I had never gone to Jim Morrison’s grave even though I love to wander around the alleys of Père-Lachaise. Pilgrimages just aren’t my thing. When I had the idea for the film, of course I went there in search of inspiration and to conduct my little investigation. I listened to what the guides said about Morrison and observed the fans, some of whom live through their devotion like the main character in my film. It is the grave with the most flowers in all of Père-Lachaise, with the exception of Allan Kardec, the founder of French-style spiritualism.
Absolutely. As a teenager, I listened a lot to the Doors and identified with the self-destructive, cursed poet that was Morrison. And, I was 17 years old when the Oliver Stone movie came out… I must say that I had the same curly hair as Morrison and I played on that quite a bit in my town nightclub when I danced to “Break on Through”.
In terms of cinema, I always had a soft spot for the “beautiful losers”, the offbeat people in search of their identity and their place in society. This type of character corresponds to my kind of comedy, which I can place between the films of Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson. For the role of the Jim Morrison fan, I thought immediately of my favorite actor, Franc Bruneau, who possesses that particular comic sense. What was also important is that the actor not look like Morrison at all; I have the greatest affection for those fans who think they look like their idol whereas they don’t at all; it’s beautiful and tragic at the same time. For the rest of the cast, I absolutely wanted to use Esteban, who is a UFO as funny and crazy as Bourvil. Finally, the trio was completed by Mathilde Bisson who possesses a strange beauty and an almost troubling intensity.
In our modern society, the relations between celebrities and their most fervent fans are complex. To make People are Strange, did you do research into the behaviors and the adoration of fans like these, or on the place of the “person” in “famous person”?
I read several articles about the fans who take themselves for their idols; there was one in fact where a Gainsbourg look-alike had stabbed a Johnny Hallyday look-alike in a fight! After that, I let my imagination do the rest. People are Strange is not a behavioral study. The idea of a doppelganger is a point of departure to talk about the acceptance of one’s self. There is a quote by Oscar Wilde that I love on this subject: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
With time, we learn to have confidence in our instinct and our vision. You need that because there are many moments of doubt and adversity on the road to making a film. You have to be very positive. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will in your place. “Mojo Rising,” said Morrison.
In People are Strange, you deal with the question of the available margin for “being ourselves”. Do you think that space is large enough in our contemporary society? Is it possible to “be yourself” within the family? At work? With friends? Is it easy to do in everyday life?
That brings us back to the quote by Oscar Wilde and the central theme of the film. Our Western societies are focused on profit, on accumulation, on success, which makes our egos completely crazy. We want what we don’t have, we want to be what we aren’t. It is a great source of suffering, a race to happiness that will never be satisfied. Morrison named his band as a tribute to a book by Georges Orwell, “The Doors of Perception”, a title which itself was a reference to a poem by William Blake: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”
French production is clearly an exception in the panorama of the world’s short film. With the support of the CNC and the commitment of television stations from the writing of the screenplay (Arte for this particular film), we can work in good conditions. It is a situation that can be found nowhere else.