MEETING WITH NICOLAS MAURY - CRASH Magazine
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Interview nicolas maury garçon chiffon

MEETING WITH NICOLAS MAURY

By Crash redaction

On the occasion of the theatrical release of the film, Garçon Chiffon by Nicolas Maury, discover our interview with the actor in Crash#92.

Garçon Chiffon [“Rag Boy”] is your first feature film as actor and director. Is it a project you have carried inside for a long time? It seems very autobiographical.

I’ve carried this film inside me since the moment I decided I would make movies, but I didn’t think I would be the one to make it. The Jeremy character is inspired directly by all the films I loved in the 1990s. Forget Me, Normal People Are Nothing Special with Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi, and the films of Nanni Moretti and Woody Allen. Those are three people who filmed themselves, too. It has always interested me a lot because I don’t think there is anything better than autobiographical fiction to reach as many people as possible. I’m one of those people who believe that the more infinitely precise and detailed you are – without necessarily only talking about what you’ve been through – the more you open a window on the world through stories that can speak to people in Korea, Japan or California. Because we are completely precise. The most personal films are the ones I like the most. I don’t really like the term “autobiographical”. I would be lying if I said there was nothing autobiographical in Garçon Chiffon, but it’s really a personal film. If I were making a film about a world conflict or a war, I think it would be the same thing: staging my perspective, my visions, of this conflict. It turns out that it’s not a subject that’s completely foreign to me, so you could say it’s a personal film. Jeremy is a kind of soldier. Where I come from, I had to fight long and hard to reach my dream. Even if only to get to Paris. Well, no one died, but it was a personal battle. Strangely enough, I’m not making this film for myself. I’m making it because it’s a film I would have liked to have seen when I was between eighteen and twenty-five years old. I’m also making it for a certain type of young person… For mothers, too, and that’s what’s most autobiographical. I think it’s beautiful to honor mothers, not just to look at them through the eyes of the son, but to try to give them their own story. We are very selfish in our relationship with mothers. She’s “my” mother, we say. (laughs) Sometimes mothers are much more oceanic than we think, and they were all young once, too. You realize that later on. I shot this film a year ago and it was the perfect time to do so. It comes out the year I turn forty.

When did you first start working on this project in earnest?

I started writing it in the summer of 2011. I had several problems with different producers until I got to Charles Gillibert. I was dreaming of that meeting, with someone who had a catalog of films all on my wavelength. I met Charles three years ago. He bought my film from other producers and we started this adventure. Since I’ve spent most of my time as an actor, I’ve only been concentrating on this film for the last three years. I give my all when I’m acting, I can’t do anything else.

2011 was just after your role on stage in Spring Awakening?

Yes. It’s funny you say that because I just had to check that actually. I remember it was at La Colline, maybe in 2009 or 2010.

I brought it up because the play features prominently in Garçon Chiffon.

Yes, that’s true and it’s an important point. Biographically, first of all. (laughs) Guillaume Vincent, a great friend and an absolutely brilliant theater director, had offered me the role of Moritz. What we see in the film is not really reality. I didn’t experience the misery that Jeremy goes through. But with the character of Moritz, for the first time, I found a role that I really dove into headfirst. Moritz is a twelve/thirteen-year-old boy who doesn’t feel quite like the others and has a good friend named Melchior. That summer, instead of checking out other girls, he realizes he loves Melchior but can’t tell him. So he decides to commit suicide. There is a sublime scene where he realizes that this world is not for him. It’s his swan song, he writes a letter and ends his life. It’s a childish tragedy, and that could be the subtitle of Garçon Chiffon. Moritz then comes back from the dead to go see his friend and explain that things aren’t so bad on the other side. It was a moment in my life that was very intense. Living with this role for many months made me realize that acting was my life. I reached out to the audience like never before with this role. In my film, Spring Awakening opens a reflection on suicide, a metaphorical suicide. Jeremy’s father commits suicide, but more importantly, Jeremy is very jealous and jealousy is a form of love suicide. Because it is a permanent worry which, like all fears, is contagious. Jeremy, this rag boy, is going to have to find a man’s solid grounding. He’s not going to have to kill the rag boy, he’s going to have to change his skin. It’s as if the roles are adjuncts, very tangible friends who could also point the way. Oftentimes actors – I don’t know if you notice it in interviews – talk about encounters. That word comes up a lot. In this case there is the encounter with the roles. I don’t like the idea of characters, I like the idea of setting an age, one’s own, through a role… a figure, an encounter, with life. That’s why Moritz and Spring Awakening are in the film.

In the scene where Jeremy rehearses his lines with Kevin by the pool, we start to feel the two stories intertwine and notice the parallel between your film and Spring Awakening.

Yes, obviously, it is a reflection on men. “Why are you looking at me so strangely?” You are right to point that out, since that scene is significant. Also the scene where he rehearses with his mother but can’t manage to recite it to the end. In a magical way, that very summer, precisely, this unexpected, indomitable Kevin, disturbing even for Jeremy because he has a strange place in relation to his mother, will rehearse with him. In every sense of the word. Those two characters who are playing two other characters, through a fictional story, will push Kevin to say something beautiful: “I would like to be carried away by love”. Jeremy realizes that this is something he hasn’t experienced either. The two men, at that moment in their lives, are so far away and so close. I found a certain charm in filming the scene by the pool with two beers and two buds, except they do not share the same type of masculinity. I think it was the right thing to do in 2020 to show these kinds of friendship which can give birth to a kind of love.

It’s interesting to see these different layers of masculinity together in the same film. Did it come from an urge to show men differently on screen?

I like many kinds of men and in the film I say I love them because I don’t understand them. I like not understanding things sometimes. You have to beware of those who say: you have to make a choice, either be a man like this or like that. There are men who sometimes don’t have a superego. (laughs) But it’s a little more mysterious than that, otherwise it would be too simplistic. The construction of a psyche, of a personality, whether it is masculine or feminine, is something very strange. I like to compare it to nature. I tell myself that a man is like a flower or a particular animal. I prefer to adopt an animal documentary maker’s viewpoint in my life. (laughs) In any case, for me as a filmmaker, my chosen land is filming men… but in the style of Nicolas Maury. Going out to meet and understand men in all their diversity. Some things bore me in film. There are certain types of roles that no longer seem possible to me today. With all the talk about feminism, equality, and things we shouldn’t even need to debate… On identity as well, which can also be left fairly blurry. These thoughts drive me and fascinate me. How can you not be passionate when you’re an actor yourself? I find that some actors kind of stop in their tracks. They don’t push their thoughts when it comes to their image. I’ve always found that women go further in thinking about their image:  they are smarter, more flexible, and more precise. More experimental, too. And as a result, the same goes for actresses. Of course, there will always be bad and boring actresses. (laughs)

It’s a paradox because there is also the cliché of the actress who obsessively controls every aspect of her image.

Read the full interview on Crash#92, available in our Crash store.

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Photographer: Lucas Christiansen

Stylist: Pauline Grosjean

Hair & Make-up: Louise Garnier

Photographer assistant: Andreas Strunz

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