With the second round of the French presidential election just days away, Éric Gravel and his leftist heart were furious. “We will go to vote covering our noses and we will wait for the legislative elections in June,” said the filmmaker, from his home in Yonne.
Since then, the vote has returned Emmanuel Macron to power, and Éric Gravel landed in Montreal to accompany his second feature film, Full time…. at 40are Rendez-vous Quebec Cinema (RVQC). Yes, the man is from Quebec.
Story of a mother who runs nonstop to maintain some semblance of normality, Full time take a look at a social phenomenon. Living in the country and working in the city. The film allowed the filmmaker to receive the director’s award at the Venice Film Festival, in 2021, Orizzonti section, and Laure Calamy to come out as best actress.
“I wanted to talk about the people who get up early, take the train, go to work, return in the afternoon… They have very long days and at the slightest grain of sand everything changes, explains the one established in the campaign I thought I had made a choice marginal, but I realized that many people live far from Paris. »
Camped on the left, but without seeming radical —“I don’t want to be a Manichaean”, he says—, Éric Gravel preaches a social cinema imbued with feelings, rather than mold speeches. He is a fan of gray areas, those that “show all facets.”
Not all black and not all white. Or, as in his personal case, neither completely here nor completely there. His accent betrays his origins. Twenty years ago, this Montreal-born Concordia University graduate chose to pursue a career in France. It is in a Paris shaken by transport strikes (what could be more Parisian, gossips will say) that takes place Full time. A month after its launch in France, here it is on the RVQC ramp.
“It makes my heart happy. It’s like presenting it at home. A way of saying… I’m a director from Quebec who shoots French films,” says the director.
an impressionist film
without condescension, Full timerevolves around a woman unable to make the right decisions. Already caught up in the family-work vortex, this employee of a large hotel suffers the repercussions of transportation paralysis.
“Collective anger is expressed because there is individual anger”, believes Éric Gravel, inspired by the social context and very popular. The one who started writing the script before the outbreak, in 2018, of the yellow vests also drew on his memories of a 1995 strike. The then foreign student had witnessed a beautiful outpouring of solidarity.
“I wanted, he says, a character that is misrepresented, that doesn’t have a megaphone. I really liked this contradiction. The movie could have been called a woman alonebecause the Julie he envisioned “tries to fend for herself, lacks resources, constantly seeks help.” Full time it is a work of a single character filmed on the edge. “I’ll take your sneakers,” says the Quebecois, who knew how to resist the French accent, but not the vocabulary.
Laure Calamy, did not discover her through the series call my agent (noble Ten percent in France) like most of us. “I knew her from the movies. i saw her in A world without womeninside only beasts, by Dominik Moll, where she plays a mother. The character is quite tough and needed a smart girl. Laure was able to balance the character, give her an extra soul that wasn’t in her role. »
“He didn’t want a sociological film, he didn’t want us to see this woman. Rather, I wanted to feel it inside her, to be with her, to accompany her, ”he replies when asked why she thinks she almost signed a genre film.
It is true that with the rapid camera movements and choppy electronic music, the tension is not lacking. Yes, it is a social film, acknowledges its author, but sensory, “impressionist.”
He also likes to think that the New York of the 1970s filmed by Sidney Lumet and John Cassavetes is reflected in the closed spaces he stages. It was European cinema that drew him to France, but he is also a fan of American cinema.
Humble and seemingly down to earth, Éric Gravel makes no pretense of being unique. Even as a director from Quebec signing French films. That the dark portrait of him from the world of work is not the only one in 2022 (Other worldby Stephane Brize; Ouistreham, by Emmanuel Carrère), he finds revealing: “It shows that the things that concern us are in tune with the times. We hope to tell the right things at the right time.”