Something ‘un-French’ about this Frenchman

October 20th, 2011 - 10:19 am ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Oct 20 (IANS) Actor, writer and director Martin Provost, whose film “The Long Falling” is being screened at the Mumbai Film Festival, is not your typical Frenchman.

His heart beats for things ‘un-French-like’.

First of all, in a very uncharacteristic move, he denounced his fame as a theatre and film actor and plunged into direction.

“When I was young I wrote for theatre. Then acting happened but inside I knew I wanted to make movies and I was unhappy as an actor. One day I decided acting wasn’t my way and from that day I began to write a lot,” he says.

“After one novel was published, I was on my way. Then I made my first short film and then another and then feature films. When I tell you this, it seems easy but believe me it was not,” Martin adds.

Second, if there is one constant in his films, it has been women. But unlike the French fascination for beautiful women and skin show, he is interested in unconventional but strong women with a mind of their own. Invariably, these women are older.

“My mother was extremely talented but couldn’t express herself since she belonged to an era in France where girls had to get married and that was the end of their expression. So I have taken it upon myself to do what she couldn’t. Being her son, I have inherited the frustration of her generation,” he says.

In famous French actress Yolande Moreau, he seems to have found his ‘mother-figure’.

In his sleeper-hit, multiple Cesar Award winning film “Seraphine”, an accomplished painter chooses the anonymous life of a housemaid. In “The Long Falling”, an oppressed woman finally kills her husband and goes on the run.

Both these characters have been played with aplomb by Yolande Moreau.

Ask him if in Yolande he sees the image of his mother and he says candidly, “There is something there. She belongs to the same region in the north of France as me and she lives barely an hour from me. My mother and she are not exactly alike, but there is definitely something there.”

Third, this Frenchman despises the craving for intellect and fame.

” ‘Seraphine’ was unknown when I discovered her and that is the point. I wouldn’t have made a film on someone famous. I wanted to show that a woman had done her artistic creation without being known. And that was enough,” he says.

Even his next film, “Violette”, is about an important but little known French female writer.

“One of the most difficult things in the world is not to expect any kind of recognition and quietly go on doing your thing. It is this detachment that I was seeking to capture. Today, Frenchmen want their fame and fortune by any means,” Martin rues.

“I try to make simple films without trying to be unnecessarily intellectual. France today is suffering from too much intellectualism. These days they think if they are intelligent, they are superior to others. That is a big mistake,” he says.

There is a sage-like quality about him. In a world where materialism has become one and all, his is the kind of creation that will perhaps provide Europe with an antidote for afflictions they do not yet realize, especially fame and intellectualism.

In mind, matter and his creations, Martin defies French conventions. Never mind if at the festival here, “The Long Falling” was screened under the Rendezvous with French Cinema section.

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