Partners in Crime: Interview with Katerine Martineau

Paper Moon screens Thursday, July 18th at Corktown Common as part of Toronto Outdoor Picture Show’s summer-long Dynamic Duos programme at parks across the city. It follows the unlikely partnership between Moses Pray, a con-man, and Addie, a nine-year-old orphan girl who may or may not be his child. Québecoise filmmaker Katerine Martineau’s Waiting for Lou is paired with Paper Moon, a short film about Jess and her grandmother Lou, who dream about where they will travel together when Lou gets out of prison.

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TOPS: This year’s festival is curated to the theme of Dynamic Duos, which in your film takes the form of a grandmother and granddaughter. There are surprisingly few films that focus on this particular relationship - why do you think that is, and what made you decide to focus on it?

Katerine Martineau (KM): It’s true that it’s uncommon to depict the grandmother-granddaughter relationship in cinema. I believe we still represent, in our society, the “girl” and the “old lady” as innocent and naive people. In contrast to the male-dominated films which tend to center on current intergenerational relationships among men evolving together in social spheres, the characterization of the “girl” and the “old lady” are viewed as uninteresting.

With Waiting for Lou, I wanted to write a story about the unconventional relational dynamic between two women who are not typically seen as sharing a friendship because of their difference in age. I started with a generation gap between an adolescent and a sixty-year-old woman and I really liked the kind of dynamic it created. But, after a couple of rewritings, I needed something more substantial to support Jess’s behaviour. For example: why does this escape plan with Lou mean so much to her? Why does she trust Lou that much? Those questions took me in the direction of writing about a family relationship. At the same time, I liked, with Lou, to present a woman who moved away from the caregiver stereotype associated with the grandmother’s role. I really liked this perspective in the duo of Lou and Jess.

TOPS: Jess’ goal in the film is to get her grandmother’s car, a Toyota Tercel, back to her. We have to ask, does that particular car model have personal significance?

KM: Yes, it has a personal significance. My first car was a Toyota Tercel. When I was 19 years old, I lived in a school residence situated two hours away from my home, which required me to own a vehicle. I travelled with this car, went to parties, slept in it, etc. This Toyota played an important role in my life. My friend and I fetishized it and gave her a name, Nelly, taken from a short film about two young women who ran away from a serial killer. When my Tercel gave out because of the mileage and the rust, I cried from the sadness of having to let go as it was towed away.

TOPS: Your film is screening with Paper Moon, a film about an adult-child criminal duo. What interested you about the relationship between characters on different sides of the law?

KM: My film is about the idea of an escape and the prison dimension evolved into a metaphor for confinement. Jess wants to flee her social condition, but the reality makes it impossible. So my first interest was to write a story based on a social condition that is highlighted by a prison context.


TOPS: Despite the challenges in their way, Lou and Jess hope to go travelling together one day. Do you think of Waiting for Lou as a hopeful film?

KM: In the film, hope has a utilitarian function. It’s a tool for perseverance. Lou creates hope with tales and false statements, only to survive her jail time. At the end, Jess understands that and joins Lou in her idea of hope.

TOPS: Who is your favourite cinematic duo, and why?

KM: My favourite cinematic duo is by far Thelma and Louise [our TOPS Dynamic Duos opener this past June!]. Maybe it’s not original, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I have a 24’’ by 36’’ picture in my living room of the famous selfie they took together before their escape. This duo represents the need for the right to self-determination.

Waiting for Lou screens alongside Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1973) on Thursday, July 18th at Corktown Common.