News from the Locarno Festival

Courau and Courage

“L'Ombre des femmes” – Philippe Garrel



Ms Courau, you are a member of the Concorso Cineasti del presente jury. This year you had the opportunity to play in a special film, Philippe Garrel's L'Ombre des femmes, which is screened in Locarno and had a fantastic reception in Parisian cinemas and in Europe. How did you start your collaboration with the director?

I met him thanks to his son Louis. It was him who told me that his father was about to make a new film and was looking for an actress. So he contacted me, he immediately gave me the script to read and told me: "I have no doubt about the actress, but I must first watch you through my camera". He had already chosen Stanislas Merhar and brought both of us in a bar in Place Saint Sulpice to read together a few pages of the script and take some pictures. Only then he confirmed me the part: he is a director who still believes in the alchemy that has to be formed into the pair.

Philippe Garrel is known for his meticulous work with the actors. Which requests did he make to you when you started working together?

First of all, he asked me to be free in the six weeks before we were turning the movie. For him it is important to establish a strong relationship with his actors. We are living in a film industry that often makes us forget its profound meaning, the human adventure that should underlie every film. When you are with Philippe, it is as if we could stop this fast and furious car to give back time to time. This is Garrel's great teaching, which is expressed by his approach. Rehearsing with the actors a lot, to shoot only once with a single camera setting. It is a risk, but it produces an unforgettable cinema.

In L'Ombre des femmes you had the chance to play the complex role of a strong and bright woman. How was your meeting with Manon?

Manon is a real heroine. For an actress it is a pleasure playing a role like that because then people are used to associate you with the characters you have played in your career. Manon is primarily a woman full of light, I talked with Garrel in order to find me this inner dimension and then make it shine through the gestures, the look, the tone of the words. I think it is moving seeing a man who is more than 60 years old and wants to tell such a love and resistence story, trying to assume a female point of view and represent the male one with irony.

Among Garrel's movies, this is one of the most open and positive. The lightness that characterizes your performance and Stanislas Merhar's one was something already perceptible on the set?

I was very impressed that the film did very well in French theaters and that audience has been able to overcome the barrier put by a black and white work. I think it happened because there is a positive vision which emerges. When we started shooting, everyone was describing Garrel to me as a troubled man, but he welcomed me on the set with a smile and his positive mood had immediately pervaded all the actors.

Daniela Persico

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