadpanned.

Admitting she always needs to “believe” her actors — “It’s the only thing my films have in common. I have to be able to look at them and see their character” — she also touched upon “The Innocents,” set in 1940s Poland, and her first English-language film “Adore” with Robin Wright and Naomi Watts, based on Doris Lessing’s novella.

“She said to me: ‘Be sexy in the movie.’ It was astonishing for me to see this mature woman, a Nobel Prize winner, having this taste for sensuality. Three days ago, a man told me he saw the movie three times — with his wife. I said: ‘You must have one hot relationship.”

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