After La Nuit du 12, an arthouse success in the summer of 2022, Bastien Bouillon is starring in Astrakan, the first feature film by David Depesseville, an intense film in the footsteps of Pialat. The opportunity for a conversation with the actor nominated for the César.
Samuel is a wild-looking twelve-year-old orphan. He has been placed for a few weeks in the Morvan with Marie, Clément and their two boys. Samuel emancipates himself, discovers the feelings and troubles of his age, but very quickly he also has to face the secrets of this new family. Until, one day, everything comes to be transfigured.
Allociné: Let’s first talk about your news, and this Astrakhan film, showing this Wednesday. What did you like about the screenplay of this first feature film by David Depesseville?
Bastien Bouillon, actor: The film reflects the script well. It was a very subterranean, very opaque narration. And when I say that, it is absolutely not pejorative. Each scenario has its own grammar, its way of telling a story, its very particular narration.
It was more the meeting with the director David Depesseville and what I sensed of his desires for cinema. After seeing some of his short films, after meeting where we started talking about his work.
Here, the gesture is very strong. It’s quite a radical proposition.
There are films where you manage more or less to have an idea of the finished object, even if you are always immersed in the vision of a director. Here, the gesture is very strong. It’s quite a radical proposition. So it’s coming to support, to serve this desire for cinema.
It is a film that is highly referenced. He decided to work with Paul Blain (the son of actor Gérard Blain), with Lisa Heredia, the last companion of Jean-Claude Brisseau. So he brings it all with him. One thinks of Pialat’s Naked Childhood. We also see a lot of almost Bressonnian plans, we will say. So that was all of it. A And then, of course, the human encounter with David, which went very well.
It is also a way of building. Now, we talk a lot about the sacrificed mid-budget films. There will be very low budget films and then very heavy films. I’m exaggerating, but medium-budget films, if the CNC isn’t there to help, it’s going to be more and more complicated. Very complicated. Brief.
The spectator has a lot of room to judge, to imagine, in front of the finished film.
I tell myself that maybe I should have formulated my question differently, and not talk about the scenario, but rather about a promise of cinema?
Yes, it’s something I feel more than I read. There are scenarios that are more or less easy to read. And if David Depesseville reads me one day, I hope he won’t mind. But there were harder times.
The spectator has a lot of room to judge, to imagine, in front of the finished film. It’s a film that we don’t get ready-made in our mouths. It is a film which is searched as a spectator.
In any case, we feel, since your beginnings, that you select your projects very much according to the person, to what you feel in the person. You made a lot of first films, auteur films, even if it would be simplistic to say that, since you played in Simone of Olivier Dahan recently. We feel that we are going to offer you films like that as a priority, rather singular, rather first features, and that you are going towards that…
When you’re a young actor, there are two things that intertwine. We always make choices, but when we are at the beginning of our career, it is not to make a choice between such a film and such a film. Sometimes it’s choosing to go or not to go. And maybe if we don’t go, not to work at all, because we work in dotted lines.
Then, it is to pass tests, in truth. When you are a young actor. Now, I’m starting to have proposals, but you have to access the project. And then, at home, something else is intertwined. I think I have an identity, in some places, a little cloudy.
Even though I’m 37, I still have a kind of youthful thing. I don’t have a claimed type of masculinity, to put people in boxes. There are people who immediately have an identity: either proletarian, or very big bourgeois, for example. Me, I’m a bit between the two at the same time. I’m French, but people often ask me if I’m Belgian or if I’m Swiss, because I have a particular diction.
So I think that there is also a certain cinema, in particular a popular mainstream cinema, -and it’s absolutely not pejorative when I say mainstream or popular -, but our paths did not meet.
Today, when I have the chance to have a little light on my name, it’s true that I no longer want to sit in what I started to weave a few years ago, that is to say an auteur cinema but I am absolutely not closed.
Besides, on Simone, the collaboration went very well and I had fun. I felt quite free in the game, even though I have a small role in it.
You started talking about La Nuit du deux, which was one of the hits of the summer. You said it: it was a “stroke of light” for you. What was the effect of the Night of the Twelve more concretely?
Obviously, the fact of being a revelation to the Caesars. I had already been named twice previously, and this time, to be named in hope. It is obviously intrinsic to the film, since it is for this film that I am nominated.
César 2023 nominations: The Innocent and The Night of 12 in the lead
Then, when we have a film that is seen, we discover our work. Even if I had already done leading roles with Axelle Ropert in The Apple of my eyes, but it was a couple, or with Sébastien Betbeder in Debout sur la montagne where it is a trio of friends. There, indeed, the score of Yohan Vivès in the night of the twelfth, and even if it remains an choral film, a film of brigade, it is really the central character.
It gives a kind of confidence. We realize that the actor is capable of it. And the effect, in addition to the Caesars, is the proposals that arrive.
Did it question you to be named as the best hope, after 10 years of career, or finally, the most important thing is to be named?
What is good is that one can be quoted in revelation three times. And this time, I’m nominated. If we make a rugby-stylistic allegory, I had scored the try, but I had not transformed it. Before it can tickle my ego to be a hopeful and not an actor, it’s first of all an honor. I am delighted.
Find all the cinema releases of the week
Bastien Bouillon is on view this Wednesday in Astrakan by David Depesseville, with Mirko Gianinni, Jehnny Beth, Théo Costa-Marini, Lorine Delin, Lisa Heredia, Paul Blain…