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Kassovitz: "Boxing Is The Closest Sport To Human Nature"

Excellence Award Moët & Chandon

Kassovitz: "Boxing Is The Closest Sport To Human Nature"


Mathieu Kassovitz, the prize that the Locarno Festival awards you is intended to pay homage to the entire arc of your career, which has seen you as the protagonist both as an actor and as a director. How did you reconcile these two positions?

As a matter of fact, I was initially a director and became an actor as an afterthought, in particular acting in my own films because they allowed me to do so. Certainly, however, from that point there also began a career as an actor, but without ever replacing that of my choice, namely cinematic direction.


It is a fact that for you the spark for the cinema was lit at an early age, since landing your debut in your father’s film Au bout du bout du banc when you were 11 years old. How do you look back on that experience after all these years?

For me, the cinema was first of all a matter of family, having had a father as a director and a mother as an editor. To tell the truth, I don't even have a clear memory of that first experience, because it was a totally natural thing, born into the family. What is certain is that I can only say I was lucky for having had parents who not only taught me and transmitted passion for the cinema, but they gave me a concrete example of how it had to be done.


The histrionic skills of an actor can also be measured by the ability to play the part of contradictory characters. And from this point of view your journey is exemplary. What are the main elements in a film that push you to accept a role?

Also in this case I think you have to make a distinction between the path of an actor and that of a director. And this is because an actor actually has a reduced decision-making power, much depends on the filmmaker he relies on and the type of project in which he is involved. And, in the end, the project and the director are the two fundamental criteria for my choices as an actor. While instead, as for my work as a director, well, everything is more closely related to the things I'm interested in.


From Jacques Audiard to Luc Besson, also turning to Steven Spielberg, Costa-Gavras, Michael Haneke. Throughout your career you've worked with great filmmakers all very different from each other. Is there anyone who has influenced you in a particular way?

There are many influences that I have soaked up in my artistic career, but I would prefer to avoid putting them in any sort of hierarchy of importance. I have been influenced by the old masters of cinematic history as well as by younger writers who have appeared on the scene in a surprising way.


A particular mention must go to the cult film La haine because with your cinematic gaze you managed to tell the world about forgotten suburbs. It was in 1995, but was it already so relevant?

We did not anticipate the relevance, simply because the reality was there before our eyes and it was easy to read. There was no need to be predictive to understand what could have happened in those conditions. But obviously the relevance, even when it is an inexhaustible source of ideas for possible films, is not everything. Throughout my artistic journey I have always had a volatile relationship with what was happening in reality. Sometimes through stages in which I feed on current events, other times instead I try to stay away and look elsewhere. 


In your latest film, Sparring, you bring your body and your verve into one of the places that cinema has often transformed into one of life's metaphors: the ring. Why do you think the world of boxing still offers this kind of possibility?

Boxing is something instinctive, basic and primitive. It is the first sport that has existed and is the thing that is closest to human nature. That's why it always interested me, and that's why director Samuel Jouy turned to me. Then after the on set experience my passion for the ring became so strong that, really, I took up boxing: my new challenge.

Lorenzo Buccella
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