LOUIS GARREL an idol is born
a born worrier torn between self–doubt and excess.
—He rocks up well over half an hour late. You could see him while he was still some way off, with that shock of dark hair. He’s on his mobile, so I go over to tap him on the shoulder, just to remind him of my existence, you understand, which he has clearly forgotten. Louis Garrel nods, and says, “I’ll be right with you.” But then he shocks me rigid by coolly picking up his conversation again. And off he goes into a sort of St Vitus dance. On the boulevard across the way from the Luxembourg Gardens, in front of the café he himself chose, in the ’hood where he grew up, he strides up and down, circles parked cars, a tree, hammers home his clearly very animated points with much waving of arms, nervously running his fingers through his hair. It’s like something from a film by François Truffaut. Not surprising when you think that Truffaut’s male lead, Jean–Pierre Léaud, is Garrel’s godfather. That’s all very well, but does twinkletoes know that time’s arrow is speeding on, and that we don’t necessarily have all day to wait to hear what he has to say? A lead–in about a brat spoiled by good looks and success begins insidiously to take shape"…
That option is a good fit for the role we want to talk about. Louis Garrel is terrific in Bertrand Bonello’s Yves Saint Laurent, where he portrays dandy Jacques de Bascher with a kind of high–voltage licentiousness. De Bascher was a lover of the sultry couturier. And also, it is whispered, of Karl Lagerfeld, although the man himself says not. Chanel’s Iron Duke nevertheless gave a description ("in an interview for Elle in 2008") that couldn’t be closer to the truth than Garrel’s de Bascher: “As a young man, Jacques de Bascher was the devil incarnate with the looks of Greta Garbo. His idea of chic was absolute. He dressed better than anybody, and before everybody else… He was also impossible, unbearable. Perfection itself.” Impossible, unbearable, cast in the mould of cannibal Hannibal, leaving only scorched earth behind him, Louis Garrel could fit that profile very well, with his arty celeb family tree ("he’s the son of film–maker Philippe Garrel and actress&/&director Brigitte Sy, and grandson of the actor Maurice Garrel"), the stamp of approval from the Paris Conservatoire, and a filmography in which he comes across as the very model of a Saint– Germain–des–Prés leading man, never less than Byronic, cultivated, feverish, emphatic, wrapped up in himself, simultaneously fascinating and infuriating.
There is no doubt that Louis Garrel is a looker. In a very special way, to boot, which only magnifies the effect. He’s no tousle–headed Little Lord Fauntleroy, though. More Greek god, with that powerful, straight nose. There’s something of Anna Magnani about him, with those eyes — by turns soft, piercing, and opaque. Thinnish lips set in a permanent half– smile. Topped of course by those celebrated dark curls that round off the picture of the perfect Latin lover, but in a sort of disordered, Cubist sense. Christophe Honoré who has regularly signed him for the past decade (" Ma mère, Dans Paris, Les Chansons d’amour, La Belle Personne, Non ma fille tu n’iras pas danser, Les Bien–Aimés
"), sketches his profile for us: “He’s what you might call a Mediterranean Englishman, a strange mix of irony and sensuality. Judging by his dry wit, you would expect him to be a skinny red–head. Instead, he’s rounded, and dark–haired. There’s something anomalous about him — you find it with all interesting actors.” Garrel doesn’t project that physique off–stage — at least, he doesn’t seek to come across as an accomplished metrosexual or hipster. Today, he’s wearing a grey shirt under a navy–blue jacket, chinos and espadrilles. Perfect camouflage for cycling around Paris ("he voted Green at the last European elections"), and not in the least the smouldering face of Valentino’s Uomo fragrance. Except for his younger sister, the actress Esther Garrel, who stops to say hello when she catches sight of him, no one seems to be noticing one of the most talked–about French actors of the day. Louis Garrel also knows how to fade into the background. That too.