Update on our Montcalm

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Posted by Sarah M. on August 03, 1999 at 21:29:06:

The Sunday New York Times had a big article on Patrice Chereau, including a mighty cute picture. It turns out (many of you may have known this but I'm still, after only 14 months with LOTM, in exploratory spunging mode), an opera, theatre and movie DIRECTOR! Here's an excerpt from that article, and an attachment to the picture (and NO, they did not mention his role as Montcalm in that all-important movie, LOTM).

"Arts and Leisure Desk; Section 2
Finding a Metaphor for Life in a Trip to a Funeral

The New York Times
Page 7, Column 1
c. 1999 New York Times Company

PART enfant terrible and part national treasure, Patrice Chereau has built a formidable reputation in France, with three decades of groundbreaking work in theater, opera and, increasingly, film. His latest movie, ''Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train,'' had just had its premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival last year when Mr. Chereau went out to buy a book in Paris.

''The clerk asked what my plans were,'' Mr. Chereau recalls. ''I told her I was preparing another film. 'No more theater?' she said. 'What a pity.' Well, her comment ruined my day.''

That momentary disappointment is unlikely to stop Mr. Chereau , who has a long habit of confounding expectations. His iconoclastic interpretation of Wagner's ''Ring'' cycle [which I remember reading about and was incredulous-SFM], set at the dawn of the industrial era rather than in a remote Teutonic past, was greeted with howls when it opened at the Bayreuth Festival in 1976; now it is hailed as a landmark production. The Theatre des Amandiers, an experimental theater lab and drama school he ran for much of the following decade, made the Parisian suburb of Nanterre an international destination.


Now, at 53, Mr. Chereau has decided to devote himself to film, a medium in which he still feels like a beginner, even with seven titles to his credit. These include ''L'Homme Blesse'' (''The Wounded Man,'' 1983), about an adolescent's homosexual awakening in the sordid underbelly of a provincial train station, and ''Queen Margot,'' a lavish 1994 production, starring Isabelle Adjani and based on the Alexandre Dumas novel about a 16th-century French royal family, a story rife with incest, deception, massacres and poisonings.


What's it like to work with Mr. Chereau ? ''He's a pusher, he takes you places where you wouldn't normally go,'' said the actor Vincent Perez. In ''Those Who Love Me,'' Mr. Perez plays Viviane, a transsexual, a role that is a radical departure for a young French star more often cast as the dashing lead in historical romances like ''Cyrano'' and ''Queen Margot.''

But Mr. Chereau -- who has played Napoleon (in Youssef Chahine's ''Adieu, Bonaparte''), the French revolutionary Camille Desmoulins (in Andrzej Wajda's ''Danton'') and the legendary Resistance leader Jean Moulin (in Claude Berri's new wartime drama, ''Lucie Aubrac,'' which opens Aug. 20) -- doesn't see himself as a commanding presence.

''When I arrive in the morning,'' Mr. Chereau said, ''I look at the set, I listen to the actors, and I know immediately what I don't want. But I don't necessarily know what I want. When you're young, you have a certain vision that you want to impose. I've learned to search for something unexpected, and closer to life.''

Years of work in opera have helped to shape his sense of cinematic rhythm. ''Film is an entirely musical experience,'' he said. ''In editing, you count time, you establish a partition and different rhythms.''


''I'm always moving toward the things I don't know how to do,'' Mr. Chereau said. ''I like the fact that in [directing] film I have the feeling that my major work is still before me.''

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