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Merveilles à Montfermeil is a deft combination of political satire and comedy of remarriage.
The comedy of remarriage is a story of reconciliation, of figuring out if you can take something that failed and start again. It’s a classic metaphor for this possibility in society. I liked the idea of taking that Hollywood structure and making the lovers who traditionally carry the story disappear as much as possible, in favor of the other characters: the mayor, her colleagues and the citizens.
How did you describe the film to the cast?
I must have told them I wanted to make a musical where the songs would be the different languages – the different styles within the languages, the professional and administrative jargons, the gurgling of music therapy, and classroom poetry – and that we’d figure out the dancing later… I did ask them to watch Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks (1970) sketch. In fact, this film is like The Ministry of the Absurd and Panic at City Hall by an old provincial cousin.
Are this fictional city hall’s initiatives utopian?
No. Even with our tiny budget, we were able to make this utopia happen during the shoot: we created a collective “municipality” based on work, inventiveness and freedom. Relaxation and human harmonization sessions, the chickens on the roof and the sheep on the street, the math class, the language school: we did all that, and experienced the joy of countering the hate speech and despair prevailing in our world with the joy of doing something collectively.