The Oscars: Joubert Talks French Roast
Imagine Jacques Tati meets Irma La Douce. Well, in a way that's what Fabrice O. Joubert has brewed in his very first short, French Roast, a warm and gentle, comedic homage to Paris of the 1960s, in which an uptight businessman can't pay for his café and tries to stall his way out of the precarious predicament. Joubert, who studied animation at Les Gobelins and has worked at DreamWorks (first as a 2D animator on Prince of Egypt before embracing CG) and Aardman (as a stop-motion animator on Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit), discusses his short and his latest feature work.
BD: Why French Roast?
FJ: Actually, when I got the idea, I was still working in Los Angeles at DreamWorks. I think it was really nostalgia for Paris, where I'm from. I really wanted to recreate this idealized Paris that I had in my mind. And that was one inspiration. And then I really wanted to do a short film where I could play with the medium -- that means telling a story without dialogue and just with the animation and the characterization. In terms of staging, I was interested in making just one long sequence playing with camera moves and I think only a single angle [in one axis]. But the main inspiration was Jacques Tati. I love his work in terms of the rhythm and pace and type of comedy that he creates just with character. And I also like the way he worked with sound. That's what I tried to do with sound: creating an atmosphere and playing on several levels in the frame. And the music by Olivier Liboutry.
BD: Reminiscent of Mancini's Pink Panther theme.
FJ: Exactly, and also some of Jerry Goldsmith's scores to remind us that we're in that period.
BD: Where did you get the idea for the premise?
FJ: I think it started with the idea of one character being in a very embarrassing situation and trying to pretend that everything is OK. And I think comedy can really be created with that situation, and at the same time, as an audience you can feel his anxiety. And building on that, I really tried to explore the theme of appearances. You shouldn't really believe what you see and people aren't always what they pretend to be. I tried to make all the characters not so obvious.
BD: How did you get started?