After making its debut at Cannes Film Festival Critics Week, French romantic comedy Anaïs in Love is headed for theaters on April 29. Writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s feature film debut is a sensitive portrait of a young woman who struggles professionally, financially and with relationships, but is dead-set on always following her desires. After ditching her boyfriend and having an affair with a middle-aged publisher named Daniel (Denis Podalydès), Anaïs crosses paths with Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), who she starts to fall for. The only problem is Emilie is married to Daniel.
Ahead of Anaïs in Love’s theatrical run, LA Confidential spoke with Bourgeois-Tacquet about the importance of embracing desire, the brilliance of Anaïs Demoustier and why “Bette Davis Eyes” was essential for the film.
Anaïs in Love is your feature debut. Did you feel any pressure while making the film?
I would say no, there wasn't any external kind of anguish or pressure for two reasons. First is that I didn't have any formal cinema training. I didn't go to school for it. I didn't have any of that sort of foresight into the process. All I had was a really strong desire to tell these stories when I started making short films. And so going into the feature was really driven by the desire to tell this story, so there wasn't that much sort of questioning happening before I started pushing it forward and things started working and I started working on it. So I would say that in that preparatory period, it wasn't nourished by any external anxieties and that then, when the film actually started happening and in the process of that, of course, there were certain doubts and nervosities, but they were all from within. They were never sort of environmental or having to do with the people that surrounded me.
You've said that Anaïs in Love is about the power of desire. Why is that something you wanted to tackle in your first feature film?
As you say, desire is the topic of my first feature, but it most likely will be the topic of my work to come. For me, it’s the most interesting question that can be tackled, insofar as it's the most mysterious and then, at the same time, the most all-pervasive. We don't know where desire originates, we don't really understand its ignition and its genesis. We don't know what makes somebody want to be a filmmaker. We don't know what it is that makes you fall in love with a specific person or another. And despite being of mysterious origin, it's also the thing that gives you the motor and the drive for just about anything, which to me is really wild. It's the courage that it can unleash in people, is the sort of pure vitalism that I'm really interested in, which to me is just the most notable thing in life to be desiring. When I was younger and I had a lot of existential anguish, a lot of them were put to rest after I heard a one-liner by Woody Allen, who says that life isn't about meaning, but about desires. I think that centering in on that question of what drives the individuals is going to be in my work in the future.
Anaïs Demoustier and Denis Podalydès
What makes Anaïs Demoustier the right actor to portray Anaïs in the film?
I didn't ever think about it in these terms, but now that you say it, in her generation of actresses in France right now, I can't think of so many others that would have been able to carry this role. Anaïs is a really fantastic actress because she is extremely technical. She is capable of learning through heaps of texts very quickly and to be very aware of all the marking on the floor, and every time you say anything to her, she understands it very quickly and so she can process all of this information and, at the same time, be and act in a very, very natural way. Which is really, really particular and and was crucial to me being able to trust my writing, because the writing that I go through was the writing of a character who was going to be irritable at times and one that was going to be unbearable in moments. I needed all of her skill set to be able to trust that despite these ways, she would still be moving, first, and touching to people and that people would want to follow her. And these are all things that I was able to get a mark on when I worked with her previously on a short film together.
Anaïs Demoustier and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” perfectly soundtracks a scene where you really get to see Anaïs become enamored with Emilie, who is dancing around. Why that song?
I'm not an expert in music at all, so I had to ask a friend to propose a list, from which I drew four different tracks that I tried on with the actresses dancing to them. It was clear to both of them equally that the “Bette Davis” one was the one in which their chemistry could best work its way into the scene. Bette Davis as an actress is somebody that was very important to me growing up, also this is something that felt very natural. And so we went on to use it for the shooting of the film, and it was only in post production that I suddenly heard that I was going to have to replace the song because it was too expensive. And so we couldn't afford to buy the rights to it. And because of the way that I function too, I sent the authors of the song an email where I asked if they would give me a discount, all the while having many expectations about how important this particular song was going to be to my movie, which I thought it was and they agreed and so we were able to keep it
What do you hope audiences take away when they watch your film?
I would say that a lot of people, when they walk out of the film, what they effectively do tell me is that they come out wanting to be more like Anaïs, wanting to have the courage to follow their desires in the same way that she does. And I would say that, for me, is the main thing that I hope people can take away from it is this commitment to living your own life, really, more intensely and to be able to commit to your desires in this way.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Anaïs in Love will be available digitally and on-demand on May 6.
Photography by: Courtesy Magnolia Pictures