Boris sans Béatrice – director Denis Côté’s take
French-Canadian director Denis Côté returns to the Berlin Film Festival with his latest offering, the darkly interesting Boris sans Béatrice. One of the most intriguing filmmakers to emerge from Canada (along with Xavier Dolan, whom he admires and respects), Côté sat down with us at the festival to talk about his new film, and why a bad film title gets on his nerves.
Boris sans Béatrice deals with a different type of characters than your previous works – your previous characters have been a little downtrodden in some ways. What made you want to tell a story about the powerful and wealthy who feature in Boris sans Béatrice?
People were surprised when they heard that I was doing this. They were like, “Eh? Denis Côté is making a film about the bourgeois?” But I don’t think like this, and it was just a story that I wanted to tell. It doesn’t matter if my characters are bourgeois or whatever.
Boris is arrogant and ruthless, even like a child who is used to getting his own way. Was there ever a point where you were concerned you were making him too unlikeable?
Not really. I still thought people would find him to be sympathetic. He treats life like a game that he needs to win. I think this is interesting for the audience to see.
Do you feel the need to win in life in the same way as Boris?
I don’t think so. I like to win, but I am not so arrogant with it. I hope.
So do you feel that you’ve ever “lost” in terms of your work?
I haven’t, or I don’t think I have. I am making my money from making movies. This is being successful. In Québécois cinema, they look at whether your film makes money and has good box office, or if it’s accepted to big festivals. These are the ways you keep making movies in Canada, and the Canadian government has the money to fund these movies. If you look at the credits of the film, you can see that it was just Canada who paid for it, not a whole bunch of different countries. So maybe I won in that way. I guess I would have lost if anyone watched one of my movies and were just indifferent to it or bored by it. You can’t really talk about something with someone if they were just bored by it.
Boris likes to be in control, and often bullies others to maintain that control. This is perhaps something that film directors are sometimes guilty of. What’s your style of directing like?
I like to listen to everyone and I am totally open to others’ points of view. When I was editing the film a friend of mine watched it and said, “Hey man – it’s like you put some things in there because you wanted to remind everyone that they’re watching a Denis Côté movie.” And it was totally not necessary, didn’t even work in the film. And he told me about it and I agreed, and so I took it out. That was not an important part of the film. But I am maybe controlling in other ways.
Keeping control over the title is very important to me. There are films out there with bad titles and I wonder what the director was thinking. It’s your work that goes out there forever and so why would you choose such a title?
You probably don’t want to speak badly of your fellow directors, but can you think of an example?
Every Thing Will Be Fine, maybe. [A 2015 film directed by Wim Wenders, starring James Franco.]
So a lot of thought went into it before the film was named Boris sans Béatrice?
I was looking at all these two word titles, and I wanted to maybe call it just Boris – Béatrice, but then adding the “sans” worked better. I don’t know why, but it works for the film and its story. It’s my movie, so I need to have a title that feels right. Same with the trailer and poster. The poster is all grey and just shows Boris, and the distributor maybe wanted a girl on it too, one of the women from the movie. The poster here at Berlinale is different and was done by the sales agent. Some directors don’t care about this stuff and they’re all like, “I just make the movie,” but this stuff is important to me.
Read our review of Boris without Béatrice here.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Berlin Film Festival 2016 visit here.