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Friday
Mar 18 2016

面试:Arnaud Desplechin在“我的黄金时代”nd Doppelgängers

Josehere.At one point during our conversation, Arnaud Desplechin says to me “sorry if my answer is long, when what I want to say is so simple”, in a way this could very well describe what’s so wonderful about his films, which surround simple messages with layers of rich characters and dialogues.Take for instanceMy Golden Days, in which he revisits the character of Paul Dédalus played inMy Sex Life...Or How I Got Into an Argumentby Mathieu Amalric, and is now played in flashbacks by Quentin Dolmaire.The film is all about the joy and terror of first love, but Desplechin sees it through a labyrinth of emotions and plotlines that involve everything from double identities, to wise college professors.

Propelled by the extraordinary performances of newcomers Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet who plays Esther (Emmanuelle Devos in the 1996 film),My Golden Daysis Desplechin’s most romantic, melancholic work to date.The film was received warmly by critics in Europe, played in Cannes and the New York Film Festival in 2015, and is now opening in American theaters, it was also nominated for 11 César awards, giving Desplechin his very first win for Best Director.

JOSE:You won the César for Best Director for this film, did the award feel more special in any way because it was for this project?

ARNAUD DESPLECHIN:It sure was, I interpreted the win as being because this film explored territories I’d explored before, it was a collage of bits and pieces from my previous works.I guess it also had to do with the two young actors, they brought a sort of freshness to the film, the plot, lines and scenes are dark and they brought light to it.During the writing I went for tough situations: loneliness, despair, mourning, but who cares, because I knew we would find two young actors to enlighten it.I owe this César to them.

Read more after the jump.

JOSE:Esther as played by Lou is the archetypal first love.What makes her special on camera is quite obvious, but when you first met her how did you know she'd be able to project this onscreen?

ARNAUD DESPLECHIN:I remember perfectly, we saw a lot of people, France is a small country but we saw 900 guys and girls, so we were working in several offices at once, because there were so many people.We had all these young people waiting and I remember pointing her out to the casting director and telling him “I want to see her”, she was on a sofa sulking, because she felt embarrassed, so she already had something that belonged to Esther, she was going against the rules, playing the game but not playing it at the same time.One of her friends brought her to the casting, so she wasn’t sure if she would be able to do it or not, she had lack of assurance and complete assurance, pride and uncomfortable-ness.She also had the kind of face I love, when there is too much face, too much cheeks, too much lips, and this was perfect for me.Her face was different than Emmanuelle Devos, but they both have faces that are “too much”, she has this magic.So we did the test with her, I remember as if it was yesterday, pointing at the sulking girl and saying “I want her”.

You’re right, her face sometimes reminded of someone like Brigitte Bardot, but she also could make her features look more delicate in other scenes, did you give her any specific pointers as to who she should watch and emulate?

I showed her many different actresses, I showed her Emily Watson inBreaking the Waves, but most of all I showed herTess, because Esther becomes the movie, she invades the movie.Paul doesn’t know who he is, he’s the man who tried to love Esther, that’s the definition of who he is, she exists more than him.In order to have that I needed to introduce Esther during the second part and then have her take over the movie, Nastassja Kinski was so young when she didTess, but she carried the whole movie, and I knew the burden would be heavy on Lou and our movie, but I knew she could do it.She was 17 when we shot the film.

In her first scene in the movie she’s like a statue, she looks like a queen, nobody can hurt her.She’s shagging whoever she wants at school, she’s the queen!But then love comes and she becomes vulnerable, she cries, she’s alone, she thinks she’s losing her beauty, but it’s too late to go back to the triumphant girl she was when the film starts.I told her how to stand in the first scene and how to fall apart in the last part of the film.

In films likeJimmy P.andMy Golden Days, you play with the concept of people creating lives for themselves which is often considered a part of acting.Considering you directed another Esther,Esther Kahn, I wonder what about the acting process fascinates you most?

It’s strange, what fascinates me is actors are creating another person, but I also ask them to give something very personal to the character, I ask them to offer an autobiographical dimension to the character.这是奇怪的,但我喜欢表演专业cess is that you have to disguise yourself and also tell the truth, it’s the paradox of acting.Working with the two young actors in this film who were inexperienced, they had some knowledge about the craft, and obviously I hired them because I saw the craft, but on set I’m bored if all they give me is craft.I want something intimate, something shameful, something embarrassing, I need them to give me something from them, not the character.


You tend to work with the same actors time and time again.By the time you’re doing yet another film with Emmanuelle Devos or Mathieu Amalric, how do you challenge them and avoid having them stay in a comfort zone?

I don’t know if I’m challenging them, but I know for sure they are challenging me.Mathieu and I have a ritual, each time we want to make a new film we meet in a café and I have to prove him that we won’t repeat ourselves.The first time he asked me that was inKings and Queenand I was almost vexed or pissed (laughs).On each film I work differently because the production itself will be different, even if we did similar stories, onJimmy P.I developed the idea of doing less takes, so we did one or two to preserve the relationship and see the freshness of Mathieu and Benicio [del Toro] discovering each other.So onMy Golden Days, Mathieu arrived and he knew his scenes were mostly long monologues, so he asked the AD how many takes I would make, he told him “if Arnaud wants just one take, I’m dead” (laughs).What Mathieu gave me in this one, I can’t bless him enough, the film is Esther, but the heart is Mathieu’s performance, the loneliness of this broken man, his sadness.

It’s interesting because younger Paul behaves like an adult, in his 50s or 60s, he’s reasonable and restrained, full of knowledge and passion, and as an older man he allows himself to behave with the rage of an adolescent, as if it took him a whole life to be an adolescent at last.At the end of the film when you see Mathieu’s rage and passion you realize this, what he did in the film was so precious.

Credit: Jose Solis
Like Joseph inA Christmas Tale, the death of the other Paul inMy Golden Dayshaunts the entire film.The scene where Paul compares Esther to the Hubert Robert painting in the museum also made me think ofVertigo.These are all films about ghosts…

I don’t believe in naturalism, I love many naturalistic movies, but I don’t want to make them.I love ghost stories, I love when there is something supernatural happening in a movie, when there are ideas floating in the air, or ghosts.It adds a dimension that is very important to me, I don’t want to restrain my writing to naturalism, I like to escape into another dimension.When you are an adolescent you’re lost, you don’t know how many identities you have, and this discomfort is very abstract, so I loved using identity as a plot device and the loop it causes near the end, as Paul asks if he’s the right Paul.

Speaking of doppelgangers and double identities, your work with Mathieu Amalric is coming close to Truffaut-Léaud territory when it comes to being unable to separate one from the other.Have you had instances where people think one is the other?

苏re, it’s strange, the story ofMy Golden Daysis about ghosts, doppelgangers etc.and actually my relationship with Mathieu became very confusing.Let me tell you a very concrete memory, when we finished the mix we invited the young actors to see it, so it was Mathieu, Quentin and Lou.Mathieu and Quentin never met during the shooting because they had no scenes together, and I never asked Quentin to imitate Mathieu, so when we were talking at the bar Mathieu was stunned telling Quentin “you speak just like me”, but Quentin said “I didn’t know you, I was imitating Arnaud”.Mathieu turns to me and asked if I thought he was imitating me, and I don’t know any longer!When I’m acting I imitate Mathieu, and he says he imitates me.I guess it’s the definition of friendship, we share a character with Paul Dédalus, we no longer know what belongs to us, this character is a mask we exchange, it’s a game we are playing.

Mathieu is becoming an important French director, I loveOn TourandThe Blue Room, so when he has problems with a scene I don’t direct him any longer, he goes to the camera and tells me to play it for him.He knows I’m a terrible actor, but I’m shameless and do it, and he says “OK, got it!”, it’s funny, because this is forbidden in all the books about working with actors, you never have to play in front of them, but Mathieu is a director, he sees how it looks behind the lens.Sometimes I’m a director, sometimes I’m an actor...I don’t know any longer.

My Golden Daysis now in theaters.

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Reader Comments (5)

I love this movie, I LOVED Dolmaire, I love Desplechin <3

I wish he worked with Deneuve again.Her performance in A Christmas Tale was pure gold.I think Junon is the best female part of this century, bar none

March 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Thank you for this.So excited for this film and Desplechin is a treasure.Great questions.

March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Zitzelman

I have no words to describe how much I adore this man and what an impact he has had on my life.

He has made yet another beautiful movie.Though I hope that this is the last time he makes one where Emmannuelle (God) Devos is absent.

March 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I really loved this film, one of the best of 2015!Wonderful interview Jose, very good questions and great answers by Monsieur Desplechin!

March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

I saw this movie at the beginning of the local French Film Festival, about a fortnight ago.Unfortunately, I have to say that I have largely forgotten it already.我努力回忆场景和表演。It wasn't bad, just ultimately forgettable (particularly when you are drowning in French language films, particularly ones of the quality of DHEEPAN, MON ROI, THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT and ASPHALTE).

March 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

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