Tag Archives: C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married)

True romance

The search for marital bliss leads two couples along a deadly path to criminality in French-Canadian drama C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married). DQ hears about the show from stars François Létourneau and Marilyn Castonguay and director Jean-François Rivard.

From its opening scene, which begins with the discovery of four dead bodies floating face-down in a bloodied swimming pool, to interview scenes cut straight out of a documentary and the claim it is based on a book, it’s difficult to place French-Canadian drama C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married).

As the 10-part series unfolds, it seems there’s nothing conventional about this “almost true” story of the Sainte-Foy killers in the 1970s.

Blending crime and relationship drama with Coen Brothers humour, the series introduces two couples in crisis, who are confronted by their failing relationships after dropping off their children at summer camp. At a time when divorce is still taboo, their path to marital bliss leads them down a murderous path, turning ordinary suburbanites into Quebec’s most infamous criminals.

Yet it’s to the show’s credit that the characters – Gaétan and Huguette Delisle and Serge and Micheline Paquette – remain entirely endearing and likeable as they find an unhealthy way to inject some excitement into their mundane lives.

The Radio-Canada Télé series, produced by Productions Casablanca and distributed by Cineflix Rights, comes from writer François Létourneau, who also stars as Gaétan. It’s his latest partnership with director Jean-François Rivard, the pair having previously written Les Invincibles and Série Noire together. Tackling the writing alone this time out, Létourneau admits Happily Married is quite different from his previous work.

L-R: Patrice Robitaille, François Létourneau, Marilyn Castonguay and Karine Gonthier-Hyndman in Happily Married

“Maybe it’s more personal,” he says. “It’s a crazy story, rooted in some childhood memories of growing up in Sainte-Foy. My parents had a very difficult relationship. I went to summer camp and, when I came back, they announced they were getting a divorce. I could draw from my own experience, but my parents did not kill anyone – they were very nice people!”

Gaétan is a frustrated man at home and at work, where he has a seemingly important job but is always forgotten or ignored by his colleagues. This leads him to find some semblance of power through an affair with Micheline (Karine Gonthier-Hyndman), under the nose of Serge (Patrice Robitaille).

Equally frustrated is Huguette (Marilyn Castonguay), Gaétan’s pregnant wife who appears to be the perfect housewife. Huguette’s first murderous steps empower her to take charge of her husband and their friends in establishing their life of crime.

“I’m trapped in my little life,” Létourneau says of his character. “When Huguette becomes a criminal, we all follow her; and because I’m frustrated in my life, the criminality becomes a gateway to something new. It’s like that also for Micheline and Serge. We’re all a little bit trapped. Our lives are boring.

“At the beginning of the show, I felt everyone could relate to sometimes feeling trapped and that your life lacks excitement. The story starts slowly. We’re not in the criminal world, so we feel for the characters; we like them. We also chose very sympathetic actors like Patrice and Marilyn. Then afterwards we can follow their crazy story. We won’t accept everything they will do, but we know why they’re doing it. Every time in the story we kill somebody or we do something bad, there’s always a good reason, except maybe in the end. But it’s not gratuitous.”

The drama sees two seemingly ordinary couples turn to crime

Castonguay (L’Affaire Dumont) says it’s rare to see a character like Huguette on screen, mixing power with sensitivity. “She wants to be a modern wife, a modern woman and to be able to do things by herself. And she doesn’t like her husband anymore because whatever she does to be a modern woman, he always brings her back to the ground,” the actor says.

“She tries to discover new things and that’s why she goes to criminality. But it’s not her fault – it’s René [Rémi-Pierre Paquin]. He sees the ‘eye of the tiger’ in her eyes and wants her to kill someone. She tries it once and thinks she can’t do it. After that, she sees the guy she is supposed to kill again and thinks it’s a sign, so she decides to go back and kill him.”

When she auditioned for the role of Huguette, Castonguay self-recorded a tape featuring just three scenes, without having any knowledge of the overall story. But she didn’t get a call back – instead, Létourneau immediately cast her in the role.

“We see her sad with her husband and her life. She’s a nice girl. Even if she kills people, she’s still a nice girl. I think we should love her and support her,” she continues. “Before, she’s just a sheep. Micheline is powerful and free, but not Huguette is not. She’s alone and pregnant, and her husband’s having an affair with her best friend.

“After that, Micheline, Gaétan and Serge see Huguette differently and she becomes a leader. It’s an interesting road. She becomes a free woman and the leader of the group, whereas before she was just a little, scared woman. It’s the way for her to be free, to be this modern woman. It’s not the right way, but it’s the way she takes to be free. She has a real talent for it.”

François Létourneau (right), who plays Gaétan, is the show’s writer

For such a dark subject, the central premise is treated very lightly, with the aforementioned humour coming from a mixture of satire and farce. “I can’t write anything except something a little funny,” Létourneau says. “But the series is not always funny. What’s underneath is quite tragic. The comedy is there, but there are no funny lines. We’re trying to be true to the situation. In the writing, it’s delicate so the humour comes naturally.”

The rapid 65-day shoot took place in Montreal, which doubled for Sainte-Foy in Quebec, where both Létourneau and Rivard are originally from. Recreating the 1970s proved difficult on a tight budget, which was slightly more than the region’s average of C$600,000 (US$440,000) an episode.

“I knew we wouldn’t have enough money,” the writer recalls, “so when I told my producer I was writing a story in the 1970s, she said, ‘Are you crazy?’ I felt it had to take place in that period. It was a moment in Quebec where getting a divorce was complicated and rare. That’s central to my story. Now, I guess they would just split up. But when I wrote it, I tried not to add too many locations. A lot of it takes place in the houses. I tried to write something that would not be too expansive – but it was too expansive!”

Director Rivard picks up: “If the character opens a cupboard or the fridge, everything inside has to be from the 70s. When I was reading it, I was like, ‘Oh shit, oh no, oh my god.’ Everyone was like, ‘It’s just a few locations.’ But we have to dress those locations, and all the things they are using need to be made. We had such a wonderful art department – they were able to recreate those mustards, ketchups and toothpastes from the time – but that was a big challenge.”

The tight filming schedule, averaging six days per episode, meant there were limited opportunities for multiple takes, while block shooting meant scenes were filmed out of sequence to maximise the time available in each location.

Létourneau and Rivard provided a personal touch behind the camera, writing and directing all episodes respectively. “You see it from episode to episode, it’s the two same guys,” Létourneau says. “It’s not like a big series where there’s a new director every episode and there are 16 writers. I like that. It gives it a personal flavour. It’s less like an industry, it’s more like art.”

“We’ve been working together for 20 years and did our first series [Les Invincibles] the same way,” Rivard adds. “When I’m writing with François, I’m preparing at the same time. But with this one, I had all that material to get into my head and process it really quickly. If it was another writer, maybe I would fuck it up. But with François I was in the best place.”

Having received its world premiere at Berlinale earlier this year, Happily Married was recently picked up by fledgling French streamer Salto. With its off-beat tone and mix of dramatic and comedic elements, the series is sure to be universally relatable to audiences watching two couples’ frustrations with their lives, if not their murderous actions.

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Berlin calling

With television now well and truly matching the star power of the movie business, DQ runs the rule over the TV series getting red-carpet premieres at the Berlin International Film Festival, which kicks off today.  

As the Berlin International Film Festival, aka the Berlinale, begins today, the red carpet will be rolled out for screen stars from all over the world. But it’s not just the movies that will be celebrated over the next 11 days.

For the past few years, television has played an increasingly important and visible part of the annual event, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2020. This year will be no different, with eight series – from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK and the US – enjoying world or international premieres.

The Berlinale Series strand will introduce shows that feature representations of various communities, sexual identities and new perspectives on the world today, while the selection also plays vividly with ideas of television style, structure and tone.

Dispatches from Elsewhere comes from How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel

First up will be Dispatches from Elsewhere, the AMC series starring Jason Segel, Eve Lindley, Sally Field, André Benjamin and Richard E Grant. Creator Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) also co-directs the series, in which an enigmatic institute promises a chosen few an escape from everyday life into a world full of beauty and magic. But is this a game, an alternative reality or a conspiracy? And what are those taking part risking?

Dark Austrian drama Freud, meanwhile, transports viewers to 1886 Vienna, where a young Sigmund Freud (Robert Finster) – restless, high on cocaine and striving for recognition – embarks on a nerve-wracking, hypnotic trip into the depths of the human soul with a mysterious medium and a traumatised policeman. Directed by Marvin Kren (4 Blocks) for Austria’s ORF and Netflix, the show’s cast also includes Ella Rumpf, Georg Friedrich, Christoph Krutzler, Brigitte Kren, Anja Kling, Philipp Hochmair and Noah Saavedra.

Canada’s C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married) is set in 1970s Quebec

From Canada is C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married), which is set in Quebec in 1974. The drama tells the story of two couples who send their kids off to camp for three weeks. With their children away, things quickly turn uncomfortable for the couples and cracks start to appear in the facades of their relationships. The series was created by François Létourneau, who also stars alongside Patrice Robitaille, Marilyn Castonguay, Karine Gonthier-Hyndman and Sophie Desmarais. Joanne Forgues is the showrunner on the programme, which  was commissioned by Radio-Canada Télé and Tou.Tv Extra.

British entry Trigonometry focuses on a couple who take in a lodger. The trio fall in love together and start up a three-way relationship – but can it possibly work out? The BBC and HBO Max series was created by Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods, with Thalissa Teixeira, Gary Carr and Ariane Labed playing the central trio. Athina Rachel Tsangari and Stella Corradi are the directors.

Also due to premiere at Berlinale is the second season of Australian drama Mystery Road, which has added The Bridge star Sofia Helin to its cast. The ABC series, created by Ivan Sen, opens when a headless corpse is found floating by the shore of a remote outback town. As if this weren’t mysterious enough, Detective Swan and his colleague Fran have to contend with protests against the excavation of an Indigenous site. And then another body turns up. Aaron Pedersen returns as Detective Swan, alongside actors Jada Alberts and Callan Mulvey. The directors are Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair.

British drama Trigonometry centres on a three-way relationship

Shortform drama Sex, from Denmark’s TV2, comprises six episodes with a total running time of 77 minutes and will be screened in its entirety at the festival. Created by Clara Mendes and directed by Amalie Næesby Fick, the show follows Catherine, a call-centre worker giving advice on sex and love but at a loss herself. After a kiss, she wants more from her colleague Selma. Her boyfriend Simon feels that what’s little is actually plenty. But what if that’s not enough? The cast includes Asta Kamma August, Jonathan Bergholdt Jørgensen, Nina Terese Rask and Sara Fanta Traore.

Stateless, another drama from ABC Australia, boasts an all-star cast led by Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale), Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, Dominic West and Cate Blanchett, who co-creates and executive produces the six-part series. Directed by Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse, it tells the story of four strangers whose lives collide at an immigration detention centre in the middle of the Australian desert. Elise McCredie and Tony Ayres co-created the series alongside Blanchett.

Yvonne Strahovski in Stateless

The final premiere will be Netflix’s upcoming musical drama The Eddy (pictured top), created by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials) and Damien Chazelle, the Oscar-winning director of La La Land, who is also the lead director on the series. Bandleader Elliot is improvising his way through a complex score of problems: his Parisian jazz club The Eddy isn’t doing too well, while ruthless debt collectors are breathing down his neck – and then his teenage daughter Julie arrives from New York. The cast features André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Amandla Stenberg, Tahar Rahim, Leila Bekhti, Adil Dehbi and Benjamin Biolay.

Themes of macabre humour, female sexuality and an interconnected world will be on display through the eight shows, while the increasing trend for actors to be more deeply involved in series creation and development – notably Blanchett (Stateless) and Segel (Dispatches from Elsewhere) – is also apparent.

At a time when the distinction between movies and television is increasingly blurred, the focus Berlinale places on series marks it out from other film festivals around the world, though other events are now also pushing the small screen into the spotlight.

Meanwhile, numerous other screenings will also take place at the city’s Zoo Palast, with shows including Ukraine’s Hide & Seek,  Czech drama The Sleepers, Brazilian series Where My Heart Is, UK/New Zealand coproduction The Luminaries and Australia’s Total Control among them.

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