Fabrice Luchini on 'Courted' and Winning Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival

Fabrice Luchini talks about Courted

Fabrice Luchini talks about Courted

How did you react when you learned that the Venice Film Festival had selected you for the best actor?

I couldn’t believe it. The jury was made up of sophisticated, international filmmakers. I realize what a privilege it was to have been chosen by my peers. And besides, my father was Italian, which gave the award particular resonance. On the other hand, even if I do not want to deny myself the pleasure, for me the true award is that audiences still come to see your films.

What did you like about Michel Racine, the character you play ?

His unpleasantness! They call him the two-figure judge, because he never sentences anyone to less than ten years. I like characters who are not immediately, who don’t automatically arouse compassion. We live in an age of global compassion. Everyone is supposed to be marvelous, and supposed to be nice... But that being said, my character is a good president of the assize court. Nasty, but good at what he does. He is the epitome of authority, but he never tries to influence a jury. And then there’s the love story, an atypical love story! Racine had once fallen in love with an ianesthesiologist, and now he accidentally runs into her again when she is chosen to sit on one of his juries. This woman will light up his life, she will elevate him.

What do you have in common with his judge?

My character is a great romantic. I myself might say just what he says. But in general, I do not see myself in the characters I play, even if I do put in a little bit of myself. I rely on what the director wants without always understanding it. And I try to satisfy him as best I can.

How did you prepare?

I didn’t go to a lot of trials. I only went to see one, presided by Olivier Leurent. He told me: Our job is to listen, understand, and decide.

Watching that great President of the Assize Court, I noticed that he addressed the defendant and the witnesses very simply, very politely, and tried to encourage confidence and trust.

Based on what criteria did you accept this project?

It’s a bit arrogant to say that you have criteria... With COURTED, it was the screenplay that convinced me. I am sensitive to writing, to structure, and to words. It was very well written, and I found the basic premise interesting. Because a courtroom drama can easily become boring! But Christian Vincent made sure that the human angle took precedence over the tragic elements. The film is both a comic and a fascinating look at human nature. The jurors are an embodiment of participatory democracy and could be any one of us. And then there is the defendant, or defendants, and what is interesting about them is that we can recognize ourselves in them too. Obviously, none of us has ever put a child in a closet, but one day, when exasperated, we might have. It’s not a matter of forgiving or excusing, but you shouldn’t feel too far removed from the criminals, because we all belong to a human race capable of the worst. And finally, the choice of my partner, Sidse, counted. I had found her remarkable in Borgen. I like the idea of working with people from another culture.

What kind of actress is Sidse Babett Knudsen?

A fabulous actress! In her Nordic culture, people are much more straightforward than we Latins are. At our first reading, she wondered about things, she looked for points of reference, or a certain logic. Even though she speaks French wonderfully, it is not her native language, and so from time to time I played the interpreter to verbalize her doubts, because I like to be a ‘translator,’ ‘a courier’. I hope that I was helpful.

You haven’t worked with Christian Vincent for 25. What was it like meeting again on a movie set?

I found the same atmosphere as at the Café de la Mairie in La Discrète, Christian’s way of capturing love stories. He has an acute awareness of the possibly erotic nature of a date in a café, in pure Marivaux tradition, something that you also get with Rohmer. And I feel in my element! But since La Discrète, Christian has broadened his palette. He wants to film his contemporaries, much like Ken Loach. And he does .it very well.

Tell us about shooting your first scene with Sidse...

Christian threw a wrench in the works, one minute before he was to say “Action”. He thought we were being too faithful to the text. I said to myself: Shit, I had such a hard time memorizing it! But there’s nothing theoretical or intellectual about the job of an actor. When you hear “Action” that’s concrete. There’s a woman, a man, and you need to act. It’s beyond language. You understand each other like animals.

Most of the witnesses at the trial are non-professional actors. Is there anything specific about their acting?

Their innocence. We actors consciously try to reach what they obtain unawares. Being an actor, you try to underplay, to efface effects, not to let anything look manufactured. Cinema is not there to see your technique, it’s there to see your soul. It’s an MRI scan of your interior self. You can try and cheat, but the camera will always catch you as you really are. As Louis Jouvet said: Tell me what you’re playing, and I’ll tell you who you are. You can be deeply moving in one movie, and lousy in the next, because you got the wrong role. Good casting equals good acting. There are actors who are proud of their character studies’ and others who dare ask themselves Aren’t I always playing the same role?

To what category of actors do you belong?

I do very few things. But I like my limits. I learned that from Eric Rohmer. I could never play a truck driver. A murderer maybe ... But in any case not a gorgeous dude who drives women mad every time he walks into café! My position is simple: don’t ask me to compose a character. On the other hand, you can ask me to move around. In the theater, I can go from Molière to Labiche. If I wanted to show off with a quotable quip I’d say that an actor always plays in the same film.

I need to alternate with the stage, but when I’m making a movie, I become humble, I don’t intervene. I used to have that fault I want to do it again. Not any more. When I was starting out, a director wrote in Les Cahiers du Cinéma that I led to a deficit of narration, because I had too much personality. That may have been true thirty years ago, but not today. I don’t try to stick out anymore.

And in the role of a President of an Assize Court, one might have expected ...

A real act ... Yes, but it’s always much more profitable to suggest than to show. And then, that’s the way I was directed. I am at times finicky, petty, but on set, I do what I’m told. I become obedient. I couldn’t care less about being badly dressed, or looking like an idiot, even though I am rather stylish in real life.

What are your moments of pleasure on a shoot?

The waiting, experiencing those moments, as Isabelle Huppert calls them, moments during which your real problems disappear. And this shoot was the chance for me to spend almost two months discovering a splendid city, a historical site: Saint-Omer and the unsung, but very real warmth of the people of the North.

What kinds of emotion do you think that the film may arouse?

The audience will tell us. But I can tell when a movie has appeal, and this one won’t leave people indifferent. Because even with all the difficulties, the sordid homicide, a couple pathetically falling apart, there is the love story ... A project.

Your reunion with Christian Vincent has garnered two awards in Venice (best screenplay, best actor). La Discrète was your first popular success ...

Christian Vincent and I experienced something miraculous 25 years ago. Teenagers in schoolyards repeated lines from the film See that girl? She’s vile. Rohmer had already helped me. But La Discrète, was like Rohmer for mass consumption. For, 15 years, nothing had worked for me. I was too grandiloquent for some, too hysterical for others. Some thought I was too effeminate. With La Discrète, the flaws people reproached me with were suddenly virtues. That film changed my life. 

The Cat(walk) that Roared : Is Paris Fashion Week Feminist?

by Lærke Anbert & Omi 

Feminism and Fashion have always had a complicated symbiotic relationship. Both are driven by expressions of social norms (either in rejection of it, or in acceptance of it). So it is no surprise the foremost events that involves fashion and its progression routinely steps into the world of feminist philosophy and structure. During Paris fashion week one of the major talking points was the reintroduction of unabashed feminism within the likes of Dior, Givenchy and Balmain. “We all should be Feminists” seem to be the height of such proclamation and Dior being the Queen of the Hill flew that flag with enough repetition that the message was not lost in the avalanche of trends and trinkets.

The embrace of Womanhood in Paris fashion week is a curious one as it embraced  a very specific kind of womanhood...a  very specific kind of feminism. A specific feminist variation on feminism that is culturally neutral with a hint of western sense of feminism or what is commonly known as the ‘white feminism’. Before we address the intricacy of that relationship we first must acknowledge that the feminism that we adhere to is predominantly western and white. And that has always been an issue from the 1st wave to the 3rd wave of feminism and only now it is being addressed as a multiethnic experience that needs to be understood both within the context of history and culture, along with race.  White feminism had a lot of strong voices but unfortunately a lot of those voices were racist and irredeemable in many ways. Elizabeth Stanton was a notorious racist; Frances Willard routinely refused to denounce lynching of black men. And those were not isolated incidents, they were the norm. Sojourner Truth gave a speech in 1851 in which she laid bare how feminism was contextually racist and propagated different rights based on race and gender. Crenshaw wrote about intersectionality in the 90s. Chandra Talpade Mohanty addressed this head on as well.  The debate has been there for a long time, but mainstream feminism/the ‘taylor swift’ feminism, or even those who call it post-feminism (feminist theorists disagree on this point vehemently) might have not acknowledged it until now, and many still don’t. So it is no surprise that fashion and feminism has created a notion of otherness for women of color, because the most vocal and prominent form of feminism whitewashes a lot of non-white experiences (from racial and cultural hierarchy to the political structure of a nation-state).

Feminism just like modern society have moved towards a harmonious relationship between the races in the last few decades but those distinctions still remain strongly rooted and some of those distinctions are still prevalent within feminist theory. And that aspect of feminism that does not encompass the experiences of majority non-white feminists is troubling yet dictates how feminism is viewed, sold and incorporated into the collective narrative of fashion. So when you read about how wonderfully feminist Paris fashion week was or how wonderfully the industry is embracing the role of feminism within fashion, you have to take it with a pinch of salt. Because the feminism that was on display masquerading, as the primary voice of feminists was not universal, not race neutral, not class neutral. The feminism on display was what white feminism looks like. While that may be a step in the right direction it is nearly not a movement worthy of much attention beyond commerce.  The feminism on display went far enough to be noticed but not far enough to be accepted as a proper foray into the actual problem of equality, equity and fraternity. From Dior to Stella McCartney every designer with a social clue tried to pay homage to tradition of feminism, unfortunately that homage was directed at a group of privileged feminists not at women of all color and/or class. Only Balenciaga was conscious enough to understand that the feminism on display as a tiny derivative of what feminism actually is and provided a warped and exceptionally smart take on the role of gender, race and class plays within society. What was strikingly absent from the whole process  was what France is doing in the name of secularism by banning headscarves and specific swimwear. No prominent designer addressed that burning bra feminist issue either out of respect for its commercial partners and/or agreeing with the government structure that such hostile reaction to personal liberty is a non-issue that is not worth addressing. This absence of narrative concerning the most prominent civil rights/feminist issue suggests that that feminism these large fashion houses are most comfortable with are the ones that propagate their comfort within casual liberalism, but anything beyond that is not worth addressing because it does not affect the white feminists. So to label Paris fashion week as feminist is correct to the point of calling a housecat a tiger. Sure it has the same characteristic of a tiger but it is not a tiger. Paris fashion week has some characteristics of feminism but it is not actually feminist. 

____________________

Lærke Anbert is a London School of Economics/ University of California, Berkeley educated social anthropologist and gender theorist.  

Omi is an artist and an editor at Deux. In his other life he is a Harvard educated war theorist. 

40.5K

Role of Color during LFW: A Visual Inquiry

by Anton Wall  

Color governs our world. It is the essence of warmth, clarity and ultimately our being. Even the lack of color is considered essential to our sense of aesthetics. We often express our emotions, our art, our math, our rationale through the means of color and confine our pleasures and displeasure within the lexicon of aesthetics.  As any philosopher would tell you that notion of aesthetics is a kind of a judgment on matter, value and experience. What we see, how we see it defines who we are. That is why one of the fundamental questions in philosophy is how something looks to us and why it looks that way. And there lies the equipoise between aesthetic experience and aesthetic value. Here is a curated (philosopher's) view of  the London Fashion Week. 

__________________________

Anton Wall is an LSE educated philosopher who writes on the subject matter of aesthetics. He currently resides in Oxford UK. 

The Myth of Sisyphus : Life at 18 as an Olympic Hopeful and a Model

By Annabelle Schmitt

Meet Katerina Slugina, a young ballerina, gymnast turned model, and barely an adult. After sustaining multiple injuries, Katerina’s dreams of performing in the Olympics were cut short. Even so, she’s taken everything head on. Katerina is mature, level-headed and self-aware at a very young age. Her life has been more hectic than most, but it’s obvious that she’s more than ready to take on anything that comes her way.

                                              Katerina Slugina in her natural habitat 

1. Tell me a bit about your life as an Olympic hopeful. Why did you want to be an Olympic gymnast?

I gave gymnastics 12 years of my life. At first, when I was a child, no one could imagine that I would become a professional sportsman; it was all for fun.

Suddenly, though, gymnastics became my entire life. Of course, each athlete has a dream about medals or participating in the Olympic Games; I had it too, but it remained a dream. In my case, though, the word "Olympics" or mention of it has a symbolic value: it is a struggle with yourself. "Conquer yourself and you will win thousands of battles."

I grew up in a family and country of hopeless realists, so a large part of my career mention of the Olympics was a distant dream and observations on the TV screen. When I moved from Kazakhstan to Bulgaria (because of the sport), I faced a lot of difficulties and trials and believe me, every one of them was my own little Olympics.

2. You sustained a number of injuries that led to your inability to remain an Olympic athlete. What was it like having something out of your control decide your future?

You know, until recently, I could not answer that question myself. I am a person who prefers everything around me to be under control and if something is suddenly knocked out, I fall into a panic. Here, when the problems started with my injuries, I felt as though the injuries were actually controlling me. I was desperate and fearful; it felt like walking a tightrope blindfolded.

I preferred to hide my injuries and the pain from all: from the coach, because I knew that it was necessary to work and that there were many competitions ahead in which I really wanted to show myself off; from my mother and brother, because they worry about me more than I do. That's why I switched to the strong painkiller pills. I lasted 10-11 months until my body got used to having double doses, and the painkillers just stopped helping. Then things got worse. I couldn’t cope with the pain any longer and didn't control it, and I had to talk about my health problems since I really needed help dealing with the consequences of the monotonous faces of doctors, diagnoses and eventually, the end of my sports career.

How did I cope? Honestly, I don't know. When I look back and remember all this, I can't even believe that it was me, that I passed through it all. My coach, Nikolay Boev, helped me a lot. He taught me to believe in myself; this was probably the most difficult lesson for me.
And my mother and brother, even though it is difficult to understand me because I'm really closed off , they were always trying to be there with me, even though my mom lives in Kazakhstan, thousands of kilometers away from me.

First, I had to go alone this way to open up to others …

3. What led you to decide to model?

The unknown, foggy future led me to the modeling business. After the end of my sports career, I had to find myself again in something else. Perhaps it was the hardest thing to do. With modeling, everything happened randomly and spontaneously. One friend told me that I look like a real model and that I should try it. I'm glad I decided to do it, because even as a child, I strangely did not dream to shine on the catwalk.

4. How did your friends and family react to this decision? What role did they play in helping you make it?

At first, my family said "Why not?", but as it continued with more serious work, there were some moments when they were strongly against it, thanks to the myths and stereotypes of the modeling business. Friends treated it much easier - some were really happy for me and supportive, some were just jealous.

5. What’s training as a model like compared to training as an athlete?

You know there is a lot in common actually. As an athlete and a model, I have to constantly train my willpower to keep myself in shape and keep a good appearance. It seemed to be absolutely different spheres, but many times I draw the same lessons from. As a sport, modeling taught me iron discipline and competent communication with people.

6. What’s it been like so far? What goals do you have for your modeling career, and what have you accomplished so far?

I still have not put modeling in my priorities, because here in Bulgaria, it is actually difficult to do because of the weak Market. I'm looking forward to my first trip abroad, but I can still tell nothing about the certain goals. You know, in modeling there are sometimes also "little Olympics." It is also difficult to combine it with education, because education for me is one of the most important aspects of life. But I also wouldn't like to miss my chance.

7. What work have you done that really stands out to you?

The greatest work that I have done I think is work on myself - humble and introverted people, among which I am, have huge difficulties in modeling. I'm not even sure that there are some in this business except me. Previously, I had great difficulty communicating with people, as well as social phobia. Modeling helps me cope with it, because you just can’t work in this industry without communication.

8. Do you ever question if you made the right decision? You’re so young, it’s crazy to imagine that everything is figured out already.

Of course I always wonder if I made the right decision. Honestly, for me it is the most terrible question, because of the heavy feeling of responsibility. From when I moved to Bulgaria at 15 years old, I have often had to make important life decisions for myself and to take responsibility for them.
And while I have no regrets, I think that this is the most important. The only time I question these decisions  is when I come across a video and photos from my gymnastics performances - I regret that I will never be able to repeat it, but I think that's probably a kind of nostalgia. As for modeling, I still have to go forward, I have nothing to regret.

9. What are your hopes and dreams beyond modeling?

Hopes and dreams? None yet. You know, I prefer to live according to the plan, rather than a dream. From an early age, I was used to setting realistic goals and achieving them, not dreaming. After all, dreams are often the causes of illusions, although they sometimes can get you a good kickstart. I always try not to hope on anything and anyone but only on myself, because if there are less hopes then there will be less disappointment.

Of course I have some dreams, but they are not related to modeling. I really want to publish a collection of my poems and write a book on motivational psychology. Concerning modeling, I do not have specific dreams like a kind of open Chanel fashion show or something like that, I just want to work and develop myself.

It's still difficult to perceive myself as a model, because I grew up in a very traditional family, and was raised on sustainable, common moral values. I think to some extent it has affected my stiffness and restraint. Now I think I'm more an artist than a model.

                                                               Chaos : Back Stage 

                                                               Chaos : Back Stage 

 

10. I noticed you’re into writing, specifically poetry. Tell me a bit about what you like to do when you’re not in front of the camera.

 I have been writing for 2-3 years. It has never been my hobby, rather a way to escape from harsh reality and endless frustration. I loved firstly to invent an utopia, and then to compare it with essentially dystopia of the modern world we live in.
Also, the things I write are usually something that I could never say out of loud. At first I was writing in my native Russian language, I have a collection of about 100 poems. Now I'm trying English. My poems are quiet protests and exclamations. Nowadays, I can feel like I'm against the whole world.

11. You go by “unsocial radioactive kid” on social media. Can you explain that a bit?

It became kind of my stage name or pseudonym. I am very glad of it, because it completely describes me and also leaves some kind of mystery. It was coined in comic form. When I met my close friend, he immediately came up with this name for me because he was surprised by my secrecy and reticence. So this name became a part of me.
Unsocial because you literally can describe me only by this word; in principle, this is me.
Radioactive because I come from a small industrial town in the east of Kazakhstan, the underdog of a variety of plants and, consequently, problems with ecology.
Kid because I'm still a small figure floating down the river of a huge crowd. "Kid" rather in the sense of social realism, not literal meaning.

12. Are there any projects and passions of yours you’d like to pursue?

Of course! I love to combine outfits and create ideas for photoshoots (You can check them out in my Instagram profile). Also, soon I will start steadily blogging in Media. Of course, I continue writing and publishing my works. I also like drawing and doodling, I write poems and then create sketches and drawings for them. I may soon create a video of choreography composed by me.

13. What rules do you live by?

The first and one of the most important – Do not to try to control things that do not depend on us (a lesson from the book "Who will cry when you die" by R. Sharma), as it scatters and diverts us from the things we really need to focus on.
The second one - Always continue to believe in yourself and your abilities. But at the same time, it is very important to be able to clearly and adequately assess yourself.
Third - Never stop self-development (It isn't a secret that this is very important.)
But probably the main rules for me are "Win yourself and you will win thousands of battles," and "What does not kill us makes us stronger."

 

                                                                  The Walkabout 

                                                                  The Walkabout 

14. What do you hope people will take away from your story?

I sincerely hope that this article will help readers cope with similar difficulties to overcome themselves and achieve what they desire. Also, I really hope that this will motivate people with similar life situations to step up and find themselves.

I have a terrible social phobia, I'm an introvert, so I find it hard to understand and accept other people as they find it difficult to understand me as well, but I deal with phobias and fears. I overcame my fear. And I am the same person as you; I did it, and therefore you also can do it.

I really want to motivate people to never give up and remember that it is very important to differentiate these things that depend on us only from the things over which we have no control or power.

 

___________________________

Annabelle Schmitt is a fashion journalist based in the United States. Along with Deux, she writes for Tab and also photographs fashion when time permits.