Interview: Pierre Richard
Interview: Nino Kirtadze
What attracted you to this project?
The script's quality, its poetic folly, really struck me. You would never find that in a French script. It has a sort of "gypsy" aspect, always overflowing with imagination. Nobody but the Georgians could write a script like that. Having fallen in love with the script--my best films have always started out that way--I dove headlong into the adventure completely unaware of what to expect in Georgia. I had a few vague ideas about Georgian movies, but I had never actually been there. It was a real eye-opener. I felt a great affinity for the people right away. Likewise with the totally exceptional people working with us on the set. The shoot took place in an atmosphere of what seemed like collective madness, but in reality the crew worked very well together. Now and then it felt like complete mayhem during the day but in the evening we realized that we had gotten exactly what we needed.
A CHEF IN LOVE is a complete change of style for you.
In France, people tend to pigeonhole me. I try my hardest to resist that but everyday I bump into really sweet people who ask me: "So, when's your next film coming out?" (meaning a film like "La Chevre" or "Lucky Pierre"). I had a great time shooting with Frances Veber and Gerard Depardieu and I wouldn't say anything bad about those films--they enabled me to be known throughout the world, particularly in the USSR. But from time to time, I get hungry for something new. It's a rare pleasure for a French actor to leave home ground and see at first hand what's being made elsewhere. That's why I'm very grateful to Nana to have brought me a comedy so very different from my previous ones.
...And one which has a tragic side also.
Yes, A CHEF IN LOVE does have a tragic aspect, but there are times when you cannot help laughing. It's a subtle mixture of sweet and sour, to use a rather apt metaphor, whereas in France nobody would dream of mixing the two. It was a pure delight to play scenes of mad frivolity which suddenly turn into drama without any warning.
An actor is always out of step with time...
Yes, it's not easy to come back to reality after a film because reality is often less funny. By coming to Georgia, I discovered a different reality, and so a different sense of make-believe as well. I have lived a film and a great adventure at the same time. I have had two parts... for the price of one. And that has made the experience doubly exciting.
How did you approach the role of Pascal Ichac?
Pascal is a Frenchman who is in his element in Georgia because he is totally insane, just like the Georgians (to the extent that he even refuses to leave his restaurant when it is requisitioned). He's traveled widely, was a singer, a society host, a gigolo, etc., before falling head over heels in love with a young Georgian princess, Cecilia. He promises himself that he has at last found a home base and nobody will chase him away. He is a marvelous chef and has no particular judgment on the Revolution but thinks it's a pity that the Red Army soldiers don't appreciate good food. He tries to communicate his passion to them by giving recipes to the army cook - who couldn't give a damn. The film is an ode to cooking. It contains some wonderful, incredibly original recipes, which make your mouth water. It is very sensual.
Good cooking encourages conviviality, just like wine. You don't drink a great wine all alone, it would be too sad. Wine is made for sharing, it makes you express your feelings and impressions to others. Wine stewards, of course, worship good food, it's their innate sense of a pleasure shared. The film is just as exhilarating. On the restaurant's opening night, Pascal pirouettes from one dish to another, he is wildly exited, he grabs Cecilia by the hand, crisscrosses the room, clowning around to amuse the guests, but he has his eye on everything.
Later, when the Russian officer orders Pascal to prepare him a fish from the fish-tank, Pascal is devastated by the idea of this brute eating bad fish. For Pascal, cooking is an art, a religion. Thats true of all great chefs or wine tasters, they are poets and artists.
That's why I liked this script and became so attached to this wonderful character, a unique man, who never grows up. He dies a child because a passion burns in him which will never go out. Adults sometimes have passions which burn out gradually with age, or they have no passion whatsoever. But Pascal does not let age wear him down. He loves a princess who is thirty years younger and gives her some fine reasons for loving him back: he makes her laugh, he is constantly surprising her. Those are qualities women appreciate.