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A Conversation with DP Guillaume Schiffman
How did you get involved in POPULAIRE?

Alain Attal and I have wanted to make a film together for a long time. Unfortunately we had never found the right project, or our schedules clashed. Then one day he calls me and wants me to read a script. I read it, and find the project unusual and extremely interesting. It's POPULAIRE! Then I only wanted one thing: to meet Regis and assure myself that he didn't want me only for my label as a period film specialist. In fact that wasn't the case, since he had done his research and liked my work as director of photography on contemporary films. I liked the fact that Regis told me he wanted my involvement on set, the intuitive way I work with directors, and for me to throw myself into the adventure of a film with a crew at the service of a director's vision. Furthermore I love working with actors I've never worked with. Romain Duris has been surprising and delighting me for a long time and I was knocked out by Deborah Francois' performance in MES CHERES ETUDES by Emmanuelle Bercot. I think in fact that, after the screenplay and the director's commitment, my inspiration often comes from the actors and the pleasure I get creating images and a visual style with them.

What were Regis' big visual choices?

Regis and I both had the same film references from the beginning, somewhere in between SOME CAME RUNNING by Vincente Minnelli and GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES by Howard Hawks: a delightful artistic range. We also talked about Douglas Sirk and his sublime, baroque and over-the-top lighting, Montgomery Clift's elegance, and Shirley MacLaine's absolute charm. More than big visual choices, we talked mostly about our emotions and pleasure as film buffs. In any case we wanted to allow ourselves great range of light. POPULAIRE is a film that both refers strongly to the sixties and continuously takes great liberties.

How did you work your chromatic palette?

I didn't want to fall into a pale imitation of Technicolor, something quaint and cheap that never works. The idea was to give the feeling you were immersed in that era, while being irreverent towards our idea of Technicolor. Technicolor has brighter reds and greens. So even though the colors are slightly de-saturated it's effective in rendering the right feel of the time.

What about the framing?

Framing is all in the directing. When you have the same vision for the film, you don't work on the framing. It happens spontaneously. We mostly talked about what we'd like, about feelings, intentions, and challenges. Since we had allowed ourselves some freedom regarding the era, we made all the decisions in a most harmonious way.

Do you find more is asked of you when working on a first film?

I feel I invest just as much of myself with experienced directors. Even if sometimes the demands are greater, my involvement is identical. Regis made demands on me as much as I made demands on him. If there is a quality specific to this film, it is the pleasure, the joy, the general will to do well and the investment of each member of the crew.


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