I had the chance to speak with actress Anaïs Demoustier and director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet about their new film Anaïs in Love, a coming of age story about a young French woman who ends her affair with a married professor only to find her interests shift to his author wife.
The film is a charming, sexy burst of energy that sees a real star-making turn from Demoustier. Bourgeois-Tacquet delicately balances a good humored tone while exploring a complex and, at times, frustrating character. It’s a real statement piece from two filmmakers relatively early in their respective careers.
The following has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness. We appreciate the assistance of Assia Turquier-Zauberman, who served as translator for the interview.
So I have to ask one very specific question to start which is that I ran cross country and track when I was in college and the iliotibial band injury is so specific. I was curious if either of you are runners or how you were inspired to use that.
Bourgeois-Tacquet: My sport was more as a dancer and when I moved to Paris I didn’t have much time for that so I started running. Eventually, I got this injury that took some time for me to figure out. I went to many different doctors and nobody could really tell me what I had through different scans. Until eventually a physiotherapist told me it was the IT Band and gave me some stretching to do. It’s not something I’m obsessed about rather it’s something that came up in the process of writing because it went well with the character and her traits. The character is not too distinct from my personality.
That gets at another questions I wanted to ask. There’s an autofictional element to this film.
Bourgeois-Tacquet: Yes! Yes!
I’m curious to what extent – obviously it carries the weight of Anaïs’ as the name of the character and the name of the performer – real life experiences are informing the character here.
Bourgeois-Tacquet: Yes absolutely. I think I started writing a lot from my experiences and from my personality all the while allowing for a good bit of fictional excesses. None of the experiences are precisely mine but they are inspired by them. None of the excesses are precisely mine either but are inspired by my own. I don’t think I’m as crazy! I had to write in the similarity because Anaïs Demoustier and I are so similar in so many ways that the character Anaïs somehow exists at the intersection of our personalities with these fictional excesses added on top. I enjoyed the idea of giving Anaïs’ character Anaïs’ first name as a way to sort of play at this game of intersections further.
Anaïs, one of the things I think is interesting – and I don’t mean this disrespectfully – is the way this character is self-centered in the way she behaves and in her relationships. I think of poor Raoul [her character’s boyfriend] who just wants to go to his movie on time and your character can’t be bothered to make it. I’m curious how you go about building out a character who behaves very impulsively.
Demoustier: At first, I was a little bit worried that the affects of her personality were going to overrun and that people would reject parts of her behavior. The way I worked myself into that was to really understand where she was coming from and to understand how this desire makes its way inside of her and how it drives her. I ended up coming to terms with it and finding her quite honest in her way of dealing with situations. From there, I stopped condemning her and allowed her to play through.
I think that her freedom is empowering and it gave me power as I was incarnating her and to find that freedom for her.
One of my favorite filmmakers is Richard Linklater. I see some echoes of Linklater in the way the story is driven through conversation while these characters are walking through bucolic experiences in the countryside. I was curious if Linklater, or other filmmakers, influenced your work here, Charline.
Bourgeois-Tacquet: I actually haven’t seen any of Linklater’s films and it’s funny because just a few days ago I was thinking I should probably turn to them and I might find something in them. So no, not yet. More directly, in France I’m often assimilated into a sort of Rohmerian register in terms of our attention to speech and our analysis of sentiments. I think that perhaps this is sort of sentimental attention comes from French literature. Other than that, I like Woody Allen very much and other Rohmerian filmmakers which gave me an avenue to address some of this sentimentality head on and without a meta point of view, rather allowing that sort of view to unfold. I’m more drawn to more comedic and self-aware writing so that would be where I drew my references.
Anaïs, one of the things I found interesting is the character’s sexuality. It’s that she exists as she is and the film doesn’t have – I guess as we’d see in American cinema – a Sapphic awakening. She just pursues what she’s interested in. I’m curious how you built that up as a performer and about your relationship with [co-star] Valerie Bruni Tedeschi.
Demoustier: In terms their not being a thematic interest in coming out experiences or homosexuality, this is something I was very fond of in reading the script. To be able to tell this story for what it is, in this case a young woman who is driven by her desire wherever it takes her was something I liked very much about the writing. In terms of incarnating it and acting it out, I was very lucky to be playing with Valerie Bruni Tedeschi and to find with her the necessary trust and complicity. She’s an immense actress and I was very very lucky to have these scenes to work on with her.
I gather we’ve come to the end of our time. I really enjoyed the film. Congratulations and I hope an awful lot of people get a chance to see the film soon!
Bourgeois-Tacquet: Thank you very much!
Anaïs in Love will be released in select theaters on April 29. It will be available on video on demand platforms on May 6.