How Did Ca Plane Pour Moi End Up in So Many Movies?

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

How did a 1977 song in French by the Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand become a go-to for 21st century American movie soundtracks, from big studio films to quirky indies?

“Ça Plane Pour Moi” has appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “We’ll Never Have Paris,” from writer/director/star Simon Helburg (Wolowitz in “The Big Bang Theory”). I first noticed it in “Ruby Sparks.” It’s also on the soundtrack of “Eurotrip,” “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” “Beerfest,” “127 Hours,” and “Jackass 3.5,” as well as TV’s “Gossip Girl.” It was covered by Sonic Youth and Vampire Weekend, and by The Presidents of the United States, whose version was featured in a Pepsi commercial. Here’s the original version.

And here’s the Pepsi commercial.

The lyrics are nonsense words and the title is French slang for “it’s going well for me.” It’s going pretty well for Plastic Bertrand, nearly four decades after the song was released.

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Ruby Sparks

Posted on July 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language including some sexual references and some drug use
Profanity: Very strong and explicit language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, some drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and emotional confrontations
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 27, 2012
Date Released to DVD: October 29, 2012 ASIN: B008220BA2

The idea of bringing a dream significant other to life goes back at least as far as the ancient Greek myth of the sculptor Pygmalion, who created a statue so beautiful he fell in love with her.  Modern versions and variations include  the sublime (“My Fair Lady,” based on a play by George Bernard Shaw called “Pygmalion”) and the sillly (“Mannequin,” “Weird Science,” and “Mr. Right”).  “Ruby Sparks,” written by its star, Zoe Kazan, is a smart and endearing variation on the theme with emotional resonance that goes beyond the usual “be careful what you wish for” fairy tale.  It plays with the very notion of the prevalence of the girl whose job in the movie is to be the life force (memorably termed the “manic pixie dream girl” by critic Nathan Rabin).  The story may be about the writer who dreams up Kazan’s character, but it is Kazan’s voice telling the story.

Paul Dano (Kazan’s real-life boyfriend) plays Calvin (the names are well chosen), a writer of retro tastes (he uses a typewriter and drives a vintage car) who dresses in beiges and is struggling to write again after publishing an influential and critically acclaimed best-seller when he was a teenager.  His therapist (Elliott Gould)  has suggested that Calvin get a dog to help him go out and meet people.  And he tells Calvin to just write something, anything, even something awful, to get going.  Calvin gets caught up describing a warm-hearted and high-spirited girl named Ruby Sparks.  And the next morning, when he goes downstairs, there she is, matter-of-factly making breakfast, as though she is there every morning.

He understandably thinks he has lost his mind.  But then it turns out other people see her, too.  And it turns out that when he goes back upstairs to type additional information, she becomes whatever he writes.  When he writes that she speaks French, she speaks French.  She is literally a dream come true.  And at first, that seems perfect.

Kazan the screenwriter understands Calvin’s conflict.  He wants Ruby to be exactly what he has created, but he wants her to love him of her own volition, and he understands, at some level, that he cannot have both.  “I want to be what’s making her happy without making her happy,” he says.

Kazan’s fantasy is soundly based and superbly structured.  As Ruby expands Calvin’s plain, ordered world, their scope widens to include Calvin’s family and colleagues.  They visit his beaming child-of-the-universe mother (Annette Bening, embracing the caftan) and her sculptor boyfriend (a marvelous Antonio Banderas as Mort) and attend his publisher’s party.  Ruby becomes more and more her own person, which makes Calvin become his own person, too.

Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (“Little Miss Sunshine”)  make this world believable and inviting.   They keep the fantasy ligh but understand the emotional core that makes it bloom.

Parents should know this film has strong and explicit language, some crude references, brief drug use, and a non-explicit sexual situation.

Family discussion: Where did Ruby come from?  What other stories do you know about people who created their dream significant other?

If you like this, try: “Stranger than Fiction” and “happythankyoumoreplease”



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Interview: Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano of “Ruby Sparks”

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 8:00 am

Zoe Kazan, the grand-daughter of legendary director Elia Kazan (“On the Waterfront”) and the daughter of two writers, has made a strong impression in small roles opposite Meryl Streep (“It’s Complicated”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“Revolutionary Road”).  Her boyfriend is Paul Dano, whose performances in films like “There Will be Blood” and “Little Miss Sunshine” have earned him the reputation of one of the most thoughtful actors of his generation.  Kazan wrote and produced “Ruby Sparks” and they appear in it together.  Dano plays an acclaimed young writer who is struggling to follow his successful first book and is stunned and then captivated when the young woman he creates with his typewriter comes to life.

Did you know when you wrote the script that you would be playing the title character?

Kazan: Well, it wasn’t the title character when I wrote the script – that happened in retrospect, but yeah – I had a sort of flash of inspiration, not unlike Calvin . I had a dream and I woke up in the morning and the scenes of this movie were in my head and I wrote it down as fast as I could so I wouldn’t lose it and then showed those five or 10 pages to Paul and he said “you’re writing this for us, right?” It really hadn’t to occurred to me – and then it was completely obvious to me that that was what I was doing – so from that point on I knew I was writing for myself and I think it was…they were just such clear people to me that I didn’t think too much about us. It wasn’t until later when I was actually having to do it that I said “oh God, what have I written?”   For so long, I was just thinking about it as a writer but it wasn’t until the very last month of preparation that I even started thinking about acting it.

Both of them are really acting-challenge roles – people don’t like to play writers because they are sitting and looking at a piece of paper, and a lot of it is very internal.

Dano: Well, you just sort of take the basic building blocks that the script gives you.  In this case he’s gotten out of a long relationship, he does not have any friends—his brother, rather, is his only friend, he lives in a big house alone, he got a dog to try and help them meet people but that doesn’t seem to be working out, his father has passed away, and he’s had a huge success that he cannot follow up and has writer’s block and so those are all just great, great, great starting points to sort of then figure out, “okay, how do you feel about those things?” Because each of those is a big thing and a big feeling and you can start to figure out what happened before that, especially with his book and how he got into writing and what his relationship maybe with his father was like and with the ex-girlfriend– you just sort of build it up but you start with what’s on the page that’s given to you and then you just sort of fill in the blanks.

And Zoe, your character was almost like an acting exercise, somebody throwing things at you, ”now be this, and now be that.” How do you create a character, that is, when you’re playing something so changeable?

Kazan: Well, you know, the main thing that Jonathan and Valerie and I talked about in the writing and then in the playing of her was that we wanted her to feel very real, and we never wanted her to feel like a fantasy or like the idea of a person.  It was sort of like doing my preparation, like, “who is Ruby?” and finding things out about her as I wrote. She’s a very forthright person, and she’s sort of a person in charge of her own desires, she knows what she wants and she’s more straightforward than I am as a person, and there was some surprise in that,  especially when you started playing it in her rehearsal—where she lived, where her voice is where her energy is, she’s very front foot, very forward and I think a little more cat-like than dog-like. So, a part of it was just moving away from the writer’s head, which was all about the story and how these people interact and then moving into my body and then feeling who she was physically.  That was a real moment of discovery for me, which I wasn’t anticipating, because I sort of thought writing it, I would know everything, but I learned a lot just within the first week when we were rehearsing. The important thing for me with the changes that happened to Ruby me was that they feel like a related person but not the same – he’s changing her, he’s bringing out a different side of her, so, those things were fun to play because they were like an exaggerated quality. But you know, we were always trying to keep it grounded in reality.

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Interview: The “Little Miss Sunshine” Directors Discuss Their New Film “Ruby Sparks”

Posted on July 23, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton are so smart, so dedicated, so creative, and so purely delightful that I found it hard to believe they are so good at showing us dysfunctional characters.  Their new film, “Ruby Sparks,” written by and starring Zoe Kazan, also stars Paul Dano, who played the sworn-to-silence teenager in their first hit, “Little Miss Sunshine.”  In this film, Dano plays a depressed author who has been unable to write following his very successful first book.  Prompted by his therapist, he creates an effervescent female character so vivid that she literally comes to life.  Faris and Dayton finish each other’s sentences, not interrupting each other, just a seamless flow of love, laughter, and ideas.

Dayton: We knew Paul and we met Paul was he was…what, 18?

Faris: First time we met him he was 18, an audition…

Dayton: And, we were trying to get “Little Miss Sunshine” off the ground and it took us so long to get that movie made and we were worried, oh my God, he’s going to be too old, and we knew he was such a great actor.

Faris: Such a special actor.

Dayton: We stayed friends and we met Zoe and Paul started dating her. And so when they came to us with a project with the two of them and it was the same producers as “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Faris: We almost accepted it on that alone.  We didn’t have the movie sold at that point, but we love the idea of a movie that stars two great actors – especially Zoe was an unknown quantity and that’s really exciting to be able to introduce a new actor to the audience, so.

Dayton: But then with the script. We just flipped over because I like the idea of doing a romantic story but not your traditional romantic comedy, and to do a film…

Faris: It was funny and we like that. It also had a comedy elements without particularly…

Dayton: But it was really about something, you really feel like I’ve had a full meal. Here, you can walk out of a theater and feel like you’ve been on this journey.

Faris: For us anyway, that’s what it was for us. Just even making the movie means to have those elements to keep our interest for two years, I think that’s sort of the test we use, it’s interesting enough for us to spend two years, hopefully it will be interesting enough for the audience to spend an hour and a half.

The climax of the movie is a very intense scene as the writer tries to keep his creation under control.  Was that difficult to film?

Dayton: Well, that was the scene that made us most excited about making this because we had never seen something like that in a movie and it was very intimidating and we didn’t know how to do it, but we knew that this was something we could sink our teeth into.

Faris: And it was also something that had to take place in the story, in this story you had to go there, you couldn’t get around it– but that didn’t mean we knew exactly what it was, it isn’t something that happens in real life, even though a lot of the other elements in the story are things that happen in real relationships, this isn’t is exactly what happens (although metaphorically it is) it was harder to sort of take the metaphor into reality, what would that be?

Dayton: As part of our regular process, we workshop films, scenes, so we workshopped that scene with other actors early on and then we acted out a lot ourselves.

Faris: Not all of that is on screen!

Dayton: Yeah, yeah, but a lot of it was – how dark does this go? We wanted it to be dark, but – I hate to even use the word dark because it is more than that; we wanted it to resonate.

Faris: Well, it’s painful, it’s going to a painful place – it’s dark, too, but I think it was more about the pain of him needing to let go of this thing that he created, and so we likened it to a binge drinker, just having to go to that point where you make yourself sick so you won’t do it again, so exploring that and trying to understand when he’s giving her these commands, does she resist him? Can she resist them? Or does she have to completely surrender? All those issues were a lot of what we did in rehearsal and it worked best to us if she had no control. And if he had complete control of her.

Dayton: And it was the one scene we couldn’t rehearse with Paul and Zoe in advance.  They feared it, Zoe in particular, and so we, in the script, had very little detail, we had workshop to so that and had been thinking about it for probably…

Faris: Months…

Dayton: Months and months…

Faris: A year, but not that specific…

Dayton: So, it wasn’t until the morning before we shot

Faris: The morning of the day we shot…

Dayton: Yeah, that we sat down, we wrote out what he was going to make her do…

Faris: In our pajamas at the breakfast table…

Dayton: …and then we gave it to Zoe and Paul and they did it and it was good – it was tricky, because they’re a couple in real life, as you know, and so you don’t want Paul doing certain things that are tinged with any relevance to their relationships…so these had to come from us…

Faris: We had to give him those commands.

Dayton: It’s like when you have actors doing a sex scene; you always have to tell them exactly what you want to do, “Put your hand on their butt,” because you don’t want the actress thinking the guy is putting his hand…

Faris: That he’s doing it out of his own volition, you want it to be the character doing it…

Dayton: The thing that was amazing to us in terms of that, Zoe just threw herself into that, she didn’t want to think about it beforehand, but when she went to do it and perform it, she gave it her all – to the point of, we would give her these commands and she would have to repeat them and do them until we made a loud sound and she would switch into the next command, and so on the last take we really pushed her, because part of it was her exhaustion and he was pushing her to her limit, so we really pushed her, and I remember watching that scene and thinking, “I think we have a movie now.” It was the first time—you’re kind of adding the scenes up in your head—and watching her perform that, I just felt like she gave every bit that she had to give to it.

Faris: Which is ninety percent of that scene, is that one take where she just sort of went for it it—and we shot her side of it, first, so Paul got to see what he did, which really helped him on his side of it, but it was hard to watch her and not know what he was going to do with it, and then when we were shooting him, we really needed him to feel as much pain as she was…if he was doing it in a cold manner throughout the whole scene, it would—and you know, through editing, too, you pick all the moments where you feel his pain the most, so a lot of it was in the shoot and on the set and then in editing. It’s amazing how much you can change the scene in the  and kind of calibrate how much pain you dole out and where you pull back and then the music is another element that really…

Tell us a bit about the music in the film.

Dayton: The soundtrack is really such an important part of the movie, and we worked really hard. It was the same composers we had on Little Miss Sunshine, but it’s an entirely different kind of score…

Faris: You know, it’s funny because small movies have ‘smaller sounding scores, indie-kind of sounding scores, and we decided we really wanted to go for a big sounding score.

Dayton: So we had like a 60 piece orchestra, and it was so much fun.


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Breakthrough Performer: Chris Messina

Posted on July 11, 2012 at 8:00 am

Two of the most intriguing independent films of the summer were written by the actresses who star in them, and both movies feature an actor I’ve admired for a while, Chris Messina.  in “Ruby Sparks,” he plays the brother of lead Paul Dano and in “Celeste and Jesse Forever” he plays a possible new love interest for the lead character played by co-screenwriter Rashida Jones.  Messina is perhaps most familiar from his role as the husband of the Amy Adams character in Julie & Julia and he also appeared on the Glenn Close television series, “Damages” as a traumatized employee of a government contractor working in Afghanistan.  He has a featured role in the new HBO series from Aaron Sorkin, “Newsroom,” as a network executive.  He is an actor of exceptional range and appeal.

I’ve been a fan of Messina’s since the underrated gem, Ira & Abby.

And I’m looking forward to seeing “The Giant Mechanical Man,” which was featured at Tribeca, and whatever else he has in the pipeline.
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