How did this short film come into being?
I found out that Jean-Luc Godard, who'd been a friend since the late 1950s, was about to shoot a film in Italy with Brigitte Bardot. This association was extremely surprising as Jean-Luc represented the most visible part of the New Wave and the positions he adopted were very dogmatic. So I had the brainwave of chronicling the first day of the shoot, which I put to the French cultural department I was working with at the time, at the Foreign Office on the Quay d’Orsay. I called Jean-Luc, who accepted as long as Brigitte Bardot also agreed. In the meantime, a photographer friend told me that Bardot was being constantly pursued by photographers in the streets of Rome. I decided to make my film about this phenomenon.
How did Bardot respond to your presence?
I met her the evening I arrived in Rome, at a reception. I was rather overawed. I explained to her that I wanted to be a paparazzo for the paparazzi, and got her oral consent. It was easy to film around both Godard and Bardot. She had an ambiguous relationship with photographers. Legend has it that during the film, she went skinny-dipping. At the time, that was like gold dust for the paparazzi! Brigitte was hassled by this continual presence and yet at the same time, you got the feeling it was indispensable for her because she was a star. They came and hid behind the rocks. But when they got too much, she let fly.
How did you manage to melt into the background?
We were a tiny team. A German supplier had put together a tiny hand-held camera. We shot with 35 mm film, with the light camera and a sound recorder. Raoul Coutard, the DOP of Le Mépris (Contempt), was amazed that I could shoot synchronously, because that wasn't done at the time. On the shoot, there was also Fritz Lang, who appears in one scene in the film. So there I was, filming Godard, who was filming Lang, who was filming a modern version of the Odyssey!
You take Bardot and Godard's side, but also that of the paparazzi…
I wanted to make a film based on reality. I worked with the consent of Godard and Bardot, but also that of the paparazzi, who were staying in the same hotel as me. They were just photographers who had to earn a living. I was there at the start of the modern media frenzy. Even among them, there was a sort of tension. The word 'paparazzi' was still unknown in France. It had been invented by Federico Fellini, who had a photographer friend whose surname was Paparazzo, and so that was the name he had begun to give to those chasing the stars.