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   Douches Froides Interview

Lead actress, Salome Stevenin with our columnist, Mohamad Shaifulbahri

On the morning of 28th October 2005, columnists from movieXclusive.com were invited to the Executive Club Lounge on the 60th floor of Swissotel, The Stamford for an interview with Salome Stevenin and Antony Cordier, lead actress and director of the coming-of-age French film, Douches Froides (Cold Showers).

Our columnists had a memorable time discussing with both Salome and Antony about the makings of Douches Froides; made special by Salome’s affable nature and Antony’s philosophical outlook on most things.

Screening at the 21st French Film Festival in Singapore and in theatres 10th November 2005, Douches Froides shares the same privilege of our own homegrown effort, Be With Me of premiering at the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival not too long ago.

PS: Might contain Spoilers to the film so please watch the movie before reading if you don’t want your viewing pleasure to be spoilt.

Bonjour! Let us be the first to welcome you to Singapore! Salome, did you have to audition for the role of Vanessa? If so, what did you have to do?

Yes, I had two auditions actually. The first meeting was with Antony at a café where he got me to read the script. The second time he paired me up with the guys to see if there was any chemistry.

Which is harder? Having to cry on screen or getting it on with 2 guys?

Salome: Oh, I believe it depends on the atmosphere and director. In the case of Douches Froides, Antony was very respectful and helped a lot. Although it was my first time going nude on screen, I didn’t feel uncomfortable as we were all very close.

How much preparation did you have to undergo to portray the character of Vanessa convincingly?

Salome: Seriously, I really wanted to work more! I wanted to learn anything really, like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. The one thing I did learn was ice skating, which was only done one day before the actual shoot! Otherwise, Antony thought I should have been thankful that I did not have to pick up other skills and just show up for work and get into character.
something: one booked the hotel room, another one made a copy of the key, one bought the poison and the rest of his friends, each place the legal amount of drug into his drink.

Sometimes, directors choose to go the poetic way in making their films. In the case of Douches Froides, we could not put our finger on why exactly it was called such. We felt that it was a metaphor of the way the characters lived their lives. So, we quizzed Antony Cordier on this.

Now, why is the film called Douches Froides?

Honestly, I didn’t like it that much but it was the best title I found. Douches Froides, meaning Cold Showers can have two meanings. The first is literal as from the movie where a cold shower is the first event that made everything go wrong. And metaphorically, the second meaning is when we take a cold shower, it washes [our insecurities or problems].

Antony, you wrote and directed Douches Froides. How did the idea of making the film initially come about? We heard it was a school project?

Antony: The school project was actually a documentary, Shiny as a New Truck completed at Le Femis (a film school in Paris). I was a student of the editing program and I got to know a student from the producer program. The guy created his own production company and he approached me asking if I had any projects I would like to propose. I enjoy studying personal life subjects and I decided I wanted to do a story that was based on the teenage years of mine, my brothers’ and cousins’.

What was the toughest challenge you faced in getting the film made?

Antony: The difficulty in making a film is not the fear that it will not succeed or seeking the money to fund it. Rather, for us, we had a moment during pre-production that affected us psychologically. TV Channels and the money people refused to pay attention to our script. We felt it was because we did not have big name actors or that we were not rich.

A poem that had the words The Black Beast being repeated was mentioned numerous times in the film. Did you study that poem back in school Antony?

Antony: No, never! When I write, I like to work in a structured way. For example, I was structure my script into parts or chapters. Titles are then given to these chapters. Whenever I had difficulty in finding the right titles for the chapters, I would look into my old CDs for help. I would then use a song title to name a chapter and in this instance, the song was “Meet the Monster” and I just felt that it fit it very well with the chapter and the script. Thus, it ended up being integrated into the film.

After both Salome and Antony had given us a peek into the amount of work entailed in making Douches Froides, we tried to get to know them better on a more personal level. And we soon realized that they were more down to earth than we would expect them to be.

Salome, you’ve been acting since you were three. What kind of roles are you most comfortable with?

: Oh dear! How did you know? (Laughs) Very often, I played the role of the shy little girl. People also used to say that I was determined yet fragile at the same time. I would love to venture into a variety of roles but I prefer those that have positive energy usually in dramas or tragedy. I prefer to be serious as I’m more comfortable then. I love it! I found it hard to laugh all the time in Douches Froides.

You come from a family of actors, was it a natural progression for you?

I don’t know. I feel children have the tendency to want to follow their parents. Like if their parents are doctors, they also want to become doctors. But I didn’t want to act. I always questioned myself, “Why do I want to act?” So, I went to England, alone for year to work in theatre where I learned physical theatre including the likes of Stanislavski because I wanted to find the answer. It was a bit disheartening when my teacher said, “I don’t think you really want to be an actress.” But hey, Antony restored my faith when I told him about asking the question and all. He told me to forget all the bulls**t and don’t ask so many questions. (Laughs) Well, I just wanted to be honest with him. I ended up taking the risk and I have no regrets. But hey, I would love to continue dancing or even direct movies one day!

Growing up, did you want to become a director, Antony? And who are your influences?

Antony: When I was much younger I always wanted to draw. But when I was about twelve or thirteen, I wanted to become a director. You see, I always had to go to bed at 9pm and the primetime movies on TV only started at 830pm. So, I only saw movies for 30 minutes! I got frustrated at this and ended up created my own ending that I thought would have ended the movies I watched. As for my influences, there are a lot of them. I try to make movies that correspond in a precise, rhythm, time and country. In France, there are two different types of schools of aesthetic movement. The first is Austerity, which deals with storyline and plot and then there’s Expressionist which deals with the funny and the humour. I also believe that if you want to succeed in French Cinema, you need to have one foot in French aesthetic movement which appears Romanesque and the other foot in Asian Films which have a perfects sense of rhythm.

If you had the opportunity to work with any actor/actress/director, who would you want to work with?

Antony: Shu Qi and Sophie Marceau.
Salome: Oh, lots! Wong Kar Wai, Tony Leung, Takeshi Kitano who I love so much. I get to watch a lot of Asian movies as I have a publicist friend in Paris who deals with Asian movies. Of course, Antony (Cordier), my father (Jean-Francois Stevenin), Jude Law, Giovanni Ribisi. And oh! Clint Eastwood! (Laughs) And and, Al Pacino! Make sure you write his name down! (Laughs)

We’re just curious here. Do you enjoy taking cold showers?

Salome and Antony:
Salome: I hate it! The only time I like it is after a sauna.
Antony: I hate it too! It reminds me of aggressive things. I thought Salome would enjoy them! She’s a water baby! (Laughs)

Could you tell us more about the time you were in Cannes?

It was something so incredible and happened so fast! Personally, I still can’t believe it and honestly, the red carpet and all is not for me. It was just too much with cameras clicking away. When you get to Cannes, you’ll realize that after two days, no one will be taking your pictures anymore. The whole experience will be cool if you know what to expect.
Antony: It was a special evening to walk on the steps that was red carpeted. We weren’t in the main event so to speak and everything was just scattered all around. Salome’s father {Jean-Francois Stevenin) accompanied the cast up the steps who were being quickly ushered in. He stopped the ushers from doing that and became like a manager for our cast. He’s well-known, so they had to listen to him! But Cannes was a success and had a lot of meaning for everyone involved in Douches Froides.

One last question. Is there anything you would like to tell/say to the audience in Singapore?

Learn French! So we can converse with each other! (Laughs) I want to say hello and make conversation with people in different languages here but I just can’t do it as I cannot speak a word of Chinese, Tamil or Malay!
Antony: Let it be in Singapore or anywhere else, I have the same hopes and fears as I have for the movie in France. Ultimately, I really hope people won’t just be drawn to the movie because of the threesome. There’s a whole lot more to the movie!

Thank you both! Enjoy the remainder of your stay in Singapore!

We then thanked our friend, Nadege from Festive Films for granting us the privilege to interview both Salome Stevenin and Antony Cordier. The interview went much better than expected and it is obvious that both Salome and Antony come from school of thoughts and it was such a fruitful time being able to listen and learn from their experiences.

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Interview: Mohamad Shaifulbahri | Photos: Richard Lim Jr | Layout: Linus Tee

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