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Directed by: Daniel Perez
Cast: Tom Hudson, Jade Penot
Synopsis: Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but for Archibald it’s literally an affliction until he meets a free-spirited woman during a bank robbery.
Where did the idea for Archibald’s Syndromecome from?
Archibald's Syndrome was born from something very personal. I have always been confronted with remarks from people close to me about my obsession with control, about my will to never leave anything to chance, whether in my professional or private life. I never really took it seriously. Then with age, I realized they were right and that it sometimes prevented me from living things to the fullest and, especially, that it could have negative repercussions on the people I love. So I decided to tackle the problem in my own way by writing a story, preferably surreal and a little absurd, because I believe this is the best way to talk about reality: by exaggerating it to better highlight it. Finally, writing the script allowed me to understand many things. You could say that I gave myself a little personal therapy by making this film. I take this opportunity to thank my producers for this.
The film has an American road trip feel to it. Was that your intention and what films and filmmakers did you reference when preparing the film?
That this film looks like an American road trip is totally assumed. Today I live in Paris, but I grew up in a small rural village in Spain. It was there that I discovered the United States for the first time, first through the old Western movies broadcast on television and then via the cult films of the 80s and 90s at the video club. That's how I simultaneously fell in love with cinema and America. For me, the two were inseparable. My favorite movies were road-trips because they made me feel the essence of the country: adventure and freedom. For Archibald's Syndrome, I knew that I couldn't shoot in the United States but I wanted to make a movie that the little boy I was would have loved. I wanted people to feel the jubilant pleasure that I felt watching all those movies as a child. An invitation to dream and escape. The road trip also has an organic role in the story : it is there to symbolize the initiatory journey of the characters. Of course, before shooting, I went back to classics like True Romance and Thelma and Louise.
The landscape plays its role. It looks like the film was shot in the American Midwest.
The landscapes do look like the Midwest. That's nice of you to say because it was a real challenge for me. I needed these wide open spaces to represent Archibald's isolation and to stay within the aesthetic I had imagined for the film. I didn't think I would find a little piece of America in France but I went on the road to look for it for 15 days. Then, as if by magic, I found a place called the Salagou Valley in the south of France. A lunar and arid landscape hardly believable with a geological wealth almost unique in the world. It exceeded all my expectations. And then everything followed in a way that I could hardly believe. It was while driving around there that I found all the other settings of the film. I first stopped by chance in a gas station to fill up and I noticed a bar with Harley Davidson bikes parked in front of it. I went inside and knew that was the bar for my film. The gas station is also the one you see in the opening sequence. I got to know the people in the village and when I told them about my project, they wanted to be part of the adventure. They all got together to provide me with the rest of the sets: the school, the bank...even the caravan. It was also while sleeping in the only restaurant-hotel in the village that I saw Indiana's Pontiac Firebird magically arrive one night. The owner had heard about my project and he immediately agreed to lend me his car. Everything happened as if I had lived the film myself before shooting it.
The two lead actors, Tom Hudson and Jade Penot, work wonderfully together. How did you come across them?
I knew that the film depended entirely on these two characters and the chemistry that could be created between them. I have always liked films with strong characters that remain with us at the end of the film. So I put a lot of pressure on the casting. It was a long process. For the role of Indiana, I had Jade in mind from the beginning. I had seen her in advertisements and for me, she had this wild beauty which went with the image I had of the character. However, I saw dozens of other women. Jade was willing to play the game and go through all the steps. Deep down, I knew it was her but I didn't want to take the risk of trusting my instincts without having exhausted all the actresses in Paris. Another story of control. In the end, of course, Jade got the part. She was very patient with me and I thank her for that. For Tom, I had a very precise reference in mind. I imagined him as Marty McFly, the character played by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. An anti-hero, someone sweet, kind and candid with a strong comic potential in spite of himself. I saw dozens and dozens of actors and was beginning to despair when I finally found Tom Hudson. I knew it was him at first glance, not because he looks amazingly like Marty McFly, but because he naturally had all the traits I imagined for Archibald. The first interaction between Tom and Jade was catastrophic because Tom was stressed. Jade kept making fun of him. I knew then that I was looking at Archibald and Indiana.