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Interview: Benoît Jacquot, French director of ‘Farewell, My Queen’

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This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.

Benoît Jacquot is an accomplished French director. It has been almost 40 years since he started to make films for cinema and television. His filmography is very varied, alternating between large and small budget films. But one constancy is always there: women, as key characters in most of his movies.

He is here today to talk about his last movie, ‘Farewell, My Queen’, shown at the French Film Festival in March and April all around Australia. This fictional tale, adapted from a novel written by Chantal Thomas, tells, in its own way, of the days following the storming of the Bastille in France, from within the entourage of Marie-Antoinette.

Personal

Benoît, please describe yourself in three words.
Educated, grumpy, polite.

Apart from making films, what are you passionate about?
Nothing special. However directing is much more than just making a films, you know. For example, I read a lot, or, I should say, I have read a lot in my life and I have a very good memory.

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Who is your favourite French director? And actor?
Well, there are so many. For the filmmakers, I can think about Arnaud Dépléchin, Olivier Assayas, Xavier Beauvois or Cédric Klapish, who just gave me a role in his last movie, ‘Casse-tête chinois‘. Romain Duris, whom I really like, wanted me to play his father in the movie, so I did it!

Speaking about actors, I also like Fabrice Lucchini, Vincent Lindon and Benoît Magimel. Regarding actresses, the ones I’ve worked with several times are probably my favourites… Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Deneuve and Sandrine Kiberlain, and many more…

If you could make the movie of your dreams, what would it be about?
Actually I do it each time I make a movie! At my age, I don’t have any more dreams in particular. Of course I like some of my movies better than others, but it’s really personal.

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Farewell, My Queen

Where did the idea of ‘Farewell, My Queen’, adapted from a novel written by Chantal Thomas, come from? What particularly interested you in that story?
I appreciate the singularity of the point of view in the book. Choosing the point of view of a servant and following it from the beginning to the end, without leaving her once, is very intense. The dramatic aspect is reinforced by the distance between her and the Queen, who remains her unique focus.

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Your filmography is very varied but one thing always stands out: the woman as a key character. Is there a specific reason for that?
You said it yourself. Women are keys. They open doors towards the world.

You deliberately choose a foreign actress to play Marie-Antoinette. Why? What was the purpose?
I thought it was an interesting thing to do. Did you know the French of her time called her “Marie-Antoinette the foreigner”? And it’s true that she was a foreigner after all. She arrived one day and became a queen. We can actually see this very strange moment at the beginning of Sofia Coppola’s movie.

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Speaking about that, was Sofia Coppola’s version of ‘Marie-Antoinette’ a reference for your own film?
Not at all. I really loved her movie, and I found Kirsten Dunst really amazing, but I’m not comparing myself to that movie, which was very different to mine. I’m not embarrassed either because hers stopped where mine begins. Furthermore, her story is spread over 15 years but mine only last four days after the storming of Bastille. And I think Diane Kruger (who plays the Queen) is as good as Kirsten Dunst!

Do you already have new projects?
Yes, many. I’m going to shoot a second movie with Catherine Deneuve and maybe, for the first time, two movies at once with Marion Cotillard…

Thank you Benoît Jacquot for speaking with MaVieFrançaise®. It was great to hear more about you and your films.

If you would like to see ‘Farewell, My Queen’, but were unavailable during the French Film Festival, you’ll be pleased to hear that it will be released nationally on 6 June in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart. Keep an eye out for an exclusive MaVieFrançaise® ticket giveaway closer to the time!


Image credits:
1. Benoît Jacquot by Abaca Press.
2,3,4 and 5. Farewell, My Queen pictures, courtesy of Transmission Films.


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