Desplechin and star Mathieu Amalric discuss Ismael’s Ghosts, what they bring to each other, the bigger-than-life characters they create and play, and the secrets that they keep.
The latest film from Arnaud Desplechin, one of the most eccentric French directors working today, merrily goes in all directions. Mathieu Amalric plays Ismael, a film director about to embark on his next project when his former partner Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) suddenly reappears out of the blue. The woman had mysteriously vanished years ago, leaving Ismael confused and distressed, until his new partner, the calm and collected Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), saved him from total despair. Carlotta’s return triggers a series of flashbacks into the lives of each character: in an unpredictable whirlwind of revelations and quiet confessions, old wounds are reopened, while others are finally healed.
With Desplechin’s usual knack for wild storylines and fantastical flourishes, Ismael’s Ghosts is an often disorienting, thrilling experience. As part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Desplechin and star Amalric talked to Elena Lazic about what they bring to each other, the bigger-than-life characters they create and play, and the secrets that they keep.
7R: In many interviews, Mathieu [Amalric] said that you were the one who made him as an actor. What do you find so interesting about Mathieu?
Arnaud Desplechin (AD): That was very kind of Mathieu to say. But as time passes, now, I could say that Mathieu has invented me as a director. It’s true! I wouldn’t write in the same way if I hadn’t met that guy. Because the first film we made together, My Sex Life… or How I Got into an Argument, changed my life. With it, I realised that I could find actors able to act my lines out. My writing became freer after I met Mathieu. Today, I don’t know what belongs to Mathieu and what belongs to me anymore, and I think that’s a nice definition for friendship.
I met Mathieu at a casting session for My Sex Life, and Mathieu didn’t understand what was required. He was sure that it was a casting for him to be the first AD [Assistant Director] of the film, and that he was supposed to give the lines to the actresses, as we do during the casting process. So I whispered to Mathieu “actually, you are the one who’s being cast.” And so he started to become serious and deliver the lines as an actor.