Louis Garrel: I want to make films that can be watched by anyone anywhereWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
Very interesting guest or FebioFest 2019 was French actor and director Louis Garrel. He was born on 14.6.1983 in the family of director Phillippe Garrel and actress Brigitte Sy. His grandfather Maurice was also an actor as well as Godfather Jean-Pierre Léaud. In such environment,t it probably wasn´t possible to avoid continuation of family film tradition. Louis, who came to Prague minus his hair since he works on Roman Polanski film, firstly appeared in front of the camera at the tender age of six year. When he was 19 years old Bernardo Bertolucci casted him for the lead in his film The Dreamers. It was a breakthrough role for your Louis who never looked back since. For film Regular lovers directed by his father he got a César Award in 2005.He can not only write scripts, act, direct but also sing as he showed in the musical Songs about love directed by his regular collaborator Christophe Honoré. So in two words he is very extraordinary artists and talking to him was equally interesting.
Do you think that family tradition and famous surname rather opened the door for you or put a pressure on you and tied your hands since public always expected big thigs from you and always compared you with your father?
Hard to say, maybe it was a help since my father and grandfather both filmed and mum was an actress so once I showed an interest in acting- I was about 12 years old- I was given very precious advice. My grandfather told me I have to be like a doctor, firstly study hard so that was a reason I went to National actors school. So I think the fact that I come from film family showed me from early stages that it´s firstly hard, hard work so I kept my both feet on the ground and didn´t live in false illusions.
Your breakthrough role came thanks to Bernardo Bertolucci for which you were drafted after single casting test. Was it a case of being at right time at the right place or you worked so hard that it paid off big way on the first take, so to speak?
I was 18 years old and studied acting in Paris when I heard that Bertolucci is preparing a film there.I saw his film Last Tango in Paris when I was 15 and I was spellbound by that. Especially by Marlon Brando and the legend of him having arguments on set with Bernardo and never ever working together again. I was interested what has happened there. So I came for the casting and met there Mighty Bernardo. He was very charismatic, charming and I truly fall in love with him in a good sense of the word. He was very emotional and nonchalant and I loved that kind of positive provocation in the film. Maybe he as well as me have positive attitude towards our fathers and when he manipulated with me in the film, I knew it was for the good cause. After the film we stayed in friendly touch and I took him as my master. Every time I went via Rome I stopped by and he looked at my films and told me what I did right and what I did wrong. Cooperation with him was like a dream for me and when the last shot of The Dreamers was taken I started to cry since the dream has finished.
What was the cooperation like with script writer Jean Claude Carrier on the film L´Homme Fidele which you show here in Prague?
Jean Claude was pleased when I phoned him to say I am going to Prague. He told me a story about Miloš Forman with whom he collaborated on many films later on. They both tried to write a script in Paris but it was at the time of students revolution uproar and they didn´ t have peace for work so we decided to go Prague. It was August 1968 and Russian tanks invaded Czechoslovakia so they didn´t have peace to work in Prague either. When Miloš came back to Paris and was interviewed by TV, he said that in Prague he tried to pull down red flags while here in Paris they try to hang them up on masts. It was very revolutionary, provocative and open proclamation. Jean Claude and Forman we very close friends and Jean cried when Milos died. I met Carrier about eight years ago and asked him to have a look on my script. He changed few things and it upgraded quality of the film. Our cooperation on aforementioned film was on friendly basis and for me he is real genius who knows exactly how to tell the story and how to transfer that onto the screen. Sometimes it happens that actors want to work with special director and vice versa. It was my dream to work with Jean Claude and it became reality so I was very very happy.
You act, since the age of 25 you direct films, not mentioning singing. Which profession do you prefer and do they clash inside you from time to time?
Of course it does happen sometimes but I don´t think it does me any harm since I feel these things from both sides and I can understand better what do the actors feel and why they do what they do, it helps. If I was only director I don´t think I could understand it so well. I think this ability enables me to get closer to the actors and that is great I think.
What led you to become a director in such young age, acting wasn´t enough?
Prime reason was I wanted to talk to actors. When I was at school practicing theatre play I realized that I really enjoy observing actors while they work since they obviously enjoy when some is looking at them. For me the work with actors is non -stop study, I feel how they work, I see films where there are bad actors and I discover new forms of acting. Sometimes as a spectator I am lost in the films and don´t know why. That is why the relationship between actor and director is so important.
In your new film L´homme fidele you play alongside your wife, what was it like? Is it obvious you continue in family tradition since you father casted members of the whole family, don’t ´you?
At home we live somehow and at work it is different. I have never played with her so it was very new to me. I saw her from different angle and light. It was like working with foreign person for me and sometimes I was really surprised since I didn´t know her at those situations and I discovered new dimensions of my wife. When I was 5 years old, I played in my father´s film where played also my mother, portraying my mother, my grandfather was playing himself as was ex- father´s girlfriend so I got use to mingling of family life with working life. I don´t think it was much easier for my wife either, since she is used to function somehow and now she had to switch into different mode and I was looking at here then.
When you work on the film with your father, who is the boss or there is some kind of democracy where anybody can chip in with idea and the best one wins?
I see you are obsessed with relationship between father and son, haha. Father likes to shoot at the first take, he doesn´t like improvisation and that is mainly due to tight budget. I would try the scene more than ones to find the best shot which can be problem for him sometimes since he wants to go further so it force me to deliberately cock up the first take in order to get another chance and I could persuade him that change would be the bonus. I have to be very diplomatic and savvy in order to mellow him. We often talk about technique since today it is so complicated that very often one doesn´t understand it and gets lost. Once I was filming a scene and my father observed the dailies and liked what I have done, it looked like a dusty scene and he asked me how I have done it. I candidly told him I have no idea, it had to do something with projector, where was a dust and no one knew how to get rid -off that until the technician figured out we have to varnish the film. So as you see we didn´t master the technology fully yet. It´s like a dragon which we have to tame.
Is it the reason why your father prefers filming on classic film stock rather than on digital?
Possibly. My father never came to the flavor of digital. He simply likes film as such, it´s colors and contrasts which can be done only by classic film material.
What do you try to show in your film, what do you try to achieve?
As an actor and as the director I want my films travel around the world. If I make a film which is screened only in France, it means it´s only local film. Now I am in Prague with my film L´homme fidele and from here I go with it to Italy, Spain and New York. So it has a chance to talk to various people around the globe and that is my mission. Film must speak by film language for anybody could understand that. If the film is too French, it won´t succeed abroad. If a French viewer watches Czech film which would be too Czech he probably wouldn´t get the point. So that is the reason why I want to make film which can be watched by anybody anywhere.
Thank you very much Vítek Formánek and Eva Csölleová
For cooperation we thank PR of Febio Fest.
Photo: Febiofest.cz, Pinterest