Charles, in his fifties, is a somewhat embittered taxi driver: mainly money worries. Unfriendly, almost misanthropic, he took on board Madeleine, 92, who left her house that day for good. On the way to the old people’s home where she will live from now on, the lady insists on stopping at these places that once mattered to her, for better and sometimes for worse. During this crossing of Paris, which he initially accepts for pecuniary reasons, Charles gradually lowers his guard. road movie intimate, A great race brings together the star and the director of the success Merry ChristmasDany Boon and Christian Carion, met last fall at TIFF.
The film also stars Line Renaud, already an accomplice of Dany Boon in The House of happinessand especially Welcome to the Ch’tis and its sequel, films he had written and directed himself.
“I have a special story with Line,” says Dany Boon.
“We both come from the same city: Armentières, in the north of France. We have a small age gap, not much — compared to the universe, it’s very little. I often saw her perform as a child, because she came back to sing for free during the annual Nieulles festival. If I’m telling you all this, it’s because Line, she paved the way by showing us that we could come from Armentières and succeed in this profession. The first time I performed at the Olympia, she sent me a very touching note. And in short, with Line, it started like that, on an emotional, family note, the “Ch’tis who meet again” side. »
Years later, it was Dany Boon who introduced Line Renaud to Christian Carion, at the premiere of Merry Christmas, in 2005. “She had expressed the wish that we work together, remembers the filmmaker. It took 15 years, but we got there! The strangest thing, and it was not planned at all, is that there are many parallels between the life of Line and that of her character, Madeleine. There are moments in the film when I don’t know if it’s Line or Madeleine on screen. »
Speaking of Merry Christmas, this story set during the First World War had a historical fresco side and an assorted visual breadth. Christian Carion’s other films, such as A swallow made spring and My son (and his remake), also unfold in vast natural panoramas. Conversely, much of the action ofA great race takes place in the passenger compartment of a car, in town.
“It’s true that there is a marked contrast with my previous films. They were more “outside” films, whereas this one is a resolutely “inside” film. Of course, there are all these flashback of Madeleine’s life, but the film has a closed-door side which I like. »
And which also pleased the two stars, to specify Dany Boon.
“Line and I were very happy to be confined together in this car. First she sits in the back, then in the front with me… Besides, we shot the film in the temporal continuity of the story, which is a great luxury. What the film tells lends itself well to this intimacy. In the beginning, it’s just a taxi with this driver damaged by life, who has somewhat forgotten that he was human, and it’s the character of Line who will cleanse his soul. »
In many ways, the role of Charles is a counter-use for Dany Boon, who is more readily associated with comedy than drama. For the actor, it was primarily a question of atmosphere and approach.
“Christian knew very well how to give us confidence, so that we surrender completely, Line and me. »
“I gave them freedom, intervenes Christian Carion. You know, when I make a film, I hate discomfort and tension. We have the chance to do a wonderful job, to tell incredible stories, so I, on a set, want happiness. I try to make everyone feel good. Acting, I think, is something very difficult, because it appeals to a part of intimacy, and therefore, it generates vulnerability. And I think that if we manage to make the performers comfortable, they give better things than if we torture them. »
Interestingly, the movie, at least in its present incarnation, came close to not getting made, for lack of funding and a star to champion it.
“We produced this film ourselves, independently,” explains Christian Carion, who was offered a version of the screenplay which he reworked considerably.
“Initially, I approached Dany knowing that he had declined to play in the film after reading this first version, but that he sometimes co-financed films that had trouble getting made. »
“I often invest in beautiful projects which, for one reason or another, struggle to [comme Varda par Agnès, ultime série documentaire d’Agnès Varda], opines Dany Boon. However, knowing that Line and Christian were now on board, and that Christian had reworked the script, I reread it. At the end, I was in tears. It was out of the question that I did not play in this film. »
An allegory of life
A happy decision, because according to Christian Carion, only Dany Boon and Line Renaud were able to makeA great race the movie it is.
“Given all their common background, their friendship in life, there were only these two to play like that in this film,” said the filmmaker.
For his part, Dany Boon is pleased to have changed his mind, A great raceturned out, for him, to be a human experience of rare intensity.
“I keep fond memories of the moments of pure complicity between Line and me, whether it be moments of laughter or emotion. This film, for me, is a kind of allegory of life. We cross the city as we cross a lifetime, taking unexpected detours, or suddenly taking the longest route in the hope of cheating death… Except that there is always a moment when it has to stop. And Line, she is as old as she is [93 ans lors du tournage], so she sometimes talked to me about her own end, and I didn’t want to hear it, because it was too painful. But at the same time, it was exactly where the story was leading our characters… This is all the more true because in the film, we start from the east, where the sun rises, and we go towards the west, where it sets. »
The film Une belle course opens on January 20.