French writer-director Marc Fitoussi loves working with French actresses. It is his speciality in fact. He has worked twice with Isabelle Huppert (Copacabana, Folies Begere) and twice with Sandrine Kiberlain (Pauline Detective, The Life of an Artist), while on the hit French series Call My Agent!, he directed some of the best episodes featuring his pals Huppert and Kiberlain, as well as episodes with Sigourney Weaver, Monica Bellucci and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Now, he has made his first film with Karin Viard (The Belier Family) called Appearances, which is based on Betrayal, a Swedish novel by Karin Alvtegen, and focuses on an upper-crust French community in Vienna.
“I’d always wanted to work with Karin,” Fitoussi says, “but it had been hard to convince her because I was always offering her a character she had played before. With Appearances, I think it was the first time she was able to play a woman who was really in love. So, she was happy to do it. Still, even when you watch the movie, you don’t know if she’s really in love or if she just wants to keep her status in society.”
Initially, you can’t blame Viard’s Eve character, who runs a library while raising her young son, for being in love with her famous conductor husband, Henri, played by Benjamin Biolay [pictured with Viard in main image]. They seem like the perfect couple.
“I really wanted to make a duet, which was very convincing,” notes Fitoussi. “You can understand that she’s in love with him because he’s prestigious and he’s also a handsome guy.”
Ultimately though, Eve spirals out of control when she becomes suspicious that Henri is having an affair.
“The movie is a very free adaptation of the novel, which took place in Stockholm, and it was interesting for me to make some changes and to set it in Vienna,” Fitoussi explains. “Eve is part of this community of expats and it’s this very bourgeois world where it’s hard to be yourself. She’s like a soldier in the community and is afraid of losing her friends and appearing like someone who has no more love from her husband. So, it’s difficult to see if she does what she does because she’s in love or if she does it to keep her friends.”
So, the film is a critique of society?
“Yes definitely. I’m not sure that the French expats will like the movie,” he chuckles. “I mean, they will think that they’re awful in this movie, but I’m happy with this.”
Vienna of course is a very conservative city, especially when it comes to the older generation.
“I just saw a television report about the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which every year gives a prestigious New Year’s Eve concert,” Fitoussi recalls. “They were saying that there are no black people, mainly men and few women and the rules even say that people who are not Austrian could sound different when they play music. So, this is why I chose Vienna, because I thought that was interesting and not because it’s supposed to be a very romantic city. I thought the history would make it a good place for a thriller. I think the film is a thriller. It starts off being about this French community who live there, but it becomes a psychological thriller. There are a lot of twists.
“I also like the fact that there’s a mix of genres,” he continues. “It can be funny sometimes. I wanted to surprise viewers because they think they will see a very French movie about a French community, but it becomes a love story, even a romantic comedy. Then Eve meets this guy in a bar, and he looks like Hugh Grant, but finally he is totally crazy. So, the movie goes in yet another direction.”
Would he like to work again with Viard?
“I always like to work with the same actresses. The thing that I really liked with Karin is that in this movie she can be very chic, but at the same time, she’s supposed to come from a lower class. You discover that thanks to her mother. Karin has these two different sides as an actress. I think that she loved being chic sometimes and very direct and common in other scenes.”
She talks very fast.
“Yes, I’m not sure that you can practice your French watching her in the movie!”