Francois Ozon is a filmmaker renowned for adopting a different style with every film — he has made scathing, pseudo-pornographic short features (“Sitcom,” “See the Sea”), a rich, velvety musical (“8 Femmes”), and a restrained but sensual tale of bereavement (“Under the Sand”). His latest, “Angel,” channels grandiose Hollywood melodramas of the 1940s and stars Romola Garai (Ozon refers to her as his muse) who even looks a little like Vivien Leigh. “Angel” is Ozon’s first venture into English-language films and though he professed to have “full control” over the language and his cast, preferred that the interview be done in French. “I feel better if I speak my thoughts in French,” is how he put it, and indeed, he proved very eloquent on how he views women (his favorite subject), filmmaking and “Angel.”
In your opinion, what was it that ultimately led to Angel’s downfall?
Angel had talent, and she was also ferociously ambitious. That drive to succeed is more common among women than one may think. But at the same time, having gotten to where she wanted to be, she became unwilling to change, or evolve. She built up this system, and stayed in it. That did her in, because as an artist one must keep moving, and evolving. Speaking for myself, I hate repetition and treading over familiar ground. I always want to go forward, go some place I’ve never been. If I may be allowed to say so, I think many women are like Angel in that they like to build something and remain in it. Reflection, and a willingness to correct oneself is also important. These are also things that Angel refused to face.
What do you find so fascinating about women?
In cinema, it’s much more interesting to draw women than men because they’re so sensuous. They think and act with the senses. Men tend to act with their brains. I like working with actresses, to draw out their inner emotions and show them who they are, or could be, or want to be. In the case of Angel, I found her to be enchanting because she could not differentiate between her dreams and the real world. And she was strong enough to make that trait her greatest asset. Romola became Angel during the making of this film; it seemed there was a special understanding and bond between her and her character.
Do you think a woman like Angel could have survived in today’s world?
Oh yes. Perhaps she would have become even more successful, since today is today and not the restricted, British aristocracy of the 1930s. She also would have been able to admit to her streak of lesbianism, and acted on that impulse. She did not really love men, nor was she fond of sex with men, that much is clear. Today, she would have been able to explore that aspect of herself.