Bourgeois-Tacquet: Anaïs in Love (2021) | Peccadillo Pictures
Photo courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures

Director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet on Debut Romantic Comedy ‘Anaïs in Love’

Director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet talks with PopMatters about challenging the idea of cinema as an image-based art with her romantic comedy, Anaïs in Love.

Anaïs in Love (Les amours d'Anaïs)
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet
Peccadillo Pictures
18 August 2022 (UK - digital)

French director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s directorial feature debut Anaïs in Love (Les amours d’Anaïs, 2021), a romantic comedy with impulsive energy offset with a reasoned maturity, played in the International Critics Week at the 2021 edition of the Cannes Film Festival and received its UK Premiere at the 2022 Glasgow Film Festival. Anaïs in Love tells the story of impulsive Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier), who cannot commit to anything in life, whether it be work or boyfriends.

When she begins an affair with an older man, Daniel (Denis Podalydès), she is captivated by his wife, Emilie (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), an accomplished writer. In pursuit of this older woman, Anaïs abandons work and study commitments to attend a literary getaway. Meeting Emilie, the pair begin a passionate love affair. If this pairing settles the impulsive Anaïs, is it destined only to be a fleeting and beguiling memory?

Brimming with charm, Anaïs in Love celebrates the impulsivity of youth. Anaïs’ frenzied life infuses the film with humour that leaves the audience appreciating her freedom to live by her desires. Still, there lingers the feeling that there’s recklessness and selfishness beneath this effervescent spirit. 

What’s refreshing about Bourgeois-Tacquet’s romantic comedy is her conviction to embrace Anaïs’ imperfections, matched by her technical skill to gradually settle the film’s energy when the two women cross paths. Watching them discover their love for one another is lent beauty by the calming influence of Emilie, who almost tames this impulsive spirit. The idea expressed in Anaïs in Love is that Emilie understands that neither can possess the other without undermining the attraction that brought them together. In essence, love is to be experienced, not possessed. 

In conversation with PopMatters, Bourgeois-Tacquet talks about heightening her personality and rhythm for the character of Anaïs and her interest in exploring these two distinct periods in the lives of her lead characters.

To begin, how did your journey toward your directorial feature debut unfold? 

It’s quite a miracle because I’ve desired to act since I was 14. I was drawn to the cinema on the question of physically acting, which evolved within the two poles of a passion for cinema and literature. It was more the writing side of things, which I studied, and I worked in publishing for three years. 

I came to writing scripts to give myself roles, but the path to directing has been going against the idea that cinema would be an image-based art. For me, it’s an art of language; it’s an heir to the theatre. Much of my writing and the expression I unfold is about putting language into action. 

Cinema comprises different languages, including cinematography, music, and the written word. Please expand on the idea of cinema being the heir to theatre and how you pursue your approach to language.

It seems a slightly theoretical question, and that’s not how I came to work on this film. I didn’t foresee the path to directing and wasn’t formally taught about cinema. I stumbled into it with a lot of desire and energy. It’s not that it happened by chance, but I didn’t have oversight of myself, so I didn’t have to intellectualise and think through many of these things beforehand. I didn’t have the time to be intimidated by what I was about to do because I didn’t know what to do.

My way of working and directing is through the relationship I have to acting with my body. I rehearse every sequence and use my rehearsals to cut the script and work on the sequencing. Then there’s a second stage where I work with my DOP (Director of Photography), and I’m physically involved in that process. 

[…] I didn’t think I’d ask for any music to be composed specifically for the film, and I’d use music that already existed. Eventually, I called on a composer to give the film some uniformity, especially the sentimental relationship between the two women in Anaïs in Love‘s second half.

Anaïs is full of energy and could be characterised as impulsive and selfish in the carefree pursuit of her desires. How do you perceive this character?  

It’s a difficult question at face value. The character is inspired or nourished by my personality and rhythm, and because of my relationship with her and how she was constructed, it’s complicated. But it’s a good segway into the first thing that’s important to me about her, which is her lack of time for self-reflection. 

Anaïs is in this instantaneous relationship in the present. She’s running ahead of herself, if anything. Constructing that internal rhythm relating to the central aspect I cherish about her – her relationship to the actualisation of her desire and her capacity to let her desire lead her – is one of the aspects of my personality that I heightened for dramatic purposes. 

I’m often asked if the carefreeness that characterises her belongs to my generation. It’s a question I’m not in a position to answer. Whether her rhythm and what you call her impulsivity, which I like to designate as a taste for intensity, are correlated to youth? I hope not. I hope she’ll be able to continue this execution of her desire were she to grow old. 

These things outline something I’m attached to, and I purposefully wrote some of her more irritating features. It was interesting to see what an eventful phenomenon it is for somebody to write a character and not be afraid that they will not be likable. 

On the contrary, all of these things develop her character. I was interested in her being more complex than anything else. The irritating features were present for comedic purposes and dramatic intent. 

What we’re drawn to in stories differs from everyday life. Characters that are quirky outsiders are appealing onscreen, but that personality type, in reality, is less so. I wonder if this extends to emotionally complex characters?

Firstly, the relationship to the complexity wasn’t so evident for the people surrounding the film – the producers and alike. I’m often asked things that require definite answers and simplifications. An example is whether Anaïs’ character is interested in Emilie because she is Daniel’s wife or for reasons that have to do with literature and their common traits. I’d answer it’s a mix of both. 

I faced a lot of injunctions to make decisions and to simplify at times, so I’d defer from what you say in terms of how welcoming people are of complexity onscreen. 

Could we think about Anaïs and Emilie being the same personalities at different ages?

It’s interesting to point out, and I will not speak to it directly. I’ll say no; they’re two different people of different ages. I was interested in portraying these two different times. 

In the case of a young woman in her 30s, it’s a fascinating age to think about and portray in my work. It’s a time that’s quite prodigious when you think about the number of decisions that need to be made. You’re in this frenzy because of all the questions that need to be answered, whether it’s to do with professional queries or personal and intimate things like children. They all mount up to this moment of frenzy and decision-making for these young women. 

You then have the contrast with Emilie’s internal rhythm, which is calmer and more settled. The contrast between these two rhythms is one of the main factors driving the film’s rhythm. When Emilie first appears, the mise-en-scène and the editing change pace. It calms down, and one thing that draws Anaïs to Emilie is a desire to find a recipe in her a way to live, clues as to how to go on, and in which direction to go. 

I’m fond of the last scene, which is a clear moment of transmission, where Emilie’s character passes things on to Anaïs. This is a gorgeous way of showing her direction. 

A thematic in Anaïs in Love is life is a series of chapters, and the importance of not possessing a moment but experiencing it and willingly letting it go.

I see and feel what you’re talking about. Speaking to it is more difficult. If I can venture, it’s something to do with the specific nature of the relationship between the two women that allows this to come forth. If we imagine that whatever their bond comes to be, it might be more ephemeral than some, or at least opened up to less established conjugal possibilities than others. Perhaps it establishes the terrain for this relationship to appear present, as you’re saying.

Anaïs in Love is released in cinemas and on digital on 19 August 2022 by Peccadillo Pictures.

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