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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



BORIS WITHOUT BEATRICE (2016) at 66th Berlinale. Interview with Writer/Director Denis Côté


“Boris Without Beatrice” (2016) screened in competition during the 66th Berlin Film Festival (11-21 February, 2016). French Canadian visionary writer/director Denis Côté's film follows the story of Boris Malinovsky (played by James Hyndman) struggling with the grave manic depression of his wife Beatrice (Simone-Elise Girard). While Beatrice retreats into a dark space of melancholia- sleeping all day and staring into the oblivion- Boris loses himself in his extravagantly rich life of money and multiple extra-marital affairs. Poles apart, it is clear they run the risk of losing each other forever. When Boris is visited by a strange dark angel-like presence (Denis Lavant) and warned that his hubris and greed will cause him to lose everything, including Beatrice, Boris must face his inner demons to become a better man and fight for all that he holds dear.


In an interview with Denis Côté, here is what he had to say:

What made you come up with this story? Was it inspired by real events?

DENIS: I must admit that somehow the film came from my own doubts towards myself. I think most of us wake up one morning asking ourselves if we are ‘a good person’. Could I make a funny twisted film out of that universal question? Then I thought of creating a character from a social class I never filmed before. It became a film about self-doubt, about success and power. I didn’t want to make an anti-bourgeois film. I see it more like a moral fairy-tale.

Do Boris and Beatrice represent something symbolic to you bigger than their characters?

DENIS: I didn’t want Boris Malinovsky to be just Boris Malinovsky. I thought he was a little bigger than nature. He is success. He is arrogance. There is something mythological about him, and of course he is archetypal. I really hope he talks to all of us, whatever our social class and status.

Was Beatrice ' s illness intended and conscious forcing change, or was she a mere victim of severe depression?

DENIS: The story is more about Boris. It’s one man’s dialogue with his conscience. Is Béatrice really sick? Is Béatrice really there? We can never be sure. Boris can’t believe he provoked Béatrice’s illness all by himself. But in the end, who was sick? Béatrice or Boris? I twist the levels of reality. You can read the film in so many ways I hope.

How did you cast the film? Was it a difficult process?

DENIS: It was a fun process and casting has become a sacred moment for me. Finding the right faces and finding the actor you’d not expect to play a part. James Hyndman for Boris was an obvious choice. He’s a famous theater actor here and we don’t see him much on the big screen. I wanted the three ladies to share an aesthetic pattern, all blonde-redheads with soft features like angels. They are all a sleeping part of Boris’ personality. Denis Lavant is a mythical actor and fits perfectly as the stranger. Bruce LaBruce is the last person you’d think of as a Prime Minister of Canada. I had to choose him! I’m very proud of that cast.

Were there any challenges you faced while making the film? Or was it a pretty seamless production?

DENIS: It was a normal process. I never know how to react to those big 35mm productions with 35-40 crew members but with age, I know how to deal with all the energies.

There is a lot of industry talent coming out of French Canada today. Can you speak of the burgeoning of the French Canadian film industry?

DENIS: Xavier Dolan, Jean-Marc Vallée, Denis Villeneuve, Philippe Falardeau are all big names now and it’s true that for such a small nation (8 million French Canadians), we overproduce. I think we have a special sensibility that is not really European, not really North American. People around the world can feel that little something now. It’s an unconscious signature I guess. I’m always amazed to see that in every major film fest, there is a Quebec film in Competition. And now it’s Hollywood.

You recently premiered in competition at Berlinale. How was that experience?

DENIS: It was my 4th World Premiere at Berlinale. I’m really comfortable screening films there. I feel respect and openness.

How have audiences thus far reacted to your film?

DENIS: Some critics and reviewers were tough on the film, as if the multiple tones of the film were confusing or I don’t know. I think the film is a typical ‘Denis Côté film’ but many have said it was ‘completely different’ from my other films. I disagree with that. The Premiere was just great with 1600 people and a warm welcome. I must think about all the polarized reactions to the film.

What (if you can share with us) will you be working on next?

DENIS: Certainly a smaller film with a small team. I’m juggling with ideas now.


Interview by Vanessa McMahon


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