Check out this interview with UFOs (Studio Canal) Director Antony Cordier by Renan Cros. Season 2 of this French comedy is now streaming in the U.S. and Canada on MHz Choice!

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L to R: Antony Cordier and Melvil Poupaud in UFOs

INTERVIEW: 'UFOs' Director Antony Cordier

by Renan Cros

How would you categorize the series? Fantasy comedy? A serious pastiche? A UFO thriller?
It’s a comedy with fantasy aspects. But the fantasy takes on an unusual form that’s entirely poetic and sometimes surreal.

Would you say we’ve finally got a French version of “The X-Files”?
Actually, The X-Files never gets a mention among the screenwriters and the crew. But the series does share some aspects with it, like the divide between believers and non-believers. When we’re filming, my constant top concern is humor. Every day, we try to go as far as we can in buffoonery: getting the actors to play out serious scenes while wearing an absurd headband captures the style typical of UFOs.

What are your sources of inspiration?
In producing UFOs, we naturally talk a lot about cinema, especially Philippe de Broca’s rather outlandish bittersweet comedies, without too much mockery – in short, very French comedies. But we also often mention the comics artist André Franquin, and constantly see a form of Gaston Lagaffe-style office comedy.

In fact, we realized that in general UFOs easily adopts a comic-strip aesthetic, recalling The Adventures of Tintin or Les Pieds Nickelés.

The series has a distinctive style and it playfully recreates a late-1970s feel. How did you approach this reconstruction? Why the period setting?
I don’t want the series to simply parody the style of the 1970s. It’s the characters and situations that should be funny, not the decor and costumes. So, with the set designers and wardrobe master, we got rid of those quintessential features of 1970s style, such as orange tones, psychedelic patterns, and bell-bottoms.

This helped us make certain accessories full-fledged characters, like the lapel pins and “Minitel” in the first season, and the mobile phone in the new one. We want to show how people started fetishizing technical devices during the transition from the 1970s to the 1980s.

Viewers want “UFOs” to also tell the story of our roots, or how the 2020s actually began in the late 1970s.
Yes, that’s why the protagonist played by Melvil Poupaud faces all kinds of female figures who challenge his power and destabilize him: the careerist woman (his wife, played by Géraldine Pailhas), the intuitive esoteric girl (his assistant, played by Daphné Patakia), the eco-radical (his daughter, played by Capucine Valmary), the amoral communication advisor (Alice Taglioni), and the patronizing conspiracy theorist (Nicole Garcia).

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UFOs on MHz Choice

Melvil Poupaud is a bold choice for this kind of series. How did you make your casting choices?
All the actors were chosen for different reasons. Some were obvious, intuitive picks (Marcel, played by Michel Vuillermoz). Others we had to look hard for until someone managed to make the role their own (Daphné Patakia as Véra, for instance). Generally speaking, I like mixing slick characters with so-called bumblers in the casting: the encounter between the two in front of the camera always makes for fascinating viewing. In a way, the bumblers are complete aliens to the slick people, and vice versa. Of course, the series is all about that: who’s a UFO to me?

But on the set, you really need actors who aren’t afraid of looking ridiculous. Melvil Poupaud is a former child actor: he grew up in cinema; he is game for anything, even exploring ridicule if it makes him a better actor. But it’s true that we’ve probably never seen him in a role like this one.

The acting is greatly stylized, between irony, caricature and a strange poetic quality.
For UFOs, I try to encourage the cast to leave behind naturalist acting to adopt a more comedic approach, acting that’s in tune with viewers’ expectations. It’s exciting to suggest uncommon models of acting to them – French comedy giant Pierre Richard to Melvil Poupaud, Tintin’s Capitain Haddock to Michel Vuillermoz, etc. In the second season, we even tried playing out some scenes like we were in Scooby-Doo!

Where did you want to take the second season?
The screenwriters had a great idea: to make the second season about origins. Each character reflects on who they are, what they love, and their personal development. The characters have to find their marks as the otherworldliness they’re used to researching is now within them. This time around, each person is their own source of concern, their own UFO.

It’s a chance to go a little further in the humor and melancholy, while using a group of new actors who join in to advance the investigations, family matters, and love stories: Jonathan Lambert, Alice Taglioni, Laurent Capelluto, Elodie Bouchez, Andréa Ferréol, Jean-Luc Bideau…

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