Xavier Beauvois • Director
The director's moral duty
Xavier Beauvois, the author of N'oublie pas que tu vas mourir (1995, Jury's Prize in Cannes), has just presented his fourth feature, Le petit lieutenant, in Venice within the ambit of the independent section 'Venice Days' (cf. news). Cineuropa met him on the Lido.
Do you define Le petit lieutenant as a film noir? If so, what are your influences?
My wife does not agree with me but I do describe my film as a noir. In fact, I felt like working on this particular genre from a new perspective by focusing not on misfits but on the police, for a change. So I studied their daily life at the police department. Thus, even if my film belongs to a genre, I cannot say I was directly influenced by other films, and certainly not by TV fictions which I find boring after five minutes. I just filmed what I saw. That is actually part of my morals as a director. In this respect, I really admire Pialat, Rossellini, or even Cassavetes. I do not want to lie to my public, even if it makes the movie prettier. My film could almost be a documentary: the first scene is a real graduation ceremony where I managed to infiltrate my actor, twenty police officers are non-professional actors playing their own role, and the homeless are real too. Thus, Le petit lieutenant is more of a documentary than anything I have ever seen on the same subject. The police is seldom dealt with and when it is, many images are voluntarily blurred.
The characters always seem to be in borderline states. How did you direct your actors to make their faces and silences so eloquent?
There is a difference between a comedian and a real actor. The former plays the character; the latter 'becomes' the character. In order to avoid having my characters 'play', I asked them not to learn the text. They read it in the morning and we rehearsed only a couple of times. Sometimes, I filmed and pretended it was a 'filmed rehearsal' so they would not be stressed and lose the freshness of their emotions.
Are you a cinephile?
I cannot say that I go to the cinema very often, just for the sake of going, but there are some authors I love and whose films I go and see without the shadow of a doubt.
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(Translated from French)
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