I wouldn’t be of this world any more.”

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - DUEL -

Have you ever been tempted to go off the edge? With al­co­hol, VH drugs, meet­ing strangers in the small hours, for ex­am­ple?

I could have been. I should have, even, as I have a pretty IA ex­treme character, al­ways ready to break out of the mould. But I had a brother who spent his youth out at night. I used to com­pul­sively despair of him. He was just two years younger than me, but I was al­ways wor­ried about what might hap­pen to him. And ob­vi­ously things did al­ways hap­pen to him. He fell into liv­ing by night and its thrills — al­co­hol, drugs, a form of mad­ness. And yet he seemed to be in­de­struc­tible — one of na­ture’s chil­dren built to tol­er­ate the in­tol­er­a­ble. I al­ways wor­ried about this brother, my dou­ble. I was like some Emily Brontë desperately seek­ing her Bran­well in the night, and got him back in the early hours. In fact, I was more on the side of the peo­ple who watch, who have to be able to stay alert when they have to in­ter­vene — like those emer­gency paramedics. I never al­lowed my­self the lux­ury of try­ing to lose my­self. In fact, if I’d done that I wouldn’t be of this world any more. I knew very early on that I just wasn’t cut out for it. A sleep­ing pill knocks me out for two weeks. I’m spas­mophilic, dread­fully frag­ile, and hy­per–sen­si­tive. My mag­ne­sium lev­els could plum­met and I al­ways had to fight off dizzy spells and a sort of in­te­rior flut­ter that cut me off from re­al­ity. I feel as if I’m dy­ing if I’m cut off from re­al­ity, it’s one of my ter­rors. Be­fore I dis­cov­ered di­ges­tive medicine, th­ese symp­toms I ex­pe­ri­enced, even when sober in ev­ery way, de­stroyed any de­sire to ac­cen­tu­ate the phe­nom­e­non. I can be deeply moved by night owls. But I pre­fer to help them, dream about them. Night life isn’t my thing.

Did you have a feel­ing that your brother would die young? VH

He wasn’t re­ally young when he died, but he had al­ways IA been a sort of man–child for me. I don’t know how he man­aged to live like that for years. I re­ally don’t know"… He was an ab­so­lutely charm­ing man, ir­re­sistible. Beau­ti­ful as an an­gel — dam­aged, ob­vi­ously"… No–one could re­sist him. There was pe­riod of ac­ci­dents, sui­cide at­tempts, over­doses. And then one day, his body just said stop, that’s enough. Be­cause what lay in wait for him was just aw­ful in terms of pro­ce­dures to un­dergo, and pain, with no guar­an­tee of re­mis­sion, he bowed out. I had that vi­sion. And what if he had said to him­self: “I have this lit­tle win­dow. Shall I do it?” At the hos­pi­tal, I saw on his closed eye­lids and in the shape of his mouth, just the tini­est hint of a smile — a mes­sage of love for his two chil­dren. I had seen him the day be­fore, on Christ­mas day. He was com­pletely up­right, he was Prince Myshkin. Just be­fore they go, hu­mans are re­gally them­selves, each in their own way. With him, ev­ery­thing princely was self–ev­i­dent. I also know that he bowed out to bring us re­lief, to free us. And it hap­pened in the end at night.

VH

Yes, well, it cer­tainly hap­pened at night — and what IA a night! Hell! He re­ally put me through the mill! I found him at this creepy coun­try ho­tel — It was like some­thing out of a slasher movie. The floors creaked. He was seated on cases of great vin­tage wines, and his room was lit by can­dles. Then he dragged me out into the marshes and it was misty. He kept on say­ing “You’re scared, aren’t you? Are you scared? Can you feel the ghost of George Sand?” It was crazy. I ex­plained to him that I needed Camille Claudel and that she needed me. The she and I had to col­lide psy­cho­log­i­cally, meta­phys­i­cally, spir­i­tu­ally, and even phys­i­cally, so that some­thing could trans­late from an artist’s cry when an artist is un­der threat. A true artist is al­ways un­der threat. It comes with the ter­ri­tory. It’s part of their per­sona, their grace, and it had be­come es­sen­tial for me. She was go­ing to save my life, and I was go­ing to save hers, or at any rate, force the ne­ces­sity of re­mem­ber­ing her ex­is­tence. I said all that to Gérard. It was ab­so­lutely won­der­ful. It was worth­while ven­tur­ing out there to con­vince him.

How did you feel un­der threat? VH

It was just when those ru­mours were go­ing about, at IA the start of the Aids epi­demic. In their cru­elty, the fit and healthy said I was ill and pre­dicted that I would be dead be­fore the end of shoot­ing. That made some peo­ple loath to get in­volved in the project. Gérard must have thought that he would be get­ting mixed up in a com­plete mess. He can ex­hibit a cer­tain sub­ver­sive orig­i­nal­ity, but he’s very con­form­ist for all that. It’s his “prac­ti­cal down–to–earth” side. Things have to be worth the trou­ble. I call him the “fair­weather friend”. What I mean is, he’s around, but if there’s some­thing that gets in his way, he won’t make any ef­fort to be there. I think he must have said to him­self that he didn’t want any trou­ble (#laughs#). While we were shoot­ing, he was in­cred­i­ble in the way he re­spected the stature of his character, never tak­ing him down a dif­fer­ent path just for the hell of be­ing provoca­tive. Bruno Nuyt­ten and I are rebels, and Gérard could feel that, so he didn’t have to play the delin­quent or the rene­gade. It was com­pli­cated for Bruno and me to do that job. We weren’t part of the sys­tem. There was some­thing that wasn’t quite right, some­thing un­com­fort­able and prickly.

Is that one of the rea­sons why Bruno Nuyt­ten stopped di­rect­ing, do VH you think? One of them, yes. For me, it was a calamity I’ll never IA get over. I love direc­tors who film the women they love or have loved — even unto death. It just blows me away.

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