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Wednesday, April 23, 2003

A crazy little thing called . . .

Unlike her heroine in "A la folie . . . pas du tout (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not)," Laetitia Colombani is not very interested in love. "I think there are enough straightforward love stories out there and they're all a bit . . . exaggerated," says the 27-year-old from Bordeaux, France. "I'm more interested in laying traps in a story that surprise both my characters and the audience. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned." For this debut feature, Colombani was inspired by two things: her graduate thesis titled "Insanity as Portrayed in Cinema" and the surprise ending of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense."

News photo
Laetitia Colombani

Colombani stresses, however, that she's not from filmmaking stock. "My father is an engineer and my mother is a teacher. They liked to go to the movies, but they never thought I would be making one, especially not so soon after film school."

She adds that directing is not exactly the love of her life -- she has also been trained as an actress and has enjoyed performing in a number of stage plays. "I don't want to focus on just one profession. I'm comfortable both behind and in front of the camera, so I will like to go on doing both. Oh, and I prefer to write my own screenplays."

Colombani is clearly ambitious, but she's also cautious -- she had at first thought of playing Angelique herself, but ditched the idea as too daunting a task for a nameless first-time director. Her "guardian angel" and producer, Charles Gassot, felt the same. "I was very fortunate, for he read my screenplay and liked it right away. We met in a coffee shop in New York and he offered to produce it, then and there."

On casting Audrey Tautou, Colombani says: "I needed someone who can portray sweetness and fragility, but with a hint of violence and meanness lurking beneath the surface. I felt Audrey was perfect. At this point I hadn't seen her in 'Amelie' but she had starred in some good films and I liked her style." Tautou, on the other hand, considered the offer for a long time before giving her answer. "She said that this was a scary role and that at first, she wasn't sure about taking it on. But once she said yes, her commitment and concentration were amazing. And since we're about the same age, it was so easy to talk to each other. We went over the details of each scene, and she came up with a lot of good prop ideas." One of them is a desert plant that Angelique keeps in a glass case. "This plant [which doesn't exist in real life] is a metaphor for Angelique: beautiful, but thorny and poisonous."

Asked what she thought of "Amelie," Colombani chose her words carefully: "I liked it . . . I can understand why audiences went for it in a big way. Amelie is a very different person from Angelique. She succeeds in making people happy and being happy herself. But I wanted to say that sometimes the best and sincerest of intentions can go haywire, that it's easy to lose control over passion and the dividing line between sanity and insanity is a lot hazier than people think."

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