Road Trips Gone Wrong: Interview with Maxime Robin


Toronto Outdoor Picture Show kicks off the summer-long Dynamic Duos programme on June 15th at Fort York with a screening of Thelma & Louise, the 1991 buddy classic featuring one of cinema’s most iconic duos who set out for a weekend vacation, but circumstances lead them to run from the law. Paired with Thelma & Louise is Québecois filmmaker Maxime Robin’s Ballet Jazz, a short film about two dancers and best friends named Karine and Karine who set out on a road trip to New York City to audition for the musical CATS... but things don’t go exactly as planned.

TOPS: This year's festival theme is titled Dynamic Duos. The two protagonists in Ballet Jazz share the same name and the same dream. How did you try to distinguish, or not distinguish, them from each other?

Maxime Robin (MR): Ballet Jazz is inspired by a short play by Simon Boulerice with the same title. In Boulerice’s play, the two girls don’t share the same name, but both fight to be associated with Paula Abdul in the Janet Jackson-Paula Abdul duo, and end up calling each other Paula. When I was adapting the script, I had to let go of that other very inspiring duo, but couldn’t bear leaving behind the ambiguity of having both girls calling each other by the same name. Plus, somehow it made them even more silly.  

TOPS: Your characters dream of performing in the musical CATS. What inspired this choice?

MR: What did not inspire it, you mean? I love, live, drink, and eat CATS. It’s so beautiful and funny and deeply weird. I love it. Isn’t it the quintessential combination of ballet and jazz? My mom took me to see it when I was a child. Blame it on her.


TOPS: Karine and Karine's road trip alternates between moments of exuberant fun and terrifying thrills. What are your most memorable road trip experiences?

MR: As a student in Montreal, I would often rent cars and go on impromptu road trips with my (girl-only) friends. The on-going music, the never-ending driving, it felt like we could see the whole world! One of my most memorable road trips took me to Mississauga. Yes. Not Toronto. Mississauga.  

TOPS: Your film is paired with Thelma & Louise, which your film explicitly references. Was it an inspiration from the beginning of your film’s conception, or did that come later?

MR: It was! I kept thinking of Thelma & Louise as we were preparing to shoot, but I’m pretty sure the line referencing the movie was not in the script. But that day, on set, we were like, “Why are we trying to be subtle about it? These girls have probably seen the movie. Seeing the movie might be the very reason why they take the gun in the first place! Let’s say it out loud!”


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

MR: This one is easy: Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her. Meryl Streep, one of the most canonized actresses of America, and… well, Goldie Hawn! I love this combination. I love their spite, their friendship, their excess. This movie shaped who I am. Not as a filmmaker, but as a person. My old roommate and I used to re-enact scenes when we would get home and I know many of the lines from the French translation by heart, including the opening song: Qu’est-ce que je vois ? C’est la question qui m’obsède…

Ballet Jazz screens June 15th alongside Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991) at Fort York.