[interview] Josiane Balasko (Half-Sister)

Bitch is a little girl of sixty years. A problem at birth has made it different. Nenette, who has the mental age of an 8 year old child, has always lived with his mother, who raised her alone. Bitch works for, she does the cleaning at the school in the commune and her best friend is a turtle. But when her mom dies, everything will change and Bitch should go to retirement home. The hotel does not allow pets, Nénette leaves with his bag and his turtle, with the idea of finding her father, whom she has only a photo yellowed, a letter and an address. When Nénette finally arrives at the address indicated on the letter, a pharmacy, it is not her father that she found, but the latter’s son, Paul Bérard, pharmacist, psycho, which sees land this half-sister with dismayed.

Half-sister is the eighth feature film of Josiane Balasko. She co-starred with Michel Blanc, who plays his half-brother, but who will have difficulties to accept it with her mental disability.

– Where did you get the idea for the script?

Josiane Balasko: I am inspired by the movie “I feel rejuvenate” Howard Hawks. The two actors Gary Grant and Ginger Rogers regress in their head. I found it to be great. I thought that it would be a great pleasure to play a child., the idea is to put the spotlight on a lady who, for medical reasons, that has not changed since its 6 years old. I wanted to kept the lightness in this film, the affection and tenderness.

– Didn’t you pass on a message, to make people aware of the disease?

No, this is not a message for the disabled. My point is to show that people who are different are also useful and capable of things that those who, apparently, are normal.

– How have you prepared to play this woman with a disability?

I simply said that it was necessary that I play as if I was six years old, I find the reactions of a small child. It is this credulity and naivety that makes them believe everything they’re told.

My only limit was the truth. As I had no director, it was more difficult, but I felt when I was in the character. I knew how was to be the character, I knew it was a child’s life.

– Why did you choose Michel White to interpret your brother?

I wrote to Michel. It is from his personality that I wrote that his role, the fact that his character, Paul, is a pianist and frustrated that wasn’t able to realize his dream of youth. His role was difficult, it had two facets to interpret.

When Michel had to do it as if he had taken ecstasy, he asked to be guided. Neither me, nor him have experience of this kind of product, so I did some research on the internet, I read some of the testimonials. What works very well is the opposition of characters, between a man a very unpleasant, selfish who becomes someone human, emphatic.

– Have you had more difficulties to play some scenes?

The most difficult is to start. When the first day I have to play Bitch, it is very difficult. Especially as I had no director to direct me, so I had to find the right approach.

The scenes of crisis are not more difficult when one is in the character, in the moment.

The costume, the hair cut helped. It was a contrast between his manner of dress and his way of being.

– The objective was to make a comedy or a movie, sad and touching?

Initially, I thought it would be much more of a comedy. I thought that more things would be funny, because of the physics, etc, I realized that there are emotions. That the laugh was made by Michel, but that my character is not funny, on the contrary, it is more moving. But I didn’t want to do a clinical case, someone has pity.

– What is your next project?

I don’t have as a filmmaker. I have doubled a character in the animated film ‘Aunt Ilda’ by Jacques-Rémy Girerd, released in February 2014. I play the nasty and Sabine Azéma plays aunt Ilda.

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