For his first feature, Thomas Paulot propels an actor as a candidate for a municipal election in the Ardennes. A relevant way to renew the look on politics.
How did the idea of Municipal ?
Thomas Paulot: Of purely documentary interest to follow a municipal election in a provincial town, where the political questions are necessarily different than in a big city. And our choice fell on Revin in the Ardennes, not far from the small village where my grandfather had grown up, for its very rich industrial and cultural past which made possible the local investment of its inhabitants in our project.
From the start, did you have the idea of mixing documentary and fiction?
Yes, with my co-screenwriters Ferdinand Flame and Milan Alfonsi, we had this common desire to go beyond the documentary to create a space to solicit political imaginations other than those that exist in most elections. We wanted to create a film that would also be a form of political action by inviting an actor, Laurent Papot, to play a candidate parachuted into this election for mayor of Revin.
Municipal is therefore scripted. But how to write a plot of which we master so few elements?
By taking care that the fiction does not take up too much space. While writing, we obviously imagined what we would dream of seeing on screen. But the closer the shooting approached, the more we refocused on the main idea of the film: to remain completely open to what was going to happen around us. To be the receptacle of the testimonies of the inhabitants of Revin and not only the engine of the action In fact, we tried to transform what was in the order of speech into a form of action. Laurent explains that he arrives without a program and whether elected or not, he will leave. It thus triggers the creation of a space to fabricate a political imagination.
Why did you choose Laurent Papot to play this true-false candidate?
We wanted to work with a professional actor and someone who was not from Revin because the figure of the stranger was very important in this process. We did a casting where we met about fifteen actors and Laurent impressed us with his improvisation skills. Since the second part of this hearing consisted of an exercise where he had to meet people in a bar in Malakoff and look for running mates for a municipal candidacy. We immediately saw that he was very comfortable but above all that he managed to make people play with crazy fluidity, without them noticing that he was an actor. It was what we wanted for Municipal : never situate ourselves overhanging what we were going to film. Hence the total transparency from the outset of the film’s apparatus vis-à-vis Revinois and spectators alike. It was not a question of trapping anyone, nor of pouring into the farce
How were you received there?
We did a lot of preliminary meetings with the inhabitants and many without a camera. So we spent a lot of time explaining the film project so that people who wanted to could get hold of it with full knowledge of the facts and so that the others would be aware despite everything. There must have been resistance and friction. But overall, the reception was very positive and lively because some who did not quite agree with certain things in the project chose to come and express it because they understood the interest. These counterpoints were very important to us. The proof that this project was a living matter
The COVID came to hit this municipal election and therefore your film. How did he change it in the end?
Ferdinand, Milan and I went through confinement together. We were therefore able to look at everything we had shot, to notice the gaps and thus find the end that we wanted for Municipal. Laurent should no longer be as much in action but talk a lot less. So that we slowly arrive at a form of balance sheet and forward projection. We wanted to think about the notion of spite and how to overcome it so as not to have a totally demoralizing end in a bizarre and uncertain moment, linked on the one hand to the pandemic and on the other hand to Laurent’s announced failure to the conquest of the town hall.