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Elisabeth Bartlett is blogging the festival scene from Cannes to Los Angeles.
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LES MAUVAISES HERBES (Bad Seeds) My New Favorite Movie!


LES MAUVAISES HERBES, directed by Louis Bélanger and written by Louis Bélanger, Alexis Martin, and starring Alexis Martin, Gilles Renaud, Emmanuelle Lussier-Martinez, Luc Picard... is my new favorite movie!! And as of the time of the Santa Barbara Film Festival, it has no U.S. distribution yet. WTF?!

I got up at 7:45 am for the 8:30 screening. It was a full house - the movie had its world premiere in Santa Barbara that weekend. I want everyone to see this movie! I laughed hard and giggled with delight and cried a little too. It's a farce set in the woods in a Quebec winter. The Q&A with Bélanger and festival programmer Michael Albright is below.


Bélanger, who lives in Quebec, spoke pretty good english with so much enthusiasm and energy. He got up to thank everyone after the ovation and immediately spoke about his movie: I wanted to do something about what happens if you put a street wise guy with a rural wisdom guy. If you put them together for a whole winter, what would happen, what would be their daily life? When I started to write the project I realized that they get along quite fast. So I had to have this young girl that kind of gives another push to the script. It gives another drive to the film. And then we would be able to talk about this generation gap. 

Albright: I appreicate the mix between drama and comedy. I know you have influences with the Czech new wave and I think it's just a brilliant balance. How do you get that tone just right?

 Bélanger: It's not easy because right at the beginning, the distributors and people who finance the film always care when you say you want to have a few different tones. Because people want to put your film in a box. 'Is it a comedy, is it a drama? When you start to say, “We're gonna mix all of them,” they feel uncomfortable with this. But, I strongly believe that it is possible. It's just a matter of writing it and directing it...I like it when you laugh after you almost cry.  When I was studying at the film school, I wasn’t going there that much. Right beside the street there was a cinemteque. It was two bucks to go there, so basically I spent all of my university years not in school but at the movies. I was some sort of rat over there. We were having fun seeing films, going to the bar and discussing it, seeing some girl thinking one day we would be "cineaste" that was the perfect school for us. 

Albright: What are the logistics of filming with marijuana?

Bélanger: I was a bit naive. I thought it would be really cheap to film because it’s mostly one location and a few exteriors. but we had the weed which was 2000 plants. And it’s really 4x2000 because they’re at different lengths throughout the film. It was the metaphor, the friendship growing during the weed growing. Plus, it was the coldest winter we had since we have been recording the winter forecast. It was minus 35 most of the day. If it would have been real pot, we probably would have lost the entire thing almost ten times. Because we lost electricity, it was a nightmare. I thought we could get medical marijuana to donate but they said this is for medicine not cinema. I said, "ok ill go to hells angels," my producer said, "you don’t want to deal with those people they don’t provide receipts.” The artistic director said, “please stop thinking about it i’ll take care of it. It's gonna be plastic.”

An audience member asked about distribution for the film. The answer shocked me since the movie is so good.

Bélanger: Distribution is breaking my heart all the time. The film will be released in Canada on the 7th of March…. But the problem is to encourage the distributor that the people want to see different films and foreign films. I know that your people are curious and we have to convince the distributor that he has to make people see other films. Plus the thing is, once the distributor gets back his investment, usually they stop working on the film. It’s tough as a director because you always have to be bugging them, on the phone saying ‘Please, submit the film to festivals.’ I’m not that type of guy. I don’t want to be the guy who’s moaning and complaining and saying… in that situation I say well let's work on the next project because I don’t want to get depressed about distribution. It's always the big battle for me. I know people will come to see the film its just a matter of providing the film. 

I wrote the script with the guy who embodied the character of the actor. It's our 3rd film together. We made one documentary and two fiction films together. He usually writes plays, so I try to tell him, go with your ideas, Il'l do the cinematic aspects. We always try to not give everything to the audiences right at the start, it’s always fun to discover a character in some sort of mutation. When you think you know a character, there’s a scene coming that will give you new information about the character. its fun when you are in an intellectual process while viewing a film.

On casting: I never do casting. For my entire career this is my 9th fiction film, because I know the actors in Quebec, I go often to theatre, I also direct theatre, and I’m a family man with my actors. The guy who embodies Simone, this is our 5th film together. The two goons, we have done 3 films together. Most of those people, they are not only actors — I go fishing with them, we play petanque, we eat together, i know their girlfriends or wives… for me, being a filmmaker is not a way of earning my living, it’s a way of living. Those people became my friends and I say "I’ve got this project." You know I read this book - Jacques Cassavetis? Basically he was working with his friends. Only the younger girl, she’s 26 and I’m 50 so we don’t speak very much. That was her first feature film. I knew with her audition right away we had her because she can confront, and she’s not trying to seduce them. And young actresses often try to seduce their partner or the camera or even the director, and I’m searching for realism that is not seducing so she fit perfectly. 


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About Elisabeth

Bartlett Elisabeth
Blogging about the festival scene from Los Angeles

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