The Dardennes brothers in LA

THE KID WITH A BIKE (Le gamin au velo), the last film of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is one of the five candidates to the Golden Globe for the best foreign language film and it was presented to the American public last Thursday night. The film will also be distributed in the US by IFC/Sundance Selects and it will open on 16 March. It was kind of weird and funny for me to see this beautiful Belgian movie in the AERO Theatre in Santa Monica instead of in the Vendome in Brussels…but I was really happy to see  a big audience enthusiastically applauding a European work and two great filmmakers in the sitting-room of Hollywood.

The following day I have the privilege and pleasure to meet the “fréres” in the bar of their hotel in West Hollywood for a long and pleasant conversation. We drink a Sierra Nevada – a good beer but hey can you compare with Belgian masterpieces? – while they tell me about Seraing, their hometown, and its transformations, about Simenon and Liege. They ask me about Italy – Luc has recently been in Bologna – and we end up talking about food and Carlo Petrini. Then we move to cinema and it is a great pleasure and enrichment to let them speak and listen…

“As Andre Malraux said “realism is a correction of reality”. Our films are not reality but they are always inspired by something which has happened in real life, a “fait divers”, a story we heard. Then we work on this beginning and we look for the story we want to film, for the characters. In this phase of creation, we speak and discuss a lot between us.

We always do a lot of rehearsals, especially physical rehearsal – we do no care about the script in this phase – we want to create a sort of physical memory of the gesture. It is the best way to see actors – both professionals and non professionals – step by step literally falling into the story.

It is the second time we are in LA. It is a very interesting place but it is difficult to understand. Many areas of the city are really run down (delabré). No, we do not feel the Hollywood industry as the enemy. First of all many European professionals were welcomed here after the wars. And they do something different. it is true their presence and their revenues on the European market are imposing but we could not do, we would not want to do that kind of films, follow those rules. Hollywood is big industry, we see ourselves – and many other European authors – as “artisans du cinema”.

Our last film “Le gamin au velo” had a budget of about 5 million Euro. The average budget of a Hollywood productions is often 20 times bigger. Still we have never wanted more money, we always had what we needed for our films. What could have we done differently with a huge budget? Maybe getting Angelina Jolie as Samantha…but with all due respect, she would not have been as good, warm and credible as Cecile De France. 

Wim Wenders is right, taste can be taught. The only way in the long term for Europe to reverse the tendency and gain more audience is education. Youngsters need to discover early the pleasure of cinema and to get to know their films, European films. There are a lot of very good initiative and projects with this objective but they still have a narrow scope: 10 schools there, 30 classrooms somewhere else. Film has to be studied in school by everybody just as literature. This is the only way to have a real impact.

Nevertheless we are optimistic. The MEDIA Programme does a great job and the EU should even more concentrate support on cinema theatres. They have to become places where you meet with friends, have a nice meal, a drink, a conversation and then also you share the pleasure of watching a film in a comfortable theatre. We have to fight the “isolement des spectateurs”.  Also every country should have a CNC on the base of the French model.”

Thank you Jean-Pierre and Luc and see you in Belgium. Maybe in Liege at Cafe Lequet for “boulettes et frites”.




One thought on “The Dardennes brothers in LA

  1. But there is also Almodovar and “La piel que habito”, same European style as the Dardennes but with less realism and more sophistication. I would still go for Almodovar although I liked very much “Le gamin au velo”. Both should be seen!!!!

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