The years go by but her beauty remains eternal. At the age of 56, Carole Bouquet can be proud of having worked with the greatest: Luis Buñuel, Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Schroeter have all had the good fortune to direct her. In 1990, she carried off the César for Best Actress for Bertrand Blier's film Too Beautiful for You (Trop Belle Pour Toi). Her career has also taken her to Cannes, where she has come to present five films and assumed the role of mistress of ceremonies in 1995. An interview with a woman who loves film.
What is your memory of your first role, in Luis Buñuel's film That Obscure Object of Desire (Cet obscur objet du désir)?
I remember it as an extraordinary experience. On the one hand, I recollect feeling this immense black chasm because I was terrified. It was my first film and I was still learning my craft. I was petrified. On the other hand, I knew I was working with one of the greatest masters of cinema, and he had given me the leading role!
At what point do you think we can say that an actress has reached artistic maturity?
When there is no longer any doubt that she loves being on set. It all depends on her personality, but that can happen very quickly. For me, it took a few years. Once I started to feel less stage fright, I felt I was becoming a mature artist. My acting was better because I was relieved of my physical suffering. In this business, it’s when you start to have fun that everything becomes marvellous.
Who was the director who saw you emerge as the actress you have become?
For me, it started with Werner Shroeter's Day of the Idiots (Tag der Idioten) (1981), that was screened in Competition in Cannes. During the film shoot, I started to see in the technicians' eyes that they were aware of what I wanted to do. That was a sign that everything was working and I felt reassured. Then, the shooting of the film that I enjoyed the most was Bertrand Blier's Too Beautiful for You (Trop Belle Pour Toi) (1989). Every day was pure joy! I had a sense of complete freedom.
Film can be a refuge for the spectator. Is it also that for you?
Yes for sure. Film talks about the world and that is what I find so enchanting. At the same time, it navigates in a bubble outside the world because this is the best way for it to tell us about the world. To sum up, as actors, we live in an imaginary world that evokes reality. Whatever the plot, we must never forget that we are there to make a film.
Do you feel protected in this world?
I feel very protected on a film set. That wasn't so true at the outset of my career, but now it is incredibly true. On a theatre stage as well. Which might not be all that reasonable!
Carole Bouquet © ABACA
Is there a character you have played who still haunts you?
No, because for me, these characters are just passing through. Some are gentler than others, more joyful than others, but none of them tortures me when it's over.
What role did the time you spent in New York play in your progress, in particular when you were associating with artists like Andy Warhol?
This period had a really important impact on my life as a woman. At that time, in New York there was complete freedom. I was surrounded by people who were immensely productive artistically. I was already very privileged even though I was only twenty. On the other hand, I don't know if this period influenced my acting. In any case, it opened my eyes to how important it was for me to pursue my career in France. Not being American, I would only have had decorative roles. At that time I still had to learn my craft. I had to conquer my fears and for that, I needed to work in my mother tongue. So I came back after a year - a year of partying!
What is the purpose of cinema, in your opinion?
For me, cinema is like a keyhole through which we can find out what is happening in the world. I grew up and discovered life through film. Films also have to get people engaged and the films we are going to see are, in my opinion, very engaged. For me cinema remains an art.
Your career has taken you to the peak of French cinema. What do you feel you still have to accomplish?
So many things. I have the impression of not having done anything. I don't feel this fear anymore, that I felt as a young actress starting out. But I have not lost her sense of wonder, or the way I looked at things as young woman. I am still full of wonder.
Interviewed by Benoit Pavan