Oscar Shorts: A Child’s First Divorced Christmas is Sweetly Polled

French-Canadian filmmaker Annie St-Pierre weaves in brilliant performances by child actors in her tenderly humorous short.

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Some things are certain in Oscar short film but some stories about children will often be nominated. There’s something about childhood, that universal land of nostalgia, that delights Oscar voters. In “Like everyone I used to know” (“Les Grandes Claques”), a lighthearted and delightful story set in the 1980s, Quebecois filmmaker Annie St-Pierre has mastered the art of poignant childhood story. Like all good short films, the film takes a simple premise – a recent divorcee picks up kids from their mother’s house for Christmas – and elegantly uses specificity to open up. exploit something painfully common.

“That’s what excites me most about cinema: Zooming in on a micro-moment that has a meta-influence in the lives of characters. I think the short film format is great for that,” St-Pierre said in a recent interview. “You can really think about every little movement, every aspect of the cinematic language… you can really go into a short fiction film.”

Based in Montreal, St-Pierre has worked with influential French-Canadian artisans such as Denis Villeneuve, Philippe Falardeau and Louise Archambault. Her previous work was in documentaries, including many behind-the-scenes films on set. “Like the Ones I Used to Know” marked her first foray into narrative filmmaking. Obviously, she’s paying attention, because her base with both story and visuals stands out from the opening seconds of the film.

“I feel like I will be able to see more complex characters in the novel in this short format, because it allows me to be really intense and not have to hide anything,” she said. “It’s also very harsh, because it’s true that you can’t hide yourself in a novel, everything comes from your head.”

The story, which St-Pierre calls auto-fiction, opens with siblings Julie (Lilou Roy-Lanouette) and Mathieu (Laurent Lemaire) hanging out in the bathroom at their family’s Christmas party. The nostalgic ’80s backdrop, which St-Pierre is careful not to overdo, subtly manifests itself in Julie’s oversized plastic frames and ugly Christmas sweaters worn without irony. From the coziness of the party, we see Denis (Steve Laplante) shivering in his Oldsmobile, where he’s training himself not from the cold but from the seemingly smallest task of picking up his baby .

As a divorced child, St-Pierre thought it was timely to look back at the dilemmas of early custody agreements that many ’80s kids, some adults with children of their own, had to deal with. direction.

“It’s still experimental, parents are trying to find some way to exercise joint custody with a lot of awkward decisions. They don’t have any experience and don’t have models,” said the director. “Now we have had time to think about what it can do to children and what they will go through, because they are not just little dolls, they have emotions and feelings. It affects their lives a lot.”

As a new mother herself, her appreciation of children as autonomous creatures helped St-Pierre work with child actors, with whom she tried to create a safe and secure atmosphere. happy. The result is a touching performance from the film’s young star, Lilou Roy-Lanouette, who seems to understand all that her father is feeling during those harrowing moments. With just a few knowing glances, she yanked the heartbeats with an amazingly natural force.

“I don’t like the idea of ​​children in movies. Usually people just represent an idea of ​​what one kid is, and they ask two kids to play it and that’s not really sincere,” says St-Pierre. “All the scenes are very well written, but I don’t write really precise lines for the kids, except when it’s with the adults. When they’re kids, they can say whatever they want.”

St-Pierre wanted the film to be fun for the child actors, not a huge undertaking as it is set during a Christmas party. In addition to the cheerful atmosphere, she invited two amateur actors to play supporting roles, who had no experience on set.

“I want them to force the other two people back to their inner child, to never feel that they are doing a job,” she said. “Every time Lilou had the slight reflex of wanting to just say something and act, there were two other kids looking at them like, ‘What are they doing?’ So she is forced to return to a real Lilou, or a real Julie. I’m giving them a place where they can feel really safe and themselves, and I’m avoiding asking them too much. They have to be able to be kids if we want them to be kids in the movie.”

“Like the Ones I Used to Know” was shortlisted for the Oscars for Best Live Action Short Film. Stream movies on Short in the week.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/02/oscar-shorts-like-the-ones-i-used-to-know-annie-st-pierre-1234695678/ Oscar Shorts: A Child’s First Divorced Christmas is Sweetly Polled

Olly Dawes

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