LET IT SHAÏN
At 22, Shaïn Boumedine is the latest heartbreaker to be discovered by Abdellatif Kechiche. In the first part of Mektoub my love, his troubling presence eats up the screen. A young man of his time and a football fan, who’s not taken in by the star system,
Introduced by Abdellatif Kechiche, the remarkable Shaïn Boumédine is the young actor to keep an eye on.
“Shaïn bright like a diamond”. Rihanna, the jewel of Barbados, is sure to make allowances for it, as imitations can sometimes be a good thing. Shaïn Boumedine does shine like a diamond, with all the facets of youth and unexplored potential. The effect he has, his aura, did not go unnoticed by the audiences who saw Mektoub my love: canto uno, Abdellatif Kechiche’s sixth full–length feature film, which hit the screens in March, and in which Shaïn plays the lead, in his first film role. He is Amin, an aspiring screenwriter, who returns to his birthplace, Sète, in the south of France, for the summer. His parents own a restaurant there. In the heat of the southern sun, with family, friends and some rather beguiling female holidaymakers, the young man is faced with a stream of emotions, games, challenges and dilemmas. Shaïn Boumedine, 22, is radiant throughout, catching the light, leaving audiences weak–kneed, and attracting praise from men and women alike. He was immediately asked what it’s like to be so desired, to be the young heart–throb of the day? With one of his dashing smiles and without a moment’s hesitation, although the question has ephemeral pin–up undertones: “I like it. It’s flattering.” All the same, isn’t all that attention, right from the start, and all those compliments, particularly on his striking good looks, a bit embarrassing? “No, because, it’s done in a kind way. And because I know that it’s nothing. And that it could all stop tomorrow.” He would clearly seem to have learnt the lesson that “all that”, the media coverage, show business and success can quickly become a lure. And he’s learnt it so well that when he says it, it doesn’t sound clichéd or ring untrue. —›
“Even if I don’t last long in the film business, I won’t have any regrets, I’m not afraid of failure.”
Versatility and good looks are clearly two of the main assets of Lord Kechiche’s handsome young page. We turn up while he’s having lunch in a bistro in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, and offer to wait. “No, no, that’s fine, we can start.” There’s no nervousness, His eyes are attentive, holding the gaze of the person studying him. He’s the one who notices that the recorder isn’t on. “I observe a lot”, he says. Clearly. When he doesn’t know, he says, “I don’t know”. The young page is composed, catches on quickly, and there’s no pretence.
He is so charming, so irresistible, so unassuming, that it seems to be a matter of course. But Shaïn Boumedine says that he did wonder Why me? Why did Abdellatif Kechiche give him the lead role, after — as ever — dozens of screen tests, in which he only had his eye on walk–on parts. “I didn’t ask him why, but I guessed that it was because I had been myself, so I worked to keep that natural side.” “Being natural”, “genuine”, acting without anyone feeling that you’re acting is an existential, consubstantial equation for an actor. When Kechiche’s casting agent contacted him, he was on a different and far more practical track altogether. He was paying for his second year at college by working as a waiter–cum–beach attendant near Fabrègues, a village some fifteen kilometres from Montpellier where his parents live and where he grew up, a middle child, sandwiched between two brothers. His father is a controller with the TAM, the Montpellier transport authority, and his mother is deputy director of a holiday activities centre for children.
Abdellatif Kechiche has a double–edged reputation. He’s a brilliant talent scout ( Sara Forestier, Hafsia Herzi and Adèle Exarchopoulos among them ), but also incredibly exacting. This means that he does endless impromptu takes and retakes, driving his actors into a corner. To such an extent that the Palme d’Or prize he was awarded in 2013 for La Vie d’Adèle (“Blue is the warmest colour” ) was rather spoilt by the nasty controversy it triggered and the bitter exchanges between Kechiche and one of his two main actresses, Léa Seydoux. Shaïn Boumedine says that he had been warned during the screen tests, “But I like to make up my own mind”. So?
“Yes, Abdellatif is very demanding, but primarily with himself. He keeps going until he gets what he’s looking for. And I understand that. At first, “curious about other people”, he sought to sound out the mentor– director, to find out more about him, to get him to talk. He laughs: “But that’s precisely what Abdellatif wanted from me …”. So the newcomer let himself become putty in his boss’s hands, but still made sure he had his say: “Abdellatif makes us think about our characters. Amin’s interest in photography was my idea. I didn’t know anything about it, but I thought that it would suit him and Abdellatif agreed.” Kechiche also got him to read such works as Hermann Hesse’s Siddharta, a philosophical novel about wisdom and spiritual emancipation. “Abdellatif and I don’t talk to each other much, but we tell each other a lot,” says the young page, who peppers his conversation with the sayings of a wise old man. Quiet strength with the features of a young prince.
Shaïn Boumedine is also the age he is. He doesn’t know whether he has already been in love “seriously”. His white T–shirt says: “Take risks. Be bold”. He’s a fan of star football players Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard ( “Young guys who’ve got guts” ). Although Mektoub decided him to make his way in film, he doesn’t really have a plan. He made the next chapter in late 2017, and says, “I got even more pleasure from the second film than the first because I was more aware of what I was doing”. He smiles when he says that he will go “where the wind takes me”. No doubt to Paris by the end of the year “to go to auditions, and try things that could help me get ahead, such as short courses”. He’s interested in the stage, and in directing, and is working on writing “a story that is important to me”. Times are tough, aren’t they? “Yes, but I have the impression they always are a little, don’t you think? He adds: “And even if I don’t last long in the film business, I won’t have any regrets, I’m not at all afraid of failure. And even if I manage to keep going, I might find something else that interests me even more, and I’ll head off in that direction.” He speaks softly, without a hint of bravado, as if he were making a pledge to himself so that he doesn’t get trapped. And if Shaïn Boumedine were asked to choose a song on this July day, it would be “La Mauvaise Réputation” by Brassens.
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