By Arnaud Desplechin
DESPLECHIN: I was surprised when you said you studied philosophy and read Proust, because it sounds so serious. But your films are also quite entertaining. The first time I had to introduce one of your films in Paris, it struck me that that you are to American cinema what J.D. Salinger is to American literature. You create a sort of pure cinematic world and the characters connect from one film to another and the films together are drawing a world that is constantly expanding. It seems so close in style to what Salinger did.
ANDERSON: I do feel a bit like my characters from one movie could walk into another one of my movies and it would make sense, whereas people from other peoples’ movies would probably feel a bit uncomfortable there. [both laugh]
DESPLECHIN: But it’s quite rare, no? To have created such a collant world. It reminds me of Francois Truffaut because you need to create life, jokes, cries …
ANDERSON: Your movies have the same thing, except they’re more realistic, so it becomes more subtle.
DESPLECHIN: I wouldn’t say that.
ANDERSON: Well, I suppose I mean the characters in A Christmas Tale  and Rois et reine —I can’t really say the r’s right in Rois et reine—they are part of an imagined world, but those characters feel more like real life to me.
DESPLECHIN: You have all these guys who are really big fans of your movies because there is something so intimate about them. Even if we don’t know a thing about you, there is something so revealing in your films, something we see about your life there. If there is another director who gives me the same feeling, it’s Quentin Tarantino. To me, you and Tarantino are two brothers in the American cinema.
ANDERSON: I feel like with Tarantino, when he was doing Pulp Fiction , there’s all this genre that he’s working with in this inventive way. But you also kind of get the feeling that he’s been traveling in Europe and he’s never been there before and he has just come back to town to report on some of the things that have happened in his life. Your film Ma Vie Sexuelle  has the complete feeling of somebody reporting about their life, but it’s not like a documentary-style movie. Was your life at the time anything like that movie?
DESPLECHIN: Not at all. But there is a truth that when you learn a character or write a scene for a film, you can make it part of your life. I had an actor who didn’t smoke before he was cast as a chain-smoker in my film. Now he does. But even from a line in a film—writing it or acting it—you can think, “I could say this and also be funny. The girls might stop and laugh and I could get laid.” It’s true: You find a good line and after that you try to use it in real life. So, in a way, you are taught by your own films and the characters you impersonate. When people see the results of your work, they guess they can see something about your private life.
ANDERSON: But when your experience of making the movie turns into your life—what Kubrick called “pure cinema” then—that’s probably a bad sign.