From his beginnings in The first day of the rest of his life recent Night doctor, Passing by Freely, I promise to be wise or Congratulate, Pio Marmaï has made a specialty of characters with heightened sensitivity, not to say borderline. In The divide by Catherine Corsini, in theaters this Wednesday, he is Yann, a truck driver seriously injured in the leg during a demonstration of yellow vests. At the hospital, he will cross paths with Julie (Marina Foïs), a Parisian bobo who does not have the same reading of society …
Referring to his character’s idea of entering the Élysée via the sewers, the actor caused a sensation last July during the film’s press conference in Cannes: “So in this case me Macron I would like to go to his place through the toilets and the pipes and bang his face, that obviously a bit like everyone else, in absolute terms?” Released on social networks, this punchline was going to cause an uproar, the former Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner denouncing “a call to violence”.
Truncated words that hurt
The problem is that Pio Marmaï had tempered his remarks by explaining: “But what is interesting is how we tell this revolt, whether it involves language or an act of violence (…) After if I had Emmanuel Macron in front of me I would tell him ‘My buddy, what’s going on here? Let’s be frank, what’s going on? ‘ And unfortunately he’s not here. “ Before the film’s release this Wednesday across France, the actor agreed to answer our questions …
Do we ask ourselves the question of legitimacy when we have to embody a yellow vest?
I play a character the same way every time, even if he’s grounded in reality. What interests me is to defend the fury, the revolt of a person. In this case the revolt of Yann who simply wants to work, to drive his truck and who finds himself injured by a de-encircling grenade. After that if I asked myself too many questions, I would only play what I am in real life and that would be of no interest. Because I think people would get pissed off quickly! Let’s say that I tend each time towards a little singular characters. After that, it’s true that when you play a character who is so revolted… Me, I’m not a machine, there is something that touches me, deeply. And that’s a good sign too. I am quite sensitive to what I embody. And when you spend two months in an underground with people, in this permanent tension, it is certain that I am no longer the same person in the end.
How to find the right tone to tell this social movement that has recently returned to the news?
First of all, I don’t have the impression of embodying the yellow vests. I embody a yellow vest, a person who is injured while going to demonstrate. I do not hold the whole movement on my shoulders. I also believe that the film is much more universal than that. And that’s what makes it its strength. What also intrigued me in the film is that it makes a very simple observation: that of the need to listen to oneself in French society. That’s what it says. The need to talk to each other, to explain oneself between social classes. It goes through revolt, through incomprehension, humor too. Me, this is something that reaches me on a very intimate level.
There is a moment when when we cross characters on the verge of explosion, and we talk about them for days on promotion … Obviously we reconvene a little this state of revolt
You mention the humor of certain scenes. In a way the film tells us that humor is the only thing that can bring us together, right?
From general misunderstanding can arise from humor in any case. Catherine Corsini was inspired by the Italian cinema of the 1960s and I find it interesting for a filmmaker to manage to wonder in such a earthy way about the political conflicts of the moment. I think that’s what will contribute to the impact of the film. Because we have a good time: we laugh when we see these people put on the face. This is what is enjoyable.
The incomprehension, is that what you felt after the controversy born of your words in Cannes?
Already, it affected me enormously. I’m not a violent person, I’m not a violent actor, I don’t want to fight with anyone. This is not the idea at all! (To smile). There is a moment when when we cross characters on the verge of explosion, and we talk about them for days on promotion … Obviously we reconvene a little this state of revolt that I went through an incarnate the character. It can lead me to have strong words, and when they are isolated, in an answer which is also quite long, and which is, I think, relatively clear since it refers to a part of the film and to a energy which is the film, everything mixes up and it’s not very pleasant. It is even quite painful because it leaves on movements of social networks which are very hard, very violent, very vindictive. It’s funny because I was talking about it the day before with a friend in Cannes and we were like: “Taking a shitstorm on social media must be pretty tough.” (To smile)
It’s quite a coincidence!
Except that I did not realize what that meant … Well then I can tell you that I realized it perfectly! Even after explaining myself, even showing my entire answer, even explaining myself there now, the damage is done. There will always be people who will be convinced that I want to attack the President of the Republic. Which is absolutely not the case. I don’t want to attack anyone in my life. And certainly not the president, on the contrary! But I see, I move on, and it makes me think.
The commitment that I make, when I make a film, which is moreover a film that has a political significance, is my way of delivering my perspective on French society.
Does that mean that it makes you less want to express yourself on the news? Artists are being criticized more and more, especially on social networks …
Oh no, I have always been quite politicized, but after that it concerns me. I’m not here to tell people to go vote this or that. I think people don’t give a damn about my opinion on politics. I want to keep my life a little secret and me, it’s my work that speaks for me. If what I think is not very clear from the films I make, so be it. The commitment that I make when I make a film, which is moreover a film that has political significance, is my way of delivering my perspective on French society. It is the only place where I can act. In any case, this is the way in which I, as an artist, feel a participant and a republican.
The divide, is it a film neither on the left, nor on the right?
Ah, very good question! After what are the left and the right today? I am a little lost. These thoughts still exist, they clash for a long time…. I believe that The divide is a film that is human. It is a film which advocates a kind of reconciliation even if it is chaotic, hazardous and awkward. Funny too. It’s a film about the need to listen to yourself, in fact.
Is it a film that can change things?
Change, I don’t think so. In absolute terms, I would like it to stir something up anyway. Already that gives people pleasure, a moment of fun. And at the same time that it puts them in front of a truth. If when we go out we say to ourselves “we had a good time, but I understood things about certain societal problems”, then it will be won.
>> The divide by Catherine Corsini. With Pio Marmaï, Marina Foïs, Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi. In theaters Wednesday.
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