Are most of her books still in French, or did they get translated?
There’s a few that are translated into English, but overwhelmingly they’re in French. Also, most of them are out of print. So we were having to find like one used bookstore in eastern France that is selling one copy of this one book. We really hunted them down.
That must have been fun. I love searching for rare books. When did you know you wanted narration to sort of pull everything together and how Miranda July became involved?
We actually knew early on that we wanted a narrator, mostly because the archives were amazing, but very limited. All of the 16 millimeter archives didn’t have sound, so we knew that we needed to bring in a narrator, not just their interiority, but also because we needed some help for plot and context. We were really inspired by French New Wave films to make this film since that was kind of the aesthetic movement happening as Katia and Maurice themselves were coming of age. There’s such fun and playful narrators throughout the French New Wave movement.
From the beginning, we started off sculpting and writing narration, but it was really important for us to figure out who we were writing for. At first, we thought maybe we wanted a French narrator. But when we were brainstorming, our executive producer, Greg Boustead actually suggested Miranda, and Jocelyne, Erin, and I were just like, “Oh my God, we’ve been writing for Miranda this whole time without ever quite realizing it.” She’s been a huge artistic influence in my life. We had been writing in this voice that we called “deadpan curious,” and I feel like Miranda just nails that. She has such a wonderfully inquisitive way of looking at and understanding and delving deeply into the strange fragility of what it means to be human. I feel like Maurice and Katia are such bold, strong characters, but there’s such fragility there, too. They’re always living right on the edge of life and death. Miranda perfectly drew out what we wanted and elevated the film exponentially with her voice and her way and her artistry.
Was any of the narration their own writing?
The narration itself wasn’t their own writing. There’s some lines from their books that we pulled out and had an actor voice. We were very inspired, though, by their writing for the narration. We really tried to absorb their style. They write very hyperbolically. I say that with total love. It fits their bombastic personalities. There’s a real energy, especially to Katia’s writing. So we really tried to channel that in the voice that we were writing with, even if the narration itself wasn’t directly from their books. But there are discrete moments in the film, where, our narrator will say, here’s an actor reading Katia’s account and then we’ll have Katia’s to his actual words.