Benoît, what made you want to accept this project?
Benoît Poelvoorde: I found the script very funny. And then it’s a true story, part of which the director experienced himself, and that moved me. He wrote a novel about it first before writing the script. I read them both, I liked them both equally, then I said: “Yes, OK, I’ll do it, but with whom?” For comedy to work, there must be right chemistry between you and your co-actors.
Valérie, when Benoît knew that Ivan Calbérac was thinking of you to play his wife, he also called you. What did he say to persuade you?
Valérie Bonneton: “There’ll be two or three nude scenes, they’ll be fine... don’t worry!” (laughs). More seriously, as soon as I read the script, I wanted to be part of this family: the Chamodots. Together, they make their way through life’s ups and downs, even though the two sons are a bit ashamed of their parents. Despite what Émile goes through and the fact that he must bear barmy neurotic parents and day-to-day life in a caravan, there’s a lot of love between them, certainly some awkwardness but above all, love. That’s what touched me.
Benoît Poelvoorde: They are nevertheless exemplary parents when it comes to patience and generosity. Launching into a journey to Italy just because the little one wants to find his love in Venice... I don’t know many parents who would do that!
Ivan Calbérac says you both resemble his own parents a little. Do you recognise yourselves in Annie and Bernard?
Benoît Poelvoorde: Yes, in his “Mister Know-it-all” attitude. A guy who shows off all the time. That’s exactly me! (laughs).
Valérie Bonneton: Annie accepts that by educating, one makes fatal mistakes. Like her, I try to accept them. I’ve got little ones of my own.
Valérie, you say you take a long time considering the angle from which to approach a role...
Valérie Bonneton: Yes, I read the script then put it aside for a while. For this film, I relied on the script then trusted to the alchemy with my partner and the director. Once on set, I didn’t know how Benoît was going to play it. My acting also depends on his, and on the director’s instructions. Then I just go with the flow. I like the idea of not knowing what’s going to happen.
Moving on to Hélie Thonnat, he is in almost all the scenes. How did you approach them with him?
Valérie Bonneton: I’d say always in the same way: Benoît enjoyed making him laugh before every take.
Benoît Poelvoorde: It’s a way of making children relax when facing difficulty. There are different ways of putting them at their ease: the Austrian way, the German way and then my way, which is all about making funny insinuations. I think Hélie now has an unusually large vocabulary of crude words! But what could be better? When you laugh, you forget why you’re there, and once it starts, you act naturally.
Valérie Bonneton: Benoît behaves like that with me too. As soon as the camera’s rolling he gives it his all. He’s a magnificent actor. But between every take, he tells jokes. Being distracted before a scene, I love that. Then when we start to shoot, that gives me an adrenalin boost, which means I’m much more present.
What sets Valérie apart from other actresses?
Benoît Poelvoorde: Her joie de vivre and her acting! She acts exceedingly well, she’s the best! And then she’s not fussy. She’s not the type to call over to the director with questions like: “Tell me, Ivan, what psychological angle do you want to convey when my character acts like this or that?” Nothing’s complicated with Valérie. It’s a joy to film with her. I had a blast. And she’s naturally generous. She likes people to be cheerful around her, so makes sure they’re happy. Valérie is a real ray of sunshine.
And you, Valérie, what is special about Benoît?
Benoît Poelvoorde: The same but more so (he laughs).
Valérie Bonneton: Benoît is a good person, truly kind. In this profession you sometimes meet people who aren’t like that at all... also naming no names ;-)
Benoît Poelvoorde: It’s funny that you’re not asking for some names (he laughs). Would you like some?...
Benoît, in the film we see you enjoying a song: Black Blood’s A.I.E (A Mwana), which you sing at the top of your voice in the car...
Benoît Poelvoorde: Oh wow! Don’t remind me of that tune ... Particularly as I’m going back to Namur by car... I was belting out that song for an entire day. It’s nice when you hear it once, but eight hours of A.I.E (A Mwana) blaring out ... It’s really proof that cinema’s just laughter and glitter.
You relax others but how do you relax?
Benoît Poelvoorde: I go away by myself to read. I read, I read, immersed in book after book.
How did your shooting go in Venice?
Benoît Poelvoorde: Three weeks before we left, Valérie was all fired up: “Great! We’re going to Venice”. I told her: “You’ll see, it won’t be as simple as that”. Valérie saw herself dressed in black, preparing pasta alla vongole with Italian friends around her, or on a candlelit gondola floating off into the night. But once you’re there, you work. And for that, Venice isn’t practical. I’ll always remember one sequence: just for that, I should have been paid three times my salary!
I’m with my son - Hélie Thonnat - a beautiful setting at the edge of the lagoon. And 10 seconds later, we’re being attacked by a thousand mosquitoes. It was hellish, even though they seemed to appreciate the child’s fresh young skin rather than my leathery old face!
Valérie Bonneton: But it was fantastic too! I was staying in a little cabin on the edge of the lagoon...
One specific theme addressed by the film is the influence of education, of transmission. What do you think about the issue:
Benoît Poelvoorde: You very quickly descend into clichés when you talk about the family. I’d prefer to let Valérie answer. She understands the problem better because she has two children.
Valérie Bonneton: Many parents pass things they’ve found difficult on to their offspring. It’s important not to make your children relive your failures. The film shows that loving them is respecting them, accepting them as they are. It seems simple when you say it like that, but it’s actually very complicated.
What do you think makes this film attractive to the public?
Benoît Poelvoorde: Its humour, and characters who are a bit crazy but full of love. This trip to Italy.
Valérie Bonneton: And the Chamodots: an eccentric, special family, full of tenderness, moving and funny... In whom everyone can recognise themselves... Irresistible people, in the sense that they accept who they are!
Venice Calling can be seen both at the cinema and online on the Play.HappyCinema.ro platform.
For cinema program: https://happycinema.ro/happy-bucuresti/m/chemarea-venetiei-1444
For watching online: https://play.happycinema.ro/programs/chemarea-venetiei-venice-calling