catherine breillat talks abuse of weakness moviescope

Catherine Breillat talks Abuse of Weakness – movieScope

Catherine Breillat talks Abuse of Weakness


Provocative French director Catherine Breillat’s preoccupation with the physical and female desire is explored wonderfully in Abuse of Weakness which is based on her experience of being swindled out of more than half a million Euros by conman Christophe Rocancourt after a stroke in 2004 which left her paralysed on her left side.

Though it is Breillat’s most autobiographical film to date she states it wasn’t a cathartic experience. “It’s from a distance, it’s art, it’s cinema. There are scenarios where there are a lot of me in them but people don’t know that. It is me and him somehow but it’s from a distance.” Isabelle Huppert and French rapper Kool Shen take on the lead roles of Maude and Vilko who act out the tempestuous, playful and twisted relationship based on that of Breillat and Rocancourt.

Rocancourt was convicted of the crime known as abuse of weakness in which someone takes advantage of a person in a diminished mental state. Though Breillat does like to make a definition between the characters in her film with that of her real life situation, it was important to get the right kind of physical presence from her leading actor, Kool Shen, “I wanted a body, intellectualism as well, but I wanted…not a beast, but the body was very important. And a body which was a destroyed body. I decided I needed a rapper. I don’t listen to rap so I went on the internet and I went for the first original rappers in France. I did quite a few tests, at first he wasn’t that great, there was this physical presence but his words sounded a bit too much like the suburban French. So he was more like a caricature of the original which was something I didn’t want. I gave him a very bourgeois, literary monologue to learn by heart. When he performed it it was marvellous so I decided to take him on.”

Breillat doesn’t generally like to cast professional actors in her films but she knew Isabelle Huppert would be capable of taking on the role of Maude despite their differences at the beginning of filming “We had a terrible fight. Afterwards I did apologise because I had tortured her. I know sometimes that I was wrong but that’s how I am. She did say she never suffered as much with another director. I knew she had worked with [Maurice] Pialat before and I knew that he had said that he had tortured her but she said I was much worse” she says with a beaming smile on her face. “With time she has become a more dominant actress and I knew that I had to dominate her.”

On speaking about how she felt on watching Abuse of Weakness and Huppert in that role Breillat said “It’s very moving. It does move me when I hear my sentences through her interpretation. I’m very sincere with what happened, but now I watch it as a movie. If I had known what it would appear like on screen maybe I would have cut some pieces, maybe I would have made him look like the guilty one.” •



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