The mag­nif­i­cent

An in­ter­view with Louis Gar­rel. The ac­tor, who plays Jean–Luc Go­dard in Michel Hazanavi­cius’s Le Red­outable, dis­cusses his move away from cinéma d’au­teur, of which he is a lead­ing fig­ure. Di­dier Péron

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - CONTENTS - PHO­TO­GRAPHS Peter Lind­bergh

— “For ten min­utes in 1968, just ten min­utes, no­body gave a damn about sav­ing film. There was this other life that was so much more im­por­tant. Back then film was for the big­wigs, France at its most ran­cid, the sleazi­ness of the Champs – Élysées, ten –a– penny plung­ing neck­lines, the un­funny stuff Au­di­ard was writ­ing, bistro ban­ter, sex­ist, not clever at all … Go­dard, Bergman, they’re the ones who res­cued film from that.” Philippe Gar­rel, for th­ese are his words, re­calls an era he ex­pe­ri­enced first – hand. He was 18 when he made his first full – length fea­ture, Marie pour mé­moire, in 1967, the same year Go­dard, al­ready li­onised / de­spised, re­leased La Chi­noise with Anna Ka­rina and Jean–Pierre Léaud as over­ag­i­tated Parisians go­ing round in cir­cles in an apart­ment pa­pered with slo­gans from Chair­man Mao’s Lit­tle Red Book. Philippe Gar­rel, a ten–stone Rim­bal­dian weak­ling, all vel­vet jacket and jabot, recog­nised Go­dard as the one who could “push un­der­stand­ing to its lim­its”. There was revo­lu­tion, or re­volt, change at the very least, that bust France and its old ways wide open — a coun­try un­der the aus­tere guardian­ship of Gen­eral de Gaulle, im­pris­oned by the glo­ri­ous dust of mil­i­tary ex­ploits past; there were the trun­cheon blows and, for Gar­rel who came through ’68 in ex­is­ten­tial ec­stasy, elec­troshocks in a psy­chi­atric hospi­tal. 1967–2017, fifty years on, Saint–Ger­main– des – Prés, Louis Gar­rel, the di­rec­tor’s son, born in 1983, parks his scooter out­side a café. He’s a reg­u­lar there. The waiter be­hind the bar shakes his hand, and we perch at a ta­ble out­side. Tall, un­doubt­edly hand­some but com­pletely un­pre­ten­tious, nat­u­ral and re­laxed, ea­ger to cut to the chase, Louis Gar­rel is and prob­a­bly al­ways will be es­corted by the mem­o­ries, hopes and trau­mas of an era he never ac­tu­ally knew. “I just can’t get away from May ’68!”. In 2003 he shot Bernardo Ber­tolucci’s The

Dream­ers in which he, Eva Green and Michael Pitt form an erotic tri­an­gle, holed up in a Parisian apart­ment while the sounds from the mael­strom be­low float up to their shut­tered win­dows, en­cour­ag­ing them to break free of ev­ery taboo. Two years later he played the ro­man­tic, milk – white hero of Reg­u­lar Lovers, his fa­ther’s fresco on those days of bar­ri­cades and anti – es­tab­lish­ment slo­gans, such as the now – leg­endary “It is for­bid­den to for­bid”, “Beauty is in the streets”, “I don’t want to waste liv­ing earn­ing a liv­ing” and “Be re­al­is­tic, ask the im­pos­si­ble” .

“Now I re­ally love wear­ing a mask, whereas pre­vi­ously it had al­ways seemed im­pure, both­er­some.”

Louis Gar­rel was at this year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val for Red­outable, the lat­est film from Michel Hazanavi­cius

( OSS 117 : Cairo, Nest of Spies, The Artist ), which was en­tered in the of­fi­cial com­pe­ti­tion. It’s an adap­ta­tion of Anne Wi­azem­sky’s mem­oir, Un An Après, in which the ac­tress, the grand­daugh­ter of François Mau­riac, re­lates the time of her brief mar­riage to Jean – Luc Go­dard. She was twenty, Go­dard thirty – seven, when, in Jan­uary 1968, they set up home to­gether in the Latin Quar­ter. A young girl from a bour­geois fam­ily, far less politi­cised than her hus­band, she would ex­pe­ri­ence from within the cri­sis fol­low­ing which, and af­ter an in­creas­ingly rad­i­calised in­ner jour­ney, Go­dard would refuse to put his name to his films, would es­chew the star sys­tem and the me­dia world to be­come part of the red­der–than–red Dziga Ver­tov Group that he and his com­rade Jean – Pierre Gorin were form­ing. Hazanavi­cius’s film looks back at the pe­riod to mock its some­times skewed ide­ol­ogy, por­tray­ing the maker of Breath­less as an in­suf­fer­able blovi­a­tor who spends his time ha­rangu­ing his friends ( and smash­ing his glasses ) over a revo­lu­tion which, as far as they can see, shouldn’t de­prive them of the com­fort­able lives this in­tel­lec­tual happy few lead. The least one can say is that Red­outable was given a mixed re­cep­tion at Cannes, by French crit­ics in par­tic­u­lar who dubbed it a rather friv­o­lous pas­tiche and, more se­ri­ously, pointed to the fact the film de­fends main­stream en­ter­tain­ment over the avant – garde, whilst be­ing slav­ishly ref­er­en­tial to Go­dard’s visual and stylis­tic de­vices of the time. Is this Hazanavi­cius’s strange at­tempt to ex­or­cise a fig­ure that looms too large? Louis Gar­rel ad­mits he ini­tially turned down the role, but was then sent the script: “I re­ally liked it, be­cause I could see how we were drawn into the story in this most in­ti­mate way, how the love af­fair was head­ing down­hill be­cause, all of a sud­den, Wi­azem­sky was see­ing the man she loved and ad­mired take a di­rec­tion she couldn’t grasp, and re­al­is­ing she ei­ther had to get on­board or get left be­hind. There’s this short – cir­cuit be­tween pri­vate and po­lit­i­cal, an in­ter­est­ing mo­ment which, I think, was also a way of com­ing back to this whole May ’68 thing with wry hind­sight, in a way that’s not in the least nos­tal­gic, like a comic book twenty – year – olds to­day would get.”

Head shaved to re­sem­ble Go­dard’s bald­ing pate, tinted glasses, a lisp­ing Louis Gar­rel mim­ics the film –maker, al­though the film is never staged with any at­tempt at re­al­ism. There is some­thing de­lib­er­ately un­fin­ished, some­thing that doesn’t quite fit, thus leav­ing room for irony which the ac­tor likens to that of Mas­troianni in 1950s’ Ital­ian come­dies. “I’m so con­vinced by what I think of Go­dard that, watch­ing the film, I’m not con­cerned for him. The quar­rel be­tween those who think he’s a char­la­tan and those who hail him as a ge­nius is over. He’s part of art his­tory, whether he likes it or not, he can’t es­cape the leg­end of ev­ery­thing he’s in­vented, chal­lenged, pro­claimed, etc. Yes, Michel [ Hazanavi­cius ] prob­a­bly did make the film from a given stand­point, namely that of some­one who ad­mires Go­dard but re­sents the fact that he dropped nar­ra­tion for the ab­stract or the purely ex­per­i­men­tal, that he stopped com­mu­ni­cat­ing with clas­sic pro­duc­tion, with ac­tors and the au­di­ence, and plunged deeper and deeper into his own world.” How­ever much he de­nies it, by agree­ing to do Red­outable, by be­com­ing this im­per­ti­nent, un­bear­able, fatu­ous Go­dard, Louis Gar­rel fur­ther dis­tances him­self from the galaxy of smoul­der­ing young ac­tors, one of its bright­est stars drift­ing from film to film with the brood­ing de­tach­ment of a man for­ever as­so­ci­ated with the past, his fa­ther or Jean–Pierre Léaud, the sym­bolic god­fa­ther who gave him his Ti­betan bap­tism into dandy – es­que sanc­tity. “One day, this guy told me, ‘You, you’re an underground ac­tor.’ [ Laughs. ] For a long time I was what you might call an ‘au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­tor’, mean­ing what­ever the char­ac­ter was go­ing through, I acted as though it were hap­pen­ing to me. I don’t mean I was try­ing to be­come that char­ac­ter, but rather to seek a form of truth, the same kind of ‘dizzi­ness’ I ex­pe­ri­enced at 14 when I saw Mau­rice Pialat’s Le Garçu: you don’t know whether it’s Depar­dieu the ac­tor laid bare in the film, or whether it’s his por­trait of the di­rec­tor, or if it’s the di­rec­tor who is rein­vent­ing him­self in his ac­tor. There’s this amaz­ing sleight of hand which, I re­mem­ber, made me be­lieve in life be­cause all of a sud­den I was en­joy­ing it so much, and that meant in­cred­i­ble things could hap­pen.

“For a long time, I was what you might call an ‘au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­tor’: what­ever the char­ac­ter was go­ing through, I acted as though it were hap­pen­ing to me.”

“It all fell into place with Ber­trand Bonello’s Saint Lau

rent. As Jacques de Bascher, some­one very dif­fer­ent from me, I wore this lit­tle mous­tache, and I started to see how in the end wear­ing a mask was a good thing, whereas pre­vi­ously it had al­ways seemed im­pure, both­er­some, and I wanted to have noth­ing to do with it. Now I love it, it could even be­come a kind of goal, the idea of shed­ding your own skin to get into some­one else’s. The ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple, to my mind, is Sean Penn in Har­vey

Milk by Gus Van Sant. It’s sump­tu­ous. How did he do that? This testos­terone – fu­elled gi­ant who no longer has the same voice, the same eyes, the same ges­tures, you’re con­vinced he’s been mois­tur­is­ing for the past twenty years … And that play­ful­ness. I feel as though be­fore, I was mak­ing films for an in – crowd of movie buffs who could share them and imag­ine we were all in on the same se­cret. Maïwenn’s film ( My King ), Ni­cole Gar­cia’s film ( From the Land of the Moon ) and

Red­outable are all out in the open for ev­ery­one to see. There’s less of the float­ing be­tween life and the work, which is so con­sum­ing. It’s more about the arte­fact, the cathar­sis you find in the­atre when you’re seek­ing to con­vey some­thing be­yond your own self.”

Lis­ten­ing to Louis Gar­rel, it’s easy to for­get the good–look­ing heart­throb, an im­age cer­tain roles have played up to the point of ex­ag­ger­a­tion, trans­form­ing him into a pout­ing Nar­cis­sus. His con­ver­sa­tion, like his read­ing mat­ter, spans an as­ton­ish­ing range of sub­jects. He goes from chuck­ling evo­ca­tions of the quar­rels that went on be­tween Guy De­bord and Philippe Sollers to the bi­og­ra­phy of Robe­spierre he’s read­ing — he’s play­ing him in the French Revo­lu­tion drama that Pierre Schoeller (The Min­is­ter) is cur­rently shoot­ing in Paris — then hap­pily chats about Julien Gos­selin’s the­atre work or the films of Hou Hsiao – hsien. He’s the in­tel­lec­tual celebrity, and on this turf, apart from Is­abelle Hup­pert, it’s hard to imag­ine who could match his in­de­fati­ga­ble cu­rios­ity, or his cere­bral as well as vis­ceral de­sire to be part of the game. “Stay­ing an ac­tor isn’t sim­ple,” he re­peats. Hon­estly Louis, we’re not too wor­ried about that. VOGUE HOMMES

Crèpe de Chine and vis­cose shirt and cot­ton T–shirt GIOR­GIO ARMANI

Cot­ton trench coat and shirt BURBERRY

Wool coat and trousers LOUIS VUITTON T–shirt and belt, ac­tor’s own Stylist’s as­sis­tant GIO­VANNI DARIO LAU­DIC­INA

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