Despite its decent feature film programme, Milan Film Festival takes special pride in its short film tradition, helping international talents emerge in Italy since its first 1996 edition. This year’s outcome is no less significant, exposing intimate stories that speak of a larger wound ripping through modern society.
Long Live Fran (Original title Et Vive La Fran, 2017) by Antoine Mocquet captures a quiet, desperate interaction with dark irony. At a refugee manifestation in Place de la République, Paris, a woman offers a stranger a free hug, only to discover he is wearing an explosive belt and about to blow up the bank nearby. Now that the man’s intentions are exposed, the two strangers hang on to each other in a paradoxical codependence, abandoning themselves in a highly dramatic embrace.
Mocquet’s script contains some comic moments; intelligent expedients that enclose a lighthearted humor, taking the tension down a notch. Two such examples are both crafted with uncommon elegance: the parallelism with the Charlie Hebdo tragedy (“Je suis my banker!”) and that awkward, misleading first approach, where the woman feels something hard – the explosive device. The portrayal of the female protagonist reaches full maturity by the end of the (short) film; a modern Marianne who regrets not having had enough time to truly know love, she weeps for herself – and in doing so, for the whole of France.
While the script won an important recognition in Paris, the film was turned down by several French festivals. Collectible DRY Magazine had a quick chat with Antoine on the difficulties he encountered in the making.

Q. When did you start thinking about this film?
A. On the night of the attack of the Charlie Hebdo. I was with friends, we didn’t understand what was happening. If I was a terrorist, many people were there, that would have been a good place to attack.

Q. Following the attack of the Bataclan on 13/11/2015, did you think of interrupting the production, or did it occur to you to make any changes?
A. This film started as a script, it won a script competition in Paris 3 weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attack. The film was shot 2 months after the Bataclan attack; I remember that we started shooting the film the day of David Bowie’s death. I did feel a bit uncomfortable but I told myself, I had to make a film out of it; we needed to laugh.

Q. Have you been openly criticized for the film’s subtle humor?
A. Many film festivals declined it. I sent it all over France and I’ve never received so many rejections. Out of 45 festivals, only 2 accepted it; Milan of course, and Taiwan. I knew for a fact that people were seeing it, people I didn’t know; there was a link online with a password and it spread real fast, but I have no idea what the reception was really, in numbers. I don’t understand what happened with this film in France. They said it was too soon to make a film like this.

Q. How was the film produced?
A. It was my 4th film. I work on one short movie every three years; I am a cinematographer. I wrote the script and it reached the final selection. Only 5 were selected, out of 200 scripts that participated in that competition. I produced it by myself: the production company left me half way through, I had to finish it by my own means. It cost 3000 euro in total, so I could pay for it in two years. It’s hard now; I am sending the film, going to festivals alone; it’s not a question of money so much as a question of time.

Q. What moved you to write this film?  
A.  In 2015, fear of terrorism was widespread in France. Many politicians weren’t helping, adding negativity on top of the tragedy. Many people in France felt trapped between two walls, with the terrorists on one wall and the politicians on the other wall – a terrible context. What could we make of it? A joke, that was it.

Q. Do you feel this film represents the actual Parisian society?
A. When I wrote this movie 2 years ago, in 2015-16, I wrote the dialogues taking inspiration from my friends, from daily life conversation; people who don’t like their job, who have lost hope, so yes, I think many French people can identify with this film.

Q. What are you working on right now?
A. I’m working on my next project, a 25-minute film; a love story on the last election in France. A lot of people went to vote and a lot of people didn’t. The story is on a guy who didn’t vote –  it’s about a terrorist attack, how they will prepare for a terrorist attack. So it’s a love-story/terrorist attack. Or a love-terrorist-story-attack.Chuckles.

Like Long Live Fran, the jury’s special mention Mon Amour Mon Ami by Adriano Valerio explores a desperate, delicate relationship with the same tactful intensity. The documentary reveals the special connection between two neglected hearts, who join their solitudes in an explicit pact of mutual support. Daniela from Bari and Fouad from Casablanca live together in Gubbio, Umbria; both are recovering alcoholics, outcasts with a difficult past. Now Fouad can achieve surgery if he obtains citizenship, a prospect made possible by marrying Daniela. This possibility arouses doubts in the woman, who questions the reciprocity of their mutual feelings: can you fake a marriage with someone who really is in love with you?
The viewer is part interlocutor, part voyeur as Valerio alternates interview clips to more intimate moments, such as the endearing, opening scene where Fouad applies makeup on Daniela, his bulgy fingers clumsily clutching an eyeliner.
A subtle desperation encaged in Fouad’s features forges a touching intensity without indulging in sentimentality; cradling the sweet affection between the two characters, the haunting notes of the same-titled song by Marie Laforêt.