In “About Joan”, Isabelle Huppert plays the role of a woman through the years, between dream and reality. A soft and sensitive film by Laurent Larivière. Meeting with the actress and the director.
In his cinema, Isabelle Huppert is an actress who travels across genres, eras and languages - she knows how to act in English, Italian and even Russian. In About Joan of Laurent Lariviere, she does it all at once. She melts into the skin of a successful editor who, at the bend of a street, finds her first love of youth. In front of him, she will announce to him that a son was born from their idyll.
The film, built like a puzzle, retraces the life of this woman. Between past and present, drama and comedy, the work of Laurent Larivière – co-written with Francois Decodts – recounts the need for everyone to reinvent their destiny to escape reality. Sensitive and unique, About Joan also takes on the appearance of a tale which, even if it tackles death frontally, celebrates life.
“This proposal for a somewhat fragmented narration seduced meexplains Isabelle Huppert, who met the director at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival. We end up understanding that there is something that is not revealed to us from the outset.” A mystery that then gives way to suspense and confusion.
“Obviously, throughout the film, we do not know what she is making up and what is real.” It is the plurality of genres that makesAbout Joan a separate proposal. In this sense, the feature film has a thousand faces. “It’s not a melodrama, nor a real comedy, it’s a constellation of sensations and feelings”, adds the actress. So how do you write a film that refuses to fit into a predefined box?
“We wanted to do a portrait of women in different countries and different eras, but we didn’t know what the film was going to be about.admits Laurent Lariviere. It was by working on this material, by writing burlesque, comic, melodramatic scenes, that we arrived at a sort of portrait of the character from which the meaning suddenly sprang.” A writing process that the filmmaker describes as “amazing”, “organic” and “unconscious”.
In a film, you don’t need to know everything.
He pursues : “When you’re a director, the film has to escape you. If it doesn’t escape you, if you are in absolute control, there is something of the order of dryness, of rigidity. I think, on the contrary, you have to open up, let yourself be crossed by reality.” About Joan plays with the viewer. He does not hesitate to jostle him to find him better.
Isabelle Huppert is formal: “Din a movie, oyou don’t need to know everything”. “The actors often ask questions, but it’s the feature film that will gradually provide the answer. But not knowing presupposes great confidence. It is a pact between a director and his actors. And every question we ask is a bit of a dent in the trust we’re supposed to carry.”
In this story, the character of the son is central. It is played by two actors: Dimitri Doré – revealed in Bruno Reidal by Vincent Le Fort – for scenes from the past and Swann Arlaud for those of the present. Isabelle Huppert is full of praise for her two partners. “Swann Arlaud is an excellent actor and in Dimitri, there is something very childish and more adult than you might think. He was perfect for confusing this memory.”
Several times, Joan breaks the fourth wall. She addresses herself, looking at the camera, to the viewer. A way of rediscovering the idea of the tale and of this narrator who, this time, is clearly visible. Only the end denotes. The heroine no longer speaks, one look is enough. “We are told a lot about the other sequences, rarely about this onenotes the actress. It establishes a rather strange pact between the character and the spectator. It is a form of loop. There is nothing more to say. We can do without words.”
Interview by Thomas Desroches, in Angoulême, August 26, 2022.
About Joan by Laurent Larivière, on September 14 at the cinema.