Charlotte Gainsbourg: “Before making a film, I wait for love at first sight!”

INTERVIEW – In “Suzanna Andler” by Benoît Jacquot, in theaters this Wednesday, Charlotte Gainsbourg plays a character born from the imagination of Marguerite Duras, at the end of the 1960s. A distraught wife that the actress has appropriated under the direction by director Benoît Jacquot.

It is the story of a wife in the midst of an existential crisis, confined in a splendid villa on the Côte d’Azur where her lover comes to join her, to convince her to finally leave her husband. Melancholy behind closed doors, Suzanna Andler was a play, written in 1968 by Marguerite Duras. Director Benoît Jacquot, who was the novelist’s assistant, has long dreamed of delivering his adaptation on the big screen. It is born today with a Charlotte Gainsbourg as captivating as it is unpredictable …

You have a rather eclectic filmography. What attracted you to a project like Suzanna Andler ?

I believe a lot in circumstances. Things come at a certain time and I like chance. I find that it often falls well! Afterwards, I don’t say yes easily. And at the same time, I am in great demand. So I’m waiting for love at first sight. And it’s rare to have love at first sight. As you can see, I am not doing film after film. I need to want a whole project. The director, the other actors, the script, obviously the character. But it’s complicated that everything coincides. And it was the case with Suzanna Andler.

How would you describe this woman?

The film is very much anchored in its time. She is a bourgeois from the 1960s, who arrives on the French Riviera and has a lover for the first time. We understand that she has a husband, who has been cheating on her for years. So she is a very lost woman and we take her when she is shared between her husband, her lover, her children. This bourgeois life. She is in a period of questioning, of doubt. She is a woman who is doing badly, but with a childish side. It is curious, quite elusive and since it is a text by Duras, there is a very particular melody that I have appropriated for myself. I was intimidated at first. By Duras, by Benoît Jacquot also because he had a special relationship with her.

When you’ve worked with certain directors like Lars Von Trier, to name just one, are you still intimidated on a movie set?

In this specific case, I was afraid that Benoît, after all this time, had formed an idea of ​​the character and that I was not up to what he expected. Afterwards, I don’t feel like I’m taking risks by making films. But I like to surprise myself, to have projects that change from each other. It is mainly that. I don’t want to get bored.

The theater, I got bored very quickly. In fact I think I like filming, when things move from place to place, when things go fast!– Charlotte Gainsbourg

Before being a movie, Suzanna Andler was a play, a world that you rarely visited since you only played once on stage… How do you explain it?

I don’t think it really appealed to me. I didn’t go to acting school, so I didn’t have a theater culture. To be honest, I don’t go there much either. In fact, it’s always something that scares me. The classical theater side is not my thing! I did it once, it was in 1994 in Oleanna, a play by David Mamet. It was modern, I liked the language a lot. And I had the chance to do it with Maurice Bénichou. In rehearsals, it’s like taking a acting class. We were doing exercises, it was great. And then at the time of the performances, I think I was too young, I got bored very quickly. In fact, I think I like filming, when things move from place to place, when things go fast. Maybe I would come to the theater… Besides, I’m so afraid of memory! Already very young, I was afraid of losing my words, I made reminders, I wrote on my arms. It was a constant stress.

I started singing when I was 12, but I wasn’t a singer either, and I’m not necessarily a singer today either.– Charlotte Gainsbourg

Is a movie set like a second home for you?

At first, it was like a second family. I did this during my school holidays, it was festive for me. What I liked was more the teams than the films themselves. Oddly enough the shyness came later, and it took me a while to get over it. Today, it’s much easier and I rediscover the pleasure of being on a set, among the people. I think the shoots are benevolent.

Are you worried about the future of cinema after the period we have just gone through?

Yes when I see the consumption of young people, in particular the series, the fact that they are everywhere… Me, I do not know what to watch! If I haven’t been told about it, if there isn’t a friend who advises me on something, I think there are too many fictions. I prefer documentaries. And the cinema, I don’t quite know the place it will have in all of this. At the same time, I still find that being in a movie theater is very special. And I dare to hope that it does not get lost.

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For several years, you have had a double career as a singer. Did you take advantage of the confinements to write? Did the period stimulate you?

Stimulated, I’m not sure. But in my initial isolation, first in New York, I wrote quite a bit. Then during the second confinement, this time in Paris, I took over a lot of things that existed.

Do you miss the concert audience?

No, because it wasn’t something I still did regularly, of course. I really enjoyed it. But it’s not like I have a loyal following that I find every two years. I don’t work like that yet, I hope for one of these four! But not at the moment …

You talk about it as if you were a beginner singer …

This is especially the scene that I started really late. It was not at all obvious and I made it my own recently. It does not coincide at all with my years of work. The thing is, I started singing when I was 12, but I wasn’t a singer either. I am not necessarily today either! (Laughs).

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“Cinema is better life” is the podcast that will make you want to go back to the movies. In each episode, Jérôme Vermelin goes to meet the actors, directors, producers and all those who make the news of the Seventh art. They share with him their passion for the profession. The films that made them want to take the plunge. And their little filming secrets …

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