Michael Gondry’s The We and The I is an indie drama that focuses on the lives of a group of teenagers who ride the same bus route. This movie takes place in the Bronx and centers on how the relationships between the group of teens change by the last day of school.
Michael Gondry had a phone interview and he spoke about his own experiences which inspired him to create a film of it. He had to find a school that was willing to work with the production, find characters and presented who the teenagers were in a non-judgemental way. Gondry spoke about wanting to explore new ideas for the film, which is what made him want to tell the story of Mood Indigo-a story of a woman who suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs-and why he wanted to work with Audrey Tautou.
How did The We and The I come about, and where did the idea for it start?
Well, it was an idea I had in the back of my head for a long time. I had some friends, but I was not in any groups. I was only thinking about girls, most of the time, at that age. But, to see my friends changing their personalities and becoming different when they were with groups, it intrigued me. I always remembered a bunch of guys hanging out with one girl that they would sort of exploit, but would sometimes have nice interaction with her. It was that hate-love relationship that you can have with a group of boys and one girl. That intrigued me, and I found that on many different occasions. I thought it was interesting to build a story around that.
Were you surprised that you couldn’t find a school in New York that was willing to work with you on this, and then were you also relieved to find out about The Point and that you could work with them?
Yes, I was surprised because I thought, “Well, this is a great project for kids. Who would not be in a movie with your friends and get paid, like a summer job, and do something you can be proud of?” On the other hand, I know how institutions are. They are barely equipped to survive to do the duties they have to do, so they don’t want to think outside of their duties. And they were very concerned with safety. So, I wasn’t completely surprised. But, I was very happy to meet all of the people at The Point. It was great to end up doing it in South Bronx. I didn’t know very much about the place, but to get to know a place like the Bronx, it helped me to really portray the life of the city.
Was it important to you to not judge who any of these kids were, but rather just show who they are as individuals?
Yes, and it was for a very simple reason. They were actually really nice kids, and they were all very motivated and really strong-hearted. Even if I asked some of them to be less deep at some points, I would not push it too hard because I didn’t want them to feel bad when they saw the film. To me, it was important to not overdo it. As well, I don’t like movies that are too manipulative. A lot of movies thrive on really pushing your buttons and making you hate the villain, and I didn’t want to do that. You can like somebody, and then have them do something that you don’t like. That balances out your emotions.
What was it about Mood Indigo that made you want to tell that story?
Well, it’s a book (by Boris Vian) that every teenager reads in France, like a Kerouac, and everybody has their own experience with this particular book. So, when I got asked to direct a movie based on the book, I already had a lot of ideas for how I wanted to translate the writing into images because I had remembered it so well. I had grown up with this book and had been influenced by the writer. So, I had a strange feeling that I could do something really personal and truthful to the book, at the same time.
What was it about Audrey Tautou that made you want to tell the story with her as your leading lady?
I’m always excited to work with actors. I always find her extremely touching in the movies she acts in. There’s just something that I like about her that’s hard to describe. She could play healthy and sick, at the same time. I got very lucky because I got to work with two of my favorite actresses in France, Charlotte Lebon and her. They are both amazing actresses.
The We and The I is now playing in New York, and opens in theaters in Los Angeles on March 22nd.