The director of Ridicule, rebroadcast this Sunday on Arte, remembers, not without emotion, the formidable acting performance of Bernard Giraudeau as an unscrupulous abbot.
This evening at 9 p.m., Arte will offer Ridiculousproduced in 1995 by Patrice Leconte. In 2010, shortly after his death, the director spoke about Bernard Giraudeauwho plays a key role in this period film.
Was it you who thought of Bernard Giraudeau to play the formidable Abbot de Vilecourt?
Yes, because I really wanted to reunite with the wonderful actor from Les Spécialistes and Viens chez moi, I live with a friend. I love… Sorry, I loved this man. What a pain to speak of it in the imperfect tense.
Was he coping well with playing such a detestable character?
Bernard hesitated a lot before accepting. He was telling me : “But this abbot is a scoundrel!” I answered him : “Yes, he’s a scoundrel. But at the end of his journey as a brilliant and charming orator, he will be abandoned by everyone, like an orphan, for one too many words uttered in front of the king. You must then make this man touching and human…” He liked this challenge. I still remember this moving shot where Bernard Giraudeau, all alone, with tears in his eyes, implores the courtiers leaving the room…
He is impressive in his tirade against Louis XVI. How did he prepare for this key scene in the film?
Bernard was an actor with theatrical training, who arrived in front of the camera with perfect knowledge of his text which he reproduced to the nearest comma. This famous tirade having an enormous narcissistic dimension, I asked him to play it for him, looking at himself, in front of a mirror, forgetting the audience. He then let himself be carried away by his text with tremendous verve. When the king gets angry, the world collapses before his eyes. For the end of this scene, Bernard had a brilliant idea: he suggested that the abbot lose a pin from his wig when he prostrates, to show his decline. This plan is of rare cruelty.
Bernard Giraudeau had the reputation of being a perfectionist actor. How did he feel facing Fanny Ardant and Jean Rochefort?
So good… You know, Ridiculous will leave me until my last breath with the memory of a harmonious shoot where Bernard, Fanny Ardant, Jean Rochefort and Charles Berling were truly in harmony. They all felt a palpable pleasure in being together.
Three years later Ridiculous, Bernard Giraudeau suffers from cancer. Did he tell you about his illness?
No. I went to see him at the theater when he was very ill. He was coming out of heavy operations, but wasn’t complaining. Faced with the inevitability of his illness, he showed incredible dignity. Even in private, he never moaned. He held his own with panache. It’s strange: I knew he was going to die, and the morning I found out, I broke down. I was at my desk: devastated, I burst into tears…
Ridiculous, which denounces the spirit of the court, is it not of burning relevance at a time when courtiers jostle around the President of the Republic?
I don’t blame you, even if I didn’t want this film to be a strong denunciation of the courtiers. That said, court spirit has always existed around the powerful, whether with Louis XVI, Giscard or Mitterrand…
Interview led by Jean-Baptiste Drouet.
Les Bijoux de la Castafiore: Patrice Leconte dreams of a “slightly arty” Wes Anderson-style film
A shoot at Yves Lecoq
Many sequences in the film were filmed at the Château de Villiers-le-Bâcle, the property that Yves Lecoq owns in Essonne. Patrice Leconte specifies: “Given the prohibitive costs of renting the Palace of Versailles, we fell back on numerous 18th century residences, including that of Yves Lecoq. He is a charming, funny man, crazy about renovation and decoration.”
At 10:40 p.m., Arte will continue the evening with the broadcast of a documentary entitled Versailles: The rediscovered palace of the Sun King.
The Bronzés go skiing as told by Patrice Leconte: “It wasn’t a real toad, it was even very drinkable”