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The alchemy of love
Publication Date : 15-02-2013
French director brings a touch of slapstick to 'Happiness Never Comes Alone'
If Woody Allen sees life divided into the horrible and the miserable, French director James Huth views it as hilarious and impossible.
His latest film, Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n'arrive jamais seu), captures the hilarity of a girl-meets-boy scenario but adds plenty of impossible twists and turns, not to mention stunts, along the way.
The movie, which is part of the Clap! French Film Festival and is scheduled for general release in April, is a funny and slapstick portrayal of love's alchemy. It's a feel-good movie with a heart-warming, Capraesque narrative set in Paris.
When two people - who couldn't be greater opposites - fall in love and get caught up in passionate sex, there's bound to be trouble. And in the best tradition of romantic comedy, they survive it and fall captive to the inevitable course of amour, French style.
The story revolves around Sacha (Gad Elmaleh), a free-spirited jazz pianist who enjoys chasing young women and Charlotte (Sophie Marceau), a divorcee and mother of three. They meet on the street one rainy afternoon, and within minutes, make love. For Sacha, meeting the woman of his dreams, despite the differences, is "the eye-opener of the century". Trouble follows when he meets the kids and the uber rich and jealous ex-husband. Just as things seem to be going downhill, Sacha realises he can't survive, can't make music without her -and her kids - and the lovers get back together.
"It's a very optimistic film about love," says Huth, who has been through a very similar experience himself - he met his wife under the same circumstances. Sonja, who co-wrote the film with Huth, had three kids when they met. The couple had two more after they got married.
"If you had told me 15 minutes before I met her that I would go for a woman with one child, I would have laughed for an hour and 15 minutes. It was just impossible. But the minute I met her it was evident that I was going to spend the rest of my life with this woman and the kids were a part of her," he says.
The young director says the idea for the script came up a while back and they worked on it together but he simply wasn't prepared to direct kids - something he's assiduously avoided in his previous five comedies. Even now, after the fact, he says it was the most challenging part and much more difficult than working with Elmaleh and Marceau.
In fact, the two actors had such natural chemistry on and off the screen that Huth didn't have to adapt the script. "It was perfect casting," he says of Elmaleh, one of the most popular stand-up comedians in France and of the multi-awarded Marceau.
"Romantic comedies have something more than other films - they have grace, grace between the two characters. You remember these films because there is something between, say, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere ('Pretty Woman'), or Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. There is an alchemy between them," he says. "Not only does it have to happen between the actors, you have to capture it on screen. And I hope I succeeded in doing that."
It's the element of surprise, of doing something magical yet funny, that is key to Huth's work. Tender moments are suddenly interrupted with stunts, such as Charlotte almost breaking her neck when she falls down the stairs after their first lovemaking, or when she is clobbered by a faulty sink, throwing her on the floor with her skirt up to her waist.
"Gad was so surprised at the first take that his reaction was to panic with the water and everything. That was the shot I kept. We did not expect Sophie's panties to be shown quite like that," Huth laughs. But it's those sort of stunts that lend a burlesque charm to the scenes, all mixed in with homespun, ribald humour.
The sink, which Sacha tries to fix throughout the movie, is symbolic of his dilemma, very much like in most French comedy films where things always seem to go wrong, again and again.
"Comedy is a genre that sells anywhere. People need to laugh," he says. "Comedy is not as respected as a kind of art film in France but it's very difficult to do. Everyone is pushing me to stay in comedy."
When Huth started on his career path in the '80s, it was as an oral surgeon, not a film director. His first shot at changing his life came at the age of 25 when he won a photography contest that earned him a trip to Thailand. One thing led to another, and he started to explore filmmaking.
"I never once thought I could be a director because I didn't have the confidence in myself to believe that one day I could direct a movie. But suddenly - and it's an incredible feeling - I knew I was exactly where I should be."
Happiness Never Comes Alone screens tomorrow at 7pm at SFX the Emporium in Bangkok. It's part of the Clap! French Film Festival, which runs until Wednesday.