“As soon as you film someone it accelerates the deterioration of love.”
On the late October morning that I interviewed French actor-director Mathieu Amalric his IMDB profile cited 106 movies. I expect by the time this interview is published the number will rise. Amalric is everywhere—and everywhere expands to make more room for him. Over the last twenty years, viewers have seen his nervous but alluring energy in six films by Arnaud Desplechin—one of the leading French auteurs of our era—and in movies by a literal who’s who of contemporary French directors, including his regular collaborators the Larrieu brothers, and the late, great Alain Resnais. He has turned up as James Bond’s nemesis in Quantum of Solace, a lunatic in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, and an insufferable theater director in Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur. He is possibly the only man alive to have worked with both Raul Ruiz and Steven Spielberg. Not to mention Julian Schnabel and Eugène Green.
Amalric, to borrow his own word, was “invented” as an actor by Arnaud Desplechin—whom he met in the early ’90s. Desplechin cast him in a small part in his first feature, The Sentinel, and then cast him again as the lead of the cinematic milestone, My Sex Life…or How I Got Into an Argument.
It is difficult to make generalizations about Amalric’s films as a director. Of his five features, he has only acted in the last two, which seem like polar opposites. On Tour follows a troupe of American burlesque dancers, and their washed-up manager (played by Amalric), across France. The movie feels sprawling, open to distractions and digressions, messy, and generous like the dancers who are at its center. The Blue Room is as concise as concise gets: this 76-minute adaptation of a George Simenon novel moves back and forth in time, but takes no detours in dealing with its cold facts of adultery and murder. Perhaps the difference between the two films comes down to their protagonists: the manager in On Tour has nowhere to go but up—while the adulterous husband in The Blue Room has everything to lose. Many of Amalric’s defining roles have featured men staring into the abyss of failure. That he has managed to capture the frustrations and fears of his generation while remaining utterly charming makes him a great movie star.[ Read More ]