Christophe Honoré’s Sorry Angel, which premiered in competition at Cannes this week, marks the writer/ director’s return to the festival 11 years after Love Songs. The film explores the story of Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps), an HIV-positive novelist and playwright, and his young lover Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), as one is coming to the end of life, while the other is just beginning. Set in ’90s Paris, Honoré set out to tell a love story that harkened back to his own youth, while touching on the trauma that the AIDS epidemic imposed on that era.
“I wanted to make a more personal story to deal with something more directly, perhaps naively as well,” he said at Deadline’s Cannes studio. “But I thought, as many filmmakers do, that I wanted to make a film about my youth which happened to have taken place in the ’90s, and I wanted to do that before my memory started to fail.”
While we saw the ’90s LGBT community portrayed in last year’s BPM, Honoré pointed out that the decade has been surprisingly underserved as an era. “One of the problems is that the ’90s was a difficult period to define,” he said. “There are no signs, no markers, like it would be easy in the film to show different icons that evoke the 1980s, the 1960s for example. Those signs simply aren’t present for the ’90s.”
But this was a significant time in terms of the impact of AIDS. “For people who were in their youth, in their 20s, at that period, whether straight or gay, this was a generation that was suddenly faced with AIDS,” Honoré said, “and that led to a deep trauma in that generation, a trauma where we’re only feeling the consequences perhaps 20 years later, and only able really to grapple with them 20 years later. I think that perhaps because it was so deep it took us time, we needed the distance from those events to be able to deal with them.”
For Deladonchamps, the role of Jacques took him to some challenging places, such as tearing up and digging deep into heartbreak, as well as the raw sexual experiences of his character. “The most difficult moment I had to shoot was maybe the moment of sex in Amsterdam with the lover of Jacques, he was called Jean Marie,” he said. “I don’t know why, it made me be in something really dark at this moment.”
While Lacoste, as the youthful, exuberant Arthur, said he was able to enjoy himself in the role. “The thing with my character is that he’s quite joyful all the time,” he said. However, a scene where Arthur begins spontaneously dancing was tougher to negotiate. “It was awkward for me because there was no music, and I genuinely thought Christophe would put the song louder on the scene, and no he didn’t. So we heard me sing, and that’s quite awkward for me. But it was funny to shoot anyway.”
For more from Honoré, Deladonchamps and Lacoste, check out the video above.