Are most of his books still in French or have they been translated?
There are a few that are translated into English, but the vast majority are in French. Moreover, most of them are sold out. So we had to find a second-hand bookstore in the east of France that sold a copy of this book. We really chased them away.
It must have been fun. I love researching rare books. When did you know you wanted the storytelling to bring it all together and how did Miranda July get involved?
In fact, we knew early on that we wanted a narrator, mainly because the archive was amazing, but very limited. Not all 16mm archives had sound, so we knew we had to bring in a narrator, not just their interiority, but also because we needed help with plot and context. We were really inspired by French Nouvelle Vague films to make this film because that was kind of the aesthetic movement that was happening as Katia and Maurice themselves came of age. There are so many fun and playful storytellers in the French New Wave movement.
From the beginning, we started sculpting and writing narrative, but it was really important to us who we were writing for. At first we thought maybe we wanted a French narrator. But when we were brainstorming, our executive producer, Greg Boustead, actually suggested Miranda, and Jocelyne, Erin, and I were like, “Oh my God, we’ve been writing for Miranda all this time without ever really realizing it. ” She was a huge artistic influence in my life. We wrote in that voice we called “deep and inquisitive,” and I think Miranda manages to do it. She has a wonderfully curious way of looking at, understanding and exploring the strange fragility of what it means to be human. I feel like Maurice and Katia are such bold and strong characters, but there is also such fragility. They always live on the edge of life and death. Miranda drew exactly what we wanted and elevated the film exponentially with her voice, manner and artistry.
Was one of the narrations their own writing?
The narration itself was not their own writing. There are a few lines from their books that we took and had a voice actor. We were very inspired, however, by their writing for the storytelling. We really tried to soak up their style. They write very hyperbolically. I say that with total love. This matches their explosive personalities. There is a real energy, especially in Katia’s writing. So we really tried to channel that into the voice that we were writing with, even though the narration itself wasn’t taken directly from their books. But there are discrete moments in the film, where, our narrator will say, here is an actor who reads Katia’s story and then we will have Katia’s until her own words.