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Friday, June 2, 2023

“Simple like Sylvain”, the love philosophy of Monia Chokry

Love each other better. I think that’s also emancipation. Daughter of a Tunisian painter and a Quebec journalist, Monia Chokry today embodies the feminist humor of her country’s cinema. In “Simple comme Sylvain” (“The Nature of Love”), in the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, the former actress in Xavier Dolan’s films has fun and makes us laugh with her philosophical and cinematographic questions about the nature of love in our time. Interview.

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RFI : Simple as Sylvain is a love story. Is love for you the most important challenge in our time of crises, disasters and wars? ?

Monia Chokry : At the world premiere of my film here in Cannes, I spoke about power and the need for benevolence in power. Our leaders should focus on creating peace in people and on love, because love is founding. I feel like people spend more time hating each other and less time getting into the real issues. Obviously, the main issue for me and for many people is to save the planet and the environment, but that also involves the love we have for others and territories. The foundation of humanity is to have a sense of love. After, what is it ?

The film also tells the story of Sophie, 41, a woman who has everything, a philosopher herself, she has been married to a philosopher for ten years, she has a beautiful house, friends, but suddenly she falls in love and the question of love arises. There are answers through philosophers like Plato, Schopenhauer or Spinoza. What is Monia Chokry’s philosopher of love ?

Sophie teaches philosophy classes. This allows us to have a common thread for the narration of the story. We go through all sorts of philosophers and amorous thoughts, written mainly by men. I think I have all of these definitions in my life and I have believed all of these definitions at one time or another. For me, personally, I added, in the last race, Bell Hooks [née Gloria Jean Watkins, intellectuelle et militante américaine, théoricienne du black feminism, NDLR] who is not defined as a philosopher, but who is for me a philosopher. She says that “love” is an active verb. However, we have forgotten that it is an active verb. We often speak as we suffered love or as something that falls on us. Bell Hooks said you can choose to love. I find this idea important to be active in our feeling of love. It also means that we can respect ourselves enough not to allow certain behaviors or certain people to behave in a toxic way with us, precisely in the name of this great feeling impossible to define which is love or which falls on us. . I think it’s a false definition to say that love is something you can’t control.

“Simple as Sylvian”, a film by Monia Chokry.
“Simple as Sylvian”, a film by Monia Chokry. © Cannes Film Festival 2023

After learning all this from these philosophers, but what is your own philosophy of love today? ?

I think we have to love each other enough. We always love to measure as we love ourselves. If we don’t love each other very much, we will love badly. And when I say “love yourself a lot”, that doesn’t mean to venerate yourself or find yourself awesome, it just means to know your value in order to be able to be appeased and say to yourself: I’m worth something, therefore I can also give to others.

Sylvain is a carpenter, handsome, bearded, muscular, sexy, he drives a very powerful pick-up, likes hunting and fishing, but, compared to Sophie, he is rather simple-minded and above all, he likes luscious blondes and he loves to “take” women as he sees fit. Despite such a character, why your film cannot be considered a macho film ?

Perhaps, because I am naturally a feminist, because I come from a territory in the world which is one of the most egalitarian in terms of relations between men and women. Jane Campion [réalisatrice néo-zélandaise et Palme d’or en 1993] said in a documentary that she has the chance to write vast female characters, because she comes from a territory where equality between men and women is very strong. This allows him to have this freedom of speech on the female characters. I think that’s it. In fact, Sylvain also resembles the men I know in Quebec, because, even if he is a builder and a woodworker, the men in Quebec, they also have a propensity for sensitivity. I found it interesting to show this image of the man too. You can have this balance between a kind of very clichéd virility and, at the same time, have great tenderness.

People talk a lot in your film, at the same time, can we say that in your way of filming, we progress much more with the bodies than with the words or the head? ?

In this film, I nevertheless tried to make a balance between progression in the body and in speech. I come from acting, I am an actress at the base, and I think that the dialogues allow me to advance the narration, like in the theater. The verb is really important to me. The verb is an action and not just a spoken word.

With the character of Sophie the question of the emancipated woman arises. Can we say, today, an emancipated woman assumes that she does not know what she wants, but she needs men to know what she does not want? ?

[Rires] Maybe. Either way, we need each other. We’re not going to fight. We must open a dialogue to understand who we are and to be able to love each other better. I think that’s also emancipation, to have the quality of being able to dialogue, to understand the needs of both genders, to be able to live in harmony.

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