In the shadow of Garlaban, a massif around which Marcel Pagnol wove the stories of his childhood memories, Christophe Barratier (the showgirls, The new button war…) Director of time of secrets which opens in theaters this Wednesday, welcomes us. From these hills that dominate Marseilles and Aubagne where he filmed, responds to 20 minutes.
We remember the first two parts of Marcel Pagnol’s childhood trilogy made in 1990 by Yves Robert, do you subscribe to a certain continuity with Le Temps des secrets?
I discovered the glory of my father and my mother’s castle long before, thanks to my grandmother who was a theater actress before the war and who had played a lot Pagnol’s texts.
I remember that his house was studded with photos of Fernand Charpin or Fernandel, with whom he had played. So when Pagnol was offered to me, I rather had the impression of reliving the time when my grandmother showed me her films on television. I had to look from one end to the other.
So I had more the impression of reconnecting with my childhood than with Pagnol. Before doing something out of admiration for an author, he has to find an intimate echo in us. And I realized that these intimate echoes are shared by many in Pagnol, because he is a great author who makes things very accessible to us.
And that precisely remains in a very contemporary sense. How, 100 years later, Marcel Pagnol is still relevant?
Because he wasn’t just interested in traditions, he was interested in how we live with them. And I don’t think it’s nostalgia. I saw the two child actors, how much they took over their character. After a while, they were the ones who went to the hills to play stick fights or cheat. In Pagnol we have that coexistence between urban and city dweller, and I was lucky that Léo (who plays little Marcel) is a pure Parisian, while Baptiste (Lili des Bellons) was born in Aubagne, like Marcel Pagnol.
Why this movie now?
It’s really a date. The producer came to offer me, I had not thought about it. I read it, I told myself it was really good. It is a period, adolescence, where friendships can begin to break down. And later, the time of secretsthey are not just for children, because it is the age at which we realize that parents can also have secrets.
There are additions in the film with the development of narrative arcs that do not exist in the book. Why that ?
Yes. However, I would say that they are not add-ons, but things that I have muscled. For example, the character of Agustín, the mother, as in the book, is a mother that we would like to have in life, but who lacks a bit of relief for the movies. I read that there was an aunt from Pagnol who was in charge of an association for women’s rights, a cause that she was still in its infancy at that time. In the novel, she is in two lines. I said to myself, “Hey, I’m going to do a subplot.”
And that fits very well with the contemporary look.
Exactly, but it still dates from that time. Despite everything, I had to reinforce all the conflicts. That is to say that in the book, he is not really angry with her parents, nor with Lili, he pays less attention to her, but Lili does not hold a grudge against him. And all of that, I reinforced it a bit, because I think that today we are used to things a little more in excess, dramaturgy. So, I darkened the image a bit so that, perhaps, in the end, the resolution would be even more moving.
You have some very Pagnolesque shooting anecdote. A moment when you said to yourself, “here we are”?
There is the place where I wanted to make the fountain, but there was no water.
So we called some goatherds who gave us a good idea. They called muleteers and we met like then. They brought us about two tons of water up the hill with pipes, as we could do in the old way. And suddenly, we were close to our camera, we heard: “Eeeh Ooooh”. Suddenly, the water gushed out and we were able to film it for a quarter of an hour.
What was the hardest thing to do?
Probably time management. When you shoot with kids, you can’t shoot eight hours straight. For example, there’s a dinner scene at the beginning of the movie where we’re in the magic hour, with a pink-orange light. And to have him at a dinner that’s 3 minutes into the movie, we had to come back three nights in a row, expecting the same tone.
Also, summer is a good time to talk, but not to film. Because the zenithal light of August is terrible. We can’t film between noon and 3 pm, everyone squints. We shot in September.