The ghosts of Ishmael – Arnaud Desplechin: “At night, I still dream about it”

The Ghosts of Ishmael where Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg vie for Mathieu Amalric, was released on DVD in a long new version. Interview.

The Ghosts of Ishmael, where Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg are fighting over Mathieu Amalric, will be broadcast this Sunday for the first time in clear on France 2, in the second half of the evening (meet at 22:55). In March 2018, the film was released on DVD in a new long version, and on this occasion, Première was able to ask a few questions to its director, Arnaud Desplechin.

There are two versions of your film but the video edition only offers one, why?

Indeed, there remains only the long version known as mental, that which leaves in a few days in the United States (March 23). It best fits the vision I have of my film. At the Cannes Film Festival, a sentimental version, shorter by 20 minutes, was proposed. The story was then centered on the love trio formed by Marion Cotillard-Charlotte Gainsbourg and Mathieu Amalric, leaving certain other aspects of the story less legible. This arrangement has been used in French multiplexes. The film was less than two hours long and offered more screenings. The reason is therefore very prosaic.

What’s left of a movie almost a year after its release?

He is still very much alive. At night, I still dream about it. I have a tormented report with my films and even if it is known that I do not see them again once finished, I can quote the smallest sequence to you from memory. For a film to chase the other out of my mind, I have to be shooting. A new film may come in friendship or in opposition to the previous one. The ghosts of Ishmael was coming after Three memories of my youth, interpreted by strangers around a first love. The opposite of Ghosts which is the story of a last love between Charlotte (Gainsbourg) and Mathieu (Amalric). In the middle is Marion, who returns after years of absence.

Les Fantôme d’Ismaël: Arnaud Desplechin splits

The ghosts of Ishmael is worn by two actresses. It’s your most feminine movie after Esther Kahn

Ester Kahn was a self-portrait of me disguised as a girl! All characters froms Ghosts – men and women – also look like me in their own way. Marion Cotillard in the film is life, insolence of life, Charlotte Gainsbourg, it is stagnation, Mathieu Amalric, it is the fear of being crazy … In making this film, there was true, a very strong desire to confront me with female characters and in addition to two “stars” to embody them.

Marion Cotillard is the real ghost of the film. He is not, however, a dead being …

I wanted, in fact, that Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) be a lively character who expresses the pure joy of being alive. She is a ghost and yet she dances, she eats, she smells bad … There is something primitive. Marion plays this state perfectly well and yet, as an international star, she has a mythical aura. What is fascinating is that this status does not clutter it more than that. Marion makes a myth and once she’s fed up, she makes another. She goes from Dardenne to Lady macbeth then to Rock’n Roll. For The ghosts, a certain naturalness had to emerge as evidenced by the dance sequence on the song by Bob Dylan. There is something simple in the way he moves, to show that his character is there, happy to be in the world. She doesn’t try to be Rita Hayworth in Gilda.

Was the ghost idea present from the start?

Yes. There’s a Norman Mailer spy novel that I really like, Harlolt and his ghost. I love this title and what it suggests. Ismaël is beset by all kinds of things: his ex-wife who reappears, his return to Roubaix, this film about his brother that must be finished … In Nosferatu from Murnau, it is written: “And when he had crossed the bridge, the ghosts came to meet him. “Cinema is the art of the silhouette, the shadow on the screen … The image of memories. And this Carlotta precisely, is it a ghost or a memory? The spectator must accept this presence as it is offered to him, charged with all its mysteries.

Marion Cotillard returns from the dead in the trailer for Ghosts of Ishmael

Carlotta is a name that directly evokes the character of Kim Novak from Cold sweat of Hitchcock. Why such an obvious reference?

I like names that click. I don’t believe in everyday life. Carlotta, this immediately creates a poetic dimension. I’m afraid of clichés, I want surprises, collections of exceptional moments. When a sequence must express something of everyday life, such as when Charlotte and Marion argue about Mathieu, I exacerbate the moment to go beyond the cliché. So far in the film, Marion’s play has been fairly smooth and calm. In this scene, she rebels against herself. The actress surprises herself and takes her character elsewhere. She thus finds another form of truth.

The film uses a very expressionist light in places, on the edge of the fantastic …

I prefer to speak of an enchanted light. In the sequence where Charlotte leaning against a tree in front of Noirmoutier and Mathieu’s house talk about their respective feelings, we used a red filter (gelatin called “Storaro” from the name of the legendary Italian cinematographer) which gives a strange, almost supernatural. In this natural setting, this creates a contrast. You suddenly have the impression of an enchantment, of an exceptional moment. At this very moment, both of them told each other the truth.

In the film, Ismaël surprisingly comments on a painting by Jackson Pollock. His reflection strangely echoes all of your work and your troubled relationship to reality …

He said in effect to his producer: “Pollock, he was a figurative painter! He makes figures from compressed images. “This is the very definition of film, even my cinema, I take bits of fiction and I compress them. In The ghosts, it was necessary to hold together a spy film, a love story, a ghost, the shooting of a film in the film … Things are jostling.

Trailer :

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