BABY STEPS ON THE WAY TO LITTLE NOTHINGSBorn on September 4, 1961, Cédric Klapisch was raised in Paris, France. After graduating from high school, and two subsequent years studying literature and philosophy, he applied to the illustrious French film school, then known as the IDHEC (now, La Femis)… He was rejected. So Klapisch signed on for two more years of study in cinema and masters of cinema programs at the University of Paris III and IV (more popularly known as the Sorbonne). Then he reapplied to the IDHEC… Rejected again! At 23, he took off for the U.S. of A and spent another two years at the prestigious New York University graduate film school, where he worked as DP on several student films and wrote and directed four shorts — Glamour Toujours; One, Two, Three, Mambo; Jack the Liar andIn Transit. Back in France, his 1989 short, Ce qui me meut, thrust him into the limelight, garnering numerous awards at various film festivals. Some years later, Klapisch christened the film production company he currently runs with producer Bruno Lévy with the same name — Ce Qui Me Meut. (Literally translated, the phrase means “what gets me moving.”) Then came a stint writing and directing industrials and TV docs, including Masaiitis, a 52-minute film for Canal Plus on the Maasai people of Kenya. In 1992, thanks to the participation of production company Lazennec, Klapisch went on to direct his first feature, Riens du tout (Little Nothings). A comedy about a department store manager desperately trying to balance the interests of his disparate staff with those of the powers that be, the ensemble film boasts a cast of some thirty actors — including Karin Viard, Antoine Chappey, Odette Laure, Zinedine Soualem and the magnificent Fabrice Lucchini — and was very well received by the press.
FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO BISTRO, BY WAY OF THE BASTILLE
In 1993, Arte commissioned Klapisch to direct a made-for-TV movie on high school life in 1975. Le Péril jeune (Good Old Daze), which was part of a series entitled “The High School Years,” was shot on an extremely limited budget. The cast includes the very young Romain Duris and Vincent Elbaz — both of whom went on to shoot several other Klapisch films. Two years later, the picture was released theatrically and was embraced by critics and audiences alike, with 600,000 entries in France.
At this point, Klapisch had already begun write the screenplay for Peut-être (Maybe), but scaring up financing turned out to be quite a challenge.
In 1994, before diving into production on his third feature, Klapisch directed two more shorts — La Chambre and Poisson rouge, both for the Anti-AIDS series entitled “3,000 Scenarios to Combat a Virus.”
After attending a performance of their play “Un air de famille”, Klapisch met Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui, who suggested he direct a film adaptation of that play. Delighted by both play and authors — he readily accepts.
However, Klapisch already had another short film in the works with Vertigo Production, which he ultimately decided to expand into a feature film.
So, in 1996, Klapisch juggled preproduction on Un air de famille (Family Resemblances) with production on Chacun cherche son chat (When the Cat’s Away). Another ensemble comedy, the latter film is a veritable valentine to the Bastille neighborhood in Paris, deftly combing professional actors (like Klapisch-favorite Romain Duris) with real “characters” (non-actors, that is) from the ‘hood. That film enjoyed 700,000 entries in France.
That same year, Un air de famille was released to even greater success (2,500,000 entries in France), and was honored with César Awards for Best Screenplay and performances by actors Catherine Frot and Jean-Pierre Darroussin.
A WORLD TOUR & ARMED ROBBERY
If his first four features put Cédric Klapish’s name on the map in the French film world, their success seemed to have been far from enough to mount his next picture, Peut-être (Maybe). That film’s screenplay and budget scared off many a producer at the time. Finally, Warner Bros. stepped up to the plate and agreed to finance the film in partnership with Vertigo Productions. The “futuristic” fantasy presents audiences with a Paris like we’ve never seen before — buried under mega-tons of sand! Jean-Paul Belmondo, Romain Duris, Emmanuelle Devos, Géraldine Pailhas and Vincent Elbaz head up the film’s impressive cast. The picture’s 1999 theatrical release was greeted by an audience of 800,000 in France. Not bad, indeed, but less than its producers had anticipated for such an ambitious project.
Next on the agenda, Klapisch writes a heist movie. But the ink is no sooner dry on the final draft of the screenplay, when preproduction is put off for another four months.
Itchy to get back in the saddle again, Klapisch whips up yet another script in no time and dives into production on L’Auberge espagnole (a.k.a. Pot Luck / Euro Pudding), in the interim. A modest comedy, following the whirlwind adventures of a young French exchange student in Barcelona, the film is shot on the fly in HD and garners unprecedented success for its director — leaping past the 3,000,000-entry mark in France alone, during its 2002 release.
With the L’Auberge footage barely in the can, Klapisch leaps into production on Ni pour, ni contre (bien au contraire) (Not For or Against), the aforementioned heist film. Released in 2003, the movie stars Marie Gillain and Vincent Elbaz (in his third Klapisch film, following Le Péril jeune and Peut-être).
Two years later, Cédric Klapisch revisits several now-iconic characters from L’Auberge espagnole in his next film, Les Poupées Russes (Russian Dolls). The film takes place five years after their L’Auberge high jinks and has them globe-trotting between Paris, London and St. Petersburg. The film is released on June 15, 2005, beating out both Star Wars: Episode III and Batman Begins at the French box office its first week on the big screen in France.