Monday, July 29, 2013


Not many actresses or actors take their fans out to old school hip-hop parties, mail them rare French movies or invite them in to their home for dinner but that’s what sets Alice Houri apart from everybody else. I recently caught up with her (via email) to discuss last years' The Rabbi's Cat (an animated film that she lent her voice to), Claire Denis' latest, the importance of short films and Americas growing appreciation for (good) French cinema.


PINNLAND EMPIRE: What was it like doing voiceover for The Rabbi’s Cat? That was your first time working on an animated film, right?

ALICE HOURI: Yes it was my first time working on an animated film and I really enjoyed it. It was a famous comic book before becoming a cartoon. It was full of humor (Jewish humor!) so I was honored to participate in the movie.

PE: Do you see yourself doing more voiceover/cartoons in the future?

AH: I would love to do more.

PE: Are cartoons/animated films becoming more popular within French art house & indie cinema?

AH: I don't really know if animated films are becoming more popular in France (The Rabbi's Cat, the book, was already famous in France). What I know is these kinds of films are expensive to make so for the art house/independent cinema, money is the main problem...

The Rabbi's Cat (2011)

PE: I still have not seen Face La Mere (there’s only one small clip on the Internet). Can you tell us what it’s about?

AH: Face La Mere is a short film about fisherman. We shot it in Sete - a little town in the south that use to be a big fishing port, but not anymore. The profession is dying. It’s really hard to keep the independent way. Sete is now becoming a touristic place and the fishermen have to fight hard to's sad.

PE: In the last couple of years you’ve acted in a few short films - Do you think short films are a way to work out techniques & ideas for future full length films or do you feel some stories just don’t need to be that long?

AH: Short films are, traditionally in France, a way to access long movies. Like a visit card. So on one hand it's a way to work out techniques and ideas. A way to develop your own universe. And on the other hand, it's hard to tell a story in a short time frame. That's the difficulty of the exercise.
US Go Home (1994)

PE: It seems that films about youth & "coming of age" are more common in French cinema than anywhere else (400 blows, Small Change, Murmur Of The Heart, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Zazie Dans La Metro, A nos Amours, US Go Home, Something In The Air, etc). 
You’ve acted in a few films on that subject yourself (US Go Home, Nenette & Boni, Du Poil Sous Les Roses). Why do you think that is in French cinema?

AH: Well I don't think films about youth and growing up are a French specialty. The subject is universal: Dakota Fanning, Shirley Temple, Macaulay Culkin, Drew Barrymore, etc. The Kid by Chaplin is my favorite. It’s the most poetical look at the topic of childhood

PE: French-based films are starting to become more popular over here in America (Amour, Holy Motors, Carlos, etc). Is this a surprise to some French people? How does it make you feel?

AH: It’s kind of a surprise and maybe there's a sense of pride for some French people to see that some movies have succeeded in America. You know, here, we humbly call this industry "the French exception". I think your country is amazing because you have a long tradition of cinephilia and films like Holy Motors find a larger public there than in France. But at the same time a movie like La Vie En Rose was a huge success (and it's not the same public at all). Woody Allen says he's more famous in France than in his own country. To be recognized here first you have to find the glory in America.

Holy Motors - Leos Carax (2012)

PE: You’re a cinephile so I know you saw a bunch of movies in 2012. What were your favorite films from last year?

AH: The best film I’ve seen lately is Tey made by Alain Gomis. So poetic. I loved it!

PE: What films are you looking forward to watching this year?

AH: I don't know - The next Djinn Carrenard, Kechiche, Claire Denis, Farhadi…

Blue Is The Warmest Color - Kechiche (2013)

PE: Speaking of the new Claire Denis - what was it like working with her again, even if it was a small part?

AH: I was touched to work with Claire (last time I was 15). It was kind of nostalgic. But my little scene in Les Salauds was cut at the end! I'm very curious to see this next opus! It will be done on Saturday...

PE: Now that Vincent Lindon has made two films with Claire Denis is he considered part of the "family"?

AH: Yep I think Vincent Lindon is for sure part of the family. They seem to love and respect each other really deeply

PE: In the future do you ever see yourself moving away from acting completely to become a director or would you like to do both?

AH: I would like to work as a director, actress or scenarist…


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