“I regularly reread all of Shakespeare”

The creator of The flame and Torch interprets a charming singer police captain who officiates in Reunion in this film available on September 8 on the platform.

Appointment is made at the offices of his production company, in the 9e arrondist of Paris, an early afternoon in July. The atmosphere is effervescent, a real anthill. jonathan cohen starts a hamburger that he will not finish, preferring to devote himself fully to the interview.

Author, director, performer and therefore producer, at 43 years old he displays a beautiful filmography where comedy, in all its forms, has pride of place: Coexist , Budapest At the same time, Asterix and Obelix: the Middle Kingdom on the big screen; Brief , Serge the mytho , The flame , The torch , Family Business on the little one. This fall, he will defend three films: Sentinel September 8 on Prime Video, A difficult year of Toledano and Nakache on October 18 then Daaaaaali! by Quentin Dupieux.

Read alsoJonathan Cohen, itinerary of an outsider of humor

For us, it evokes the first, a schoolboy, offbeat, absurd comedy, in which, mullet cut, bleached blonde hair, Hawaiian shirt and eighties-style suit Two cops in Miami, he plays a police captain in Reunion, with very particular methods, and a charming singer – the kiki was his childhood hit – in his spare time.

THE FIGARO TV MAGAZINE. – Hugo Bénamozig and David Caviglioli, with whom you had already toured terrible jungle (2020), they wrote Sentinel for you ?

JONATHAN COHEN. – Yes, we got along so well, so captured. The absurd, the intelligence… It’s both grotesque and subtle. I accepted the role and decided to produce the film as well. We spent a year writing and rewriting. The story has expanded, with a real police investigation that holds us.

How did you appropriate the character of François Sentinelle?

It’s a collaboration. The role is being prepared as the versions go along. I know them all and I dug into all of them, I was imbued with them. We wanted to give Sentinel a very graphic touch, like a comic book, hence the mullet cut, the discoloration, his costumes. To make it iconic in its appearance!

How much improvisation is there?

It seems essential to me, at least in comedy, because you have to be creative all the time. We don’t enter a scene, we create a scene. We warm up to the base with the text and, at one point, we try to push the cursors.

Is it compatible with the rhythm of comedy, which is often precise?

It’s in the editing, this rhythm. It is necessary to propose many things, to seek the quintessence of the humor of the sequence. We can play it rhythmically but it’s really in the editing that it happens.

So what do you expect from the directors?

It reures me to work with people who have a vision, a universe. I like to splurge but I think a lot about the story.

The character is very touching because, beyond his ego, music is really his whole life…

He is indeed really ready to drop everything for the music. All that sabotages his life as a cop is the music. He’s a bad cop because there’s music, and when the music stops, he becomes a good cop again. He has glimmers that amaze others.

“Marc is the fruit of his time, that of the 80s. He was built with Top Gun, the all-powerful man, the man of action. He represents the alpha male but is totally off the mark. »

For Marc, your character The flame and Torch a series for Canal +, how did you find the balance between current feminist concerns and this macho or even pure boor?
Marc is the product of his time, that of the 80s. He only has the wrong references and is not in line with today’s issues. It was built with Top Gun , the all-powerful man, the man of action. He represents the alpha male but is totally off the mark. It is out of step with the evolution of mores, that’s what was interesting to show. He doesn’t understand why it doesn’t work! He remained a spoiled child: “I want that, she’s leaving”… He’s touching when he doesn’t get what he wants.

Camille Chamoux says she wanted to make Chattalere the most feminist character in history…

And in the end she is right! It was the most risky role, always naked with an unbridled sex life. But it’s a woman who decides where she wants and when she wants, she doesn’t care about being judged.

The societal dimension – the two seasons have entered pop culture -, did you anticipate it, wish it?

We were very careful when writing. We must avoid gratuity and fight for a minimum of funds. On the one hand, there is an idiotic character, without filter, Marc, who says things abruptly without knowing that he is shocking. And on the other, always a somewhat intellectual counterweight, someone who says to him: “No Marc, we have no right to say that…” It is this confrontation between his stupidity, his references and the present world, which tells something about culture.

How do you explain that France took so long to come to comedy series? Should we be inspired by Anglo-Saxon humor for it to work?

But we have always been inspired by Anglo-Saxon humour! There have been more or less successful attempts. We may now have digested this humor.

What do you like about them?

Intelligence of the absurd. Actors who play out situations in which we believe. I have references in terms of French humor but, when I saw the Anglo-Saxon productions – the series The Office Or Arrested DevelopmentAdam McKay films like Anchor man Or don’t look upthe work of Ricky Gervais…-, I said to myself: “This is what I want to do one day”.

So the important thing is the sincerity with which we play?

Yes, when the story is solid, the interpretation sincere, the jokes are more likely to make people laugh. In The flame And The torch, we very quickly forget the actors for the characters. Léïla Bekhti, they call her Alexandra in the street, they call me Marc. It is rare that the characters take precedence over the actors. It requires a great capacity for incarnation.

“Read again Britannicusit straightens out, it brings beauty in us, excellence, it’s like a little bomb of oxygen to reface what surrounds us”

Has your presence on platforms opened international doors for you? Is this something you are looking for?

It didn’t particularly open any doors for me but it would interest me, as a producer, to do projects for Inter. aka cardboard, Lupine Also. We are not immune to this happening to us. But how people receive things is beyond me. I would already be delighted if it is popular in France!

How do you know when something is funny?
It’s purely subjective. We feel it if it makes us laugh while doing it. I sabotage a lot of takes because of that but I’m a big laugh. If I , it’s a good lead. With Pierre Niney Or Ramzy, when we start to have fits of laughter, we know that we have to explore this avenue. In editing, we see again and again. If it makes us laugh automatically we know it’s good.

Can we hope for a season 3 of The flame ?
We are thinking about it. It would be great, it’s one of the times when I had the most fun even if it’s also very rigorous and trying. And people received this joy in doing things.

What did you learn from your meeting with the journalists from Papotin ?

I was absolutely bowled over. I had seen Gilles Lellouche’s show. I went in pure and took it in pure. There is no armor so we take off our own. It took me a good day and a half to recover. We rarely deal with people so beautiful humanly. I often think of them, of funny, touching phrases, situations. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

You dreamed of playing Hamlet, is it still relevant?

Look, the book is here, I can’t lie to you! I read it often, I underline pages. I regularly reread all of Shakespeare. I need to get back into that bath. We were talking about beauty, purity. There is a grandeur in these stories that our environment no longer has. We are in the networks, the bullshit… Read again Britishs, really, I swear, it sets us straight, it brings beauty in us, excellence, it’s like a little bomb of oxygen to re-face what surrounds us, it’s a marvel. Or Chekhov. I would like to play one day Hamlet on the scene. I will not initiate it, I let life take its course.

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