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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

French Exit

by director Azazel Jacobs

When I first read the book French Exit by Patrick deWitt—he also wrote the screenplay—from the first page I felt in safe hands, knowing however wild things got, that this story took place in a world where the only real threat was one in which people could misunderstand each other, sometimes be cutting with their words, but that it was mostly one which curiosity and whim would lead its characters, and me, into unexpected places. I had no idea how important this world would become for me this past year, one that I could escape to each day in the editing room and marvel at when the pandemic was not even a thought. Just to see the passersby on the Paris streets, the cafes full of people talking, connecting, was a joy. This is surely not a timely film; it does not have an overt message. It is not about a world-changing event.

It’s a film that hardly gets made anymore, one simply about odd, lonely people, finding others, and feeling somewhat less lonely. It uses all sorts of tones, sometimes coming together, sometimes in contrast, in hope of showing the audience something they haven’t seen before, and can’t quite summarize. It portrays a world in which fantastical and impossible things just happen.

Its influences are screwball comedies from the '30s and from the '70s (especially by Hal Ashby) and a whole mess of other films, pictures and music I love. A friend described it as a Screwball Tragedy which I really like. Working with all the incredible actors in this film was a dream come true. The story revolves around “Frances Price,” brought to life by Michelle Pfeiffer, and I can’t tell you the times I watched her perform a scene in complete awe. I am sure you will see what I am talking about. So come, escape, into a wonderful Landmark theatre, into a world far away from our own.

I read this great quote from the painter Philip Guston the other day talking about his aim in painting—“I want to make something I never saw before and be changed by it. So that I go into the studio and I see these things up and I think, Jesus, did I do that? What a strange thing.”

Posted March 31, 2021

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