On the sidelines of an evening-event* which will retrace his incredible career, the 85-year-old filmmaker takes a look back: his loves, his friends and a few small regrets which do not affect his eternal optimism…
Laughing look, soft voice, “Monsieur Lelouch” welcomes us to his lair at Club 13 in Paris, before his big film-concert on November 14. While the editing of the films of his life moved us to say the least, bringing (re)live before us the greatest stars beloved by the general public – John Paul Belmondo, Annie Girardot, Jean-Louis Trintignant – it is above all a gift from the 85-year-old filmmaker, to celebrate his 50 films in sixty years in the service of the 7th art. A bath of nostalgia? The director ofA man and a woman (palme d’or 1966) does not however feel any. He has created a work without words, universal, which will be screened at the Palais des Congrès and accompanied by the 80 musicians of the Prague orchestra. He mixes in memories of filming, unseen scenes from his films, so that the great family he has built on screen will live forever. Chills guaranteed.
GALA: Music has always been a main character in your films. When did you become aware of its evocative power?
CLAUDE LELOUCH: Toddler. At home, my father was a fan of Charles Trenet, my mother, by Edith Piaf. We had a cleaning lady who was crazy about Luis Mariano and I realized very quickly that music made me feel good. When I listen to it, I’m another man, I go into another dimension, as if we were erasing all the shit. In the cinema, I make people laugh and cry, but with the music, we spin the goosebumps. It is the aristocracy of emotions.
GALA : How do you feel when you see these images which represent sixty years of cinema, 50 films?
CL: I have a feeling this all happened to someone else. I’m so in the present that I don’t have time to think about the past. And if I had been told that I would live this life, I would never have believed it, I would have thought: “They are overdoing the script! ” You imagine ? Fifty films, 7 children, all from different mothers, 8 grandchildren… On paper, that doesn’t hold water! But in fact, yes. And that makes me proud. I have a big family, with children who adore each other and see each other often. Obviously there are ups and downs, some are better than others, but the gods of life are with me.
GALA: What an emotion to see all these great actors, some of whom have disappeared…
CL: Yes, it’s a bit my life that parades in front of me. Belmondo, Girardot, who played a very big role. But that doesn’t make me sad because I’m still here, I managed to get through the drops! I hope to make another two or three films, and then I’ll join them. We will leave for new adventures. To me, death is a promotion, I don’t see it as an end. And I want the day of my big departure, we have a party.
GALA: Who hasn’t toured with Lelouch?
CL: There are some, like Delon, Depardieu, but these are exceptions. I missed a few like Gabin, or de Funès, but I nevertheless created a family in the cinema. I accompanied my century, filmed my era, men and women, for sixty years, who looked like the real people of the eras presented. I have been a witness of my time, through my fictions.
GALA: Today, who would you like to film?
CL: Maybe some Americans, like bradley cooper, which could fit into my universe. And in France, we always have a pool of exceptional actors: Dujardin, Magimel, Catherine Deneuve, which has never been better than now. But the world has changed, and I find it more difficult to find an actor, or an actress, a great star who perfectly embodies his time. Like Brigitte Bardot who was a mirror of his time or Michele Morgan after war…
GALA: Where does this philosophy come from, this way of looking at life?
CL: Ever since I was little, people have asked for my opinion: “Claude, what do you think of that? And to be honest, I don’t really know why. I gradually realized that my observations were of interest to others. Maybe because I’m positive. For me, the yes always wins over the no, everything that hurts us ends up doing us good, all disasters have turned out to be positive. Although bad news always gets better press…
GALA: You speak of chance as your best ally as a director. What have been the most beautiful chances of your life?
CL: Chance works miracles. When our intelligence, which is afraid of everything, slows us down, chance is an accelerator. It makes us want to do incredible things, makes us immortal. The scenes that I prefer are those that don’t appear in the script, those that won César awards for Belmondo, for Girardot… And that’s also true in my life. I could quote you my meeting with my wife Valerie Perrin.
GALA: Tell us ?
CL: We did not seek each other, but found each other. She had sent me a letter, signing it simply with her first name and I liked her handwriting before I liked the woman; with this impression of knowing each other without ever having met. I found her because a Valérie had given her number to one of my best friends, asking her for the DVD of the only one of my films that she hadn’t seen. He said to me: “maybe it’s the Valérie of the letter?” Interesting coincidence, isn’t it?
* Claude Lelouch, from one thread to another, this November 14, at 8 p.m. at the Palais des Congrès in Paris.
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Photo credits: Action Press / Bestimage
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INTERVIEW – Claude Lelouch: “For me, death is a promotion” – Gala