Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In conversation with director Denis Dercourt (The Page Turner)

Reprise of revenge

Melanie (Deborah Francois) and Ariane (Catherin Frot) in The Page Turner.

Benito Di Fonzo
May 18, 2007. Sydney Morning Herald.

Hell hath no fury like a child prodigy scorned, or so it would seem in writer and director Denis Dercourt's intelligent psycho-thriller The Page Turner.

Most of us struggle with one career, but 43-year-old Dercourt has excelled in two: writing and directing films while teaching and playing viola in the French Symphony Orchestra.

His latest film, The Page Turner, was selected for Cannes and was the most successful French film in 2006. It tells the story of Melanie, first seen as a talented, precocious child pianist attempting to enter the Conservatorium. When her ego is shattered by examiner and famed pianist Ariane (Catherine Frot) signing an autograph during her audition, she gives up music forever, carrying a chip on her shoulder the size of the Arc de Triomphe.

Fast forward 10 years and fate finds the adult Melanie, played by Deborah Francois and reminiscent of a young Catherine Deneuve, working as a nanny for Ariane, who now suffers performance anxiety due to a hit-and-run accident. Deciding revenge is a dish best served cold, Melanie endears herself to the ageing pianist and becomes her page turner, confidante and indispensable companion.

The subtle build-up to Melanie's revenge, foregoing the obvious avenues, marks The Page Turner as a tour de force in filmmaking, moving with a musical dynamism to its crescendo.

"The main mechanism in classical music is that of the cadenza," Dercourt says, "a tense chord resolving in another chord; tension, resolve, tension, resolve, and often the release of tension is [creating] another tension. It's the same in a film, especially genre film, and I liked writing this film because I hadn't done that before. That was a real discovery for me."

Dercourt's musical background gave him a unique insight into musicians' minds.

"It's a very tiny village, the world of musicians. We are very few, especially at a certain level. Playing music is really difficult, hard work."

Are musicians particularly prone to becoming psychopaths, then?

"Like actors, like painters, like all artists they are more aware of their feelings. Also they must be like sports people - they must be always perfect. You cannot fail when you have a concert, you must be aware of your state of mind."

Who is more dangerous, the child prodigy or the failed musician?

"That's a good question," Dercourt says. "When they both are one single person you have to be very afraid."

The Page Turner
Director Denis Dercourt
Stars Catherine Frot, Deborah Francois
Rated PG. Out now.

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