For his latest film, André Schneider wrote a savoury sexy romantic comedy, Alex and Leo. Leo is "der Löwe" in German, a lion unable to either roar or choose his lioness, the girlfriend who almost begs him to marry her. Then appears Alex, young and nonchalant Berliner, also caught in the web of a complicated relationship. Alex and Leo are the key characters of a film visited by a flock of picturesque and lovable friends. There's something theatrical in the plot, something deliciously excessive in the dialogues -mention spéciale for witty, spicy dialogues. Like André Schneider says in the following interview, the honesty that caracterizes his characters is not a rose without thorns.
Strawberries and tenderness: Aren’t you afraid of the "gay" label that one could stick on your film? (Note to the readers: the film is soon to be distributed by a gay label and welcomed in gay festivals)
André Schneider: No, I knew from the very beginning that it would turn out to be a "gay" film, so I'm not "afraid". On the contrary: since we don't really have a "gay cinema" in Germany, Alex and Leo is kind of a trailblazer in that field.
S&T: Beside your part as Alex, you were active in writing, producing, with doing the soundtrack, etc. What did you not do in this film?
André Schneider: I didn't direct, Yuri Gárate was our director, and he did a terrific job. We were so close to no-budget that each one of us had to do several jobs. Ütz, our cinematographer, for instance, was such a great help when Alex and Leo went into post-production. He did the animated title sequence, helped with the sound mixing, the editing...
S&T: Can you tell us about the soundtrack? Why did you choose Léonard Lasry, a French singer, to « lift » your film?
André Schneider: I always loved everything French: the language, the people, the food, the films, the literature, the French culture in general. I'm a Parisian at heart and really hope that one day I'll live in this city again, it's one of the most beautiful places I know. And of course I love French music: Art Mengo, Alex Beaupain, Calogero, Benjamin Biolay and so on. They're jazzy and sexy, heartfelt and light. It was a long-held dream of mine to use French songs in one of my films, and when Alex and Leo came along, I thought the combination of a Berlin film and Parisian songs would be beautiful. When I first heard Léonard Lasry's chansons, I fell in love with them instantly. I am very happy that Léonard allowed us to use some of his work for Alex and Leo. They add a certain charme and lightness to our movie, just lovely.
S&T: How did the German viewers react to Alex and Leo? Unfortunately, we’ll discover it on DVD (except for the festival goers), did the German see it in cinemas?
A: Alex and Leo will have its world premiere in the USA on July 131. Matter-of-factly, the French DVD release will be a couple of weeks before the German cinematic release this autumn.
S&T: How did you articulate the themes of sexuality, love, friendship?
A: Honestly, I can't really tell you. I don't analyze my work until it's finished.
S&T: I like the way you drew bitter-sweet portraits. I think about Steffi (Sascia Hadj), the therapist, or Tobi (Udo Lutz), Alex’s best friend. You’re not tender with your characters, are you?
A: I think the great quality of this particular friendship is the utter honesty between Steffi, Tobi, Kerstin, and Alex. Honesty can be rough at times. But if anyone of them is in need of comfort and a real friend's shoulder, they are also very sweet and tender.
S&T: By the way, I love the dialogues. What about them? What about your writing process?
A: Thank you. The first couple of weeks of writing Alex and Leo were pretty hard, really. I had never written a romantic comedy before, and starting off wasn't easy. But once I had drawn the characters, it became easier every day.
S&T: What’s your schedule for the weeks, the months to come?
A: On June 30, we start shooting the sequel to Alex and Leo called Tobi and Ernie. That'll take about three months.
S&T: If you need a French actor who doesn’t speak a word of German, I’m your man.
A: Let's keep that in mind, shall we? I would love to shoot a short movie in French one day.
Is your curiosity aroused? Good. Let's have a look at this charming trailer with the nonetheless charming song Nos Jours Légers by Léonard Lasry.
1. Philadelphia QFest (link)
Some useful links:
knuddelfilme.de (Official Website), http://vivasvanpictures.wordpress.com (Production Company's Website) et optimale.fr (French Distributor)
But before you go, you can try your French by reading this interview in... French.
Click on the flag: