"I feel European" - interview for French website Il était une fois le Cinéma, 15 september 2009

Unexpected casting for ”Farewell”, Christian Carion's highly recommended espionage film, theatrically released on September 23rd. Emir Kusturica, up to now a ruffian but accomplished director, interprets a KGB officer, both romantic and fatalistic. He is perfect. Meeting with a promising actor!

Kustu seems to be the first surprised! Yes, Christian Carion's film is “good”, and yes, he is rather “not bad” in it! Two confessions that this usually savage eschar-tip concedes, in an interview, with an unusual sweetness. In fact, his meeting with the kindly academic director of Merry Christmas was, a priori, more than improbable. But against all odds, the balkanic Emir, ruffling filmmaker of Time of the Gypsies, crazy “guitar hero” of the No Smoking Orchestra, is indeed at his place in Farewell. Better, in this very interesting French spy movie - release on September 23 - this almost neophyte actor radiates a false nonchalance and a real melancholy downright awesome! Kustu, defeated Colonel KGB, very discreet hero of the ultimate cold war of the 80s: we take it. And we listen, in his franco-english sabir …

  • Emir Kusturica actor, even if you have already shot with Patrice Leconte, or even in three of your films, it's unexpected! Especially in a first role
    • Emir Kusturica : Yes, well, it's still a little late to build a career! Let's say today, I'm lucky enough to be able to choose cool stuff. Interesting. For example, this character. And I did not choose it because it's a controversial story, huh! No, what attracted me is the human aspect of this story. It is very rare that you are offered a thriller that attaches as much importance to the individual part of the human being. In addition, Christian Carion makes elegant films …
  • Are you interested in spy movies?
    • EK : Usually, not at all! James Bond is a very muscular person … But behind all that, there is a simplistic ideological dimension. There, what interested me the most in Carion's scenario is the ambiguity of my character, his double side. And then, he's an idealist despite everything, even if it may seem stupid today! On the contrary, I think it's something positive … This idealism strengthens the world.
  • Did the idea of ​​embodying a Russian KGB officer seem like … say … delicate, at some point?
    • EK : Frankly, I never considered this character as a “KGB officer”. What interested me about him was his willingness to change the world, and his very particular posture between the Soviet bloc and the West. In fact, I focused on how a human being can possibly influence the course of history. In the end, what posed the most problem for me is to shoot in French and Russian, two foreign languages ​​for me, even if I have some basics in one and the other! At the same time, as a musician, it was a real challenge. You have to have a musical ear to speak foreign languages!
  • The film's action takes place in 1983, during the cold war. Many things have changed since then. Do you have the feeling, you “the man of the East”, that things have changed for good, especially in Russia?
    • EK : In Russia, it's better, in the sense that Obama and Medvedev talk about reducing the military arsenal. But today's story is perhaps China coming back on track. There is a new Titan on the international scene. So this story, Farewell's, is almost a dinosaur story …
  • Does being Serb sharpen your gaze on this part of the world, and on this moment of history?
    • EK : Actually, I feel European! Of course, I have very contradictory feelings that I come from the Balkans, a place … very contradictory too! My family heritage is Serbian Orthodox. At the origin of this family, there are two brothers in the 17th century, one of whom converted to Islam and the other remained Orthodox. Everything is pretty mixed. And then, I grew up in Serbia but I finished my studies in Prague … See … And then, as a director, I have a recognition mainly in France! So that's why deep down I feel European. Even though, most of the time, I am in my village in Serbia. Where I learn to drive a helicopter … to go faster to the airport!
  • If not, to return to the original question, and since you are first a director: do you like yourself as an actor ?
    • EK : When I saw myself in this film, which I found rather successful, I thought to myself that, perhaps, I could make the actor in my next film… It will be dedicated to Pancho Villa… There it is (laugh)…

Interview by Ariane Allard. Translation by Matthieu Dhennin

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