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What did you do in the war?: Mathieu Kassovitz in A Self Made Hero

Lie of the land

World War II and the Occupation are still touchy subjects for the French, so director JACQUES AUDIARD is doubly brave for treating his hero of the Resistance as a Billy Liar/Walter Mitty type. Words: Trevor Johnston

He’s done pretty well for someone who considers himself ‘a writer who makes films. rather than a director in the strictest sense‘. llaying plied his trade as a screenwriter for a decade-and-a-half. Jacques Audiard now finds himself taking centre-stage with his second feature A .S'ulf-flIm/c Hr‘m. a brilliant. darkly comic look at a stalwart of the French Resistance who was actually anything but.

llcre Matthieu Kassoyit/ (director of La Ila/mu who runs his acting career as a bit of a sideline) is compelling in the central role of Albert Dehousse. He‘s a callow youth who gets the habit of telling porky-pies early on and doesn't look back until he‘s become a bigwig in the post-World War ll French military. haying conyinccd all and sundry of the glory of his non-existent exploits under the Occupation.

For the French. it's still a sensitiye area of the past. but it’s not just the subject matter that makes the film so striking. but also Audiard‘s playful way with the central narratiye. bracketing it with ‘real—life' testimonies and a powerful score by .»\le.\andrc Desplat played before our very eyes. It may sound cluttered. perhaps pretentious eyen. but the effect is worth sayouring for its unique combination of wry comedy. historical insight. metaphorical richness and the sense of scale it brings to events that might easily have seemed too inward-looking. In short. another

’You have an actor who considers himself mainly a director, and a director who thinks of himself as primarily a writer. An odd combination maybe.’ Jacques Autliard

remarkable piece from a new French filmmaker. Where do they keep getting 'em from'.’

‘I thought I was making a quintessentially French moyie.' reflects Audiard. a gregarious and knowledgeable indiyidual whose love of his craft is readily apparent despite the close-cropped hair and RayBans that make him look like a minor yillain in a TV cop show. ‘But the response of the foreign press at (‘annes last year was so encouraging. the film sold in lots of territories I would never have expected.

"l‘he thing about this period is that when it has appeared on film before. it‘s always turned into a polemic. eyen Louis Malle in [.umm/n'. Lucien. As a baby-boomer myself. I have no nostalgia for that time. so the film really has other ambitions. There are different ways in. You can read it as a paradigm for all cinema. ()r as a fable about the media. It‘s a historical film. of course. and it has many dramatic elements. but at its heart I still think of it as a comedy.‘

Audiard had already worked with Kassoyitz on his directorial debut made before A .8‘cl/Alluz/t' Hem the left—field road moyie Regan/v Les Hummus 'Ibmbcr (also due for a limited British release later in the spring and not to be missed either). Audiard found himself coming round to casting the actor—director on this one too.

‘When we were writing the script. I neyer saw him as Albert Dehousse.‘ he recalls with an ironic smile. ‘but he has this mixture of post- adolescent fragility and underlying malice to him that you just can't ignore. The great thing about working with him is that he neyer feels he has anything to proye as an actor. because in reality he’s there on set trying to pick things up to use in his own films. and that seems to take a lot of weight off him. So you haye an actor who considers himself mainly a director. and a director who thinks of himself as primarily a writer. An odd combination maybe. but it worked for us.'

Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 4 Apr; Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 11 Apr. See review.

preview FILM Rough Cuts

The column that peeks behind the silver screen.

THE TRAINSPOTTING TEAM of director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald and Oscar- nominated writer John Hodge have bought the film rights to hot new novel The Beach by Alex Garland. A contemporary tale of 905 hippies on a drug-laced, spiritual quest of Southeast Asia, the book will be adapted by Hodge for the trio's independent Figment Films production company before seeking major studio backing. It's too early for cast suggestions, but Macdonald was spotted a couple of weeks ago talking to Matt Dillon in trendy London media club Soho House.

LUC BESSON'S LATEST, the science- fiction adventure The Fifth Element is due to open this year's Cannes Film Festival in May. The film, starring Bruce Willis, was shot on a very private closed set in England late last year. Besson grabbed the Cannes first night slot back in 1988 with The Big Blue, but inclusion in this year’s official competition is being seen as a much higher profile affair, as the world's most eagerly watched festival reaches the grand old age of 50. All previous Palme D'Or winners and Best Actors and Actresses have been invited back to the French resort, and The List will also be there to report on proceedings.

GLASGOW FILM AND VIDEO WORKSHOP celebrates the launch of its new digital facilities with a series of activities between 7—11 April. Thanks to a capital grant from the National Lottery and the European Regional Development Fund, GFVW has extended its equipment to include Sony and Panasonic mini digital camcorder, an AVID non- linear system, a DVCpro Broadcast standard camcorder, duplication facilities and other pieces which bring the workshop up to the technological standard generally in use within the film and television industries. The launch week will include short training workshops on AVID editing, three machine editing, digital cameras and lighting, as well as masterclasses from established filmmakers and a screening of Pedro Sena Nunes’s documentary about the city of Glasgow, Fragments Between Time And Angels. For further information, contact GFVW on 0141 553 2620.

Bruce Willis: getting all futuristic in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element at Cannes

44 7 Apr 1997 THE usr 21