Profile: Francois Ozon, director of In the House
The former enfant terrible of French cinema on his dislike of writing and admiration for Hitchcock
15 November, 1967, Paris
On the basis of his early shorts See the Sea and A Summer’s Dress and his debut feature Sitcom, writer-director Francois Ozon was labelled in the late 1990s as an enfant terrible of French cinema.
He has worked prolifically ever since, showing an impressive ability to move between genres and styles, and has directed some of France’s most acclaimed female actors, including Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Isabelle Huppert, and Ludivine Sagnier. Unafraid to explore the perversities of sexual desire, not least within the ostensibly heterosexual family unit, he has achieved international box-office success with the star-driven likes of 8 Women, Swimming Pool and Potiche, whilst receiving considerable critical acclaim for more probing, intimiste dramas such as 5x2 and Under the Sand.
What is he up to now?
His latest Dans la Maison (In the House), starring Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas and newcomer Ernst Umhauer, is a sparkling black comedy, in which a jaded school teacher becomes fascinated by the audacious literary imagination of a teenage male pupil.
On the appeal of Dans La Maison
‘It’s inspired by a play by Spanish writer Juan Mayorga, called The Boy in the Back Row. I thought it would be an interesting way for me to explore the process of creating a story in a playful way, and to blur the boundaries for the viewer between reality and fiction.’
‘I don’t like the writing part of film-making. If I could make a film without a script, it would be perfect. I prefer the shooing and the editing, where you can find the film’s rhythm.’
On directing actors
‘I like to be behind the camera and to frame the actors myself. I don’t like sitting in front of the monitor. I like to be close to them.’
On Alfred Hitchcock
‘People have told me that Dans La Maison reminds them of Rear Window. Hitchcock is probably my desert island filmmaker. He really took on board the idea that it’s up to the director to manipulate the audience.’
On his relationship to his characters
‘I try not to judge my characters, even if they behave in ways that some might say are diabolical. I don’t think it’s up to the director to say whether they are good or bad. In Dans La Maison, I see myself in both the teacher Germain and the student Claude.’
On Michael Fassbender
‘When I cast him in Angel, when he was 27, people in England told me that he wasn’t that good an actor, and that he had done too much television.’
‘I don’t adapt literary novels that are masterpieces. I often choose to work from plays, which have a personal resonance for me.’
Both of Ozon’s parents were teachers, and he was taught at film school by the late Eric Rohmer.
In the House is on release from Fri 29 Mar.