Is your new show a way to celebrate your sixty-year career?
It is above all a tribute to my deceased friends: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Charles Gérard, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Lino Ventura, Annie Girardot, Charles Denner, Jacques Brel and Francis Lai… At 86 years old, I am the last of the Mohicans!
Does music play a central role in your filmography?
From A man and a woman, where the songs and the musical theme accompany the feelings of the characters, she plays one of the main roles. The marriage between music and images in dark rooms forms the most beautiful couple in the world! The music of a film speaks to the irrational and divine part that exists in each of us. Totally tolerant, she accepts all interpretations, allowing the viewer to take ownership of the story by experiencing inner emotions. Words speak more to our reason. But they must not become all-powerful in a film, at the risk of limiting the viewer’s imagination.
You have often compared your cinema and jazz. For what?
My films are largely imbued with jazz. As in jazz, they include imposed figures such as the scenario – the equivalent of the theme in music – and free figures, like certain scenes involving total improvisation. This music is my favorite medicine, because it cures me of my anxieties. It’s hard to listen to something crazier and more invigorating than an album by Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong! A wonderful welcoming land, jazz invites both variety and classical music. Bach in jazz is madness!
But it was cinema that fascinated you from a very young age…
He saved my life! As a child, during the Second World War, my mother hid me in dark rooms, the only places where I remained calm. The seventh art was therefore my first nurse! I said to myself: “The people on this screen are the same as the passers-by in the street, but more courageous, more beautiful, funnier. They are the ones I want to hang out with!” Cinema recreates the world, only better. Through this art, I knew what I wanted to live for.
Can he still carry hope for a better world?
Of course. Artists from all over the world help relieve our little miseries. With a film, a song, a book or even a painting, it is possible to make people dream. It is addictive and without any danger to your health. Because you don’t die from an overdose of dreams…
Do you have a penchant for happy endings?
I don’t have a preference for films that end well or badly. But I love the ones where there is hope (smile). A film is an open door to hope. This is why every fiction should end with an ellipsis.
Have you passed this vision of life on to your children and grandchildren?
They, like me, have a taste for adventure and waterfalls. Because I’m a stuntman. I have always produced my own films by taking risks. I found in this freedom the joy of achieving. My goal has always been to make “industry films” that are respectful of the public. In other words, popular films that take viewers to recess, then bring them into the classroom from time to time to tackle serious themes. I have the feeling that I have only made one film in 51 episodes, which would be the painting of a great human comedy. With Eventually, that I just finished, I’m coming full circle.
Do you still want to talk to us about love? Is there a more important subject than love?
All the effort we put into life is aimed at loving or being loved, whether as a couple, in family or in friendship. The rest are consolation prizes. A romantic encounter in a lifetime represents a true miracle. And I confirm to you that love has no age! From my mother to Valérie (Claude Lelouch married last spring with the novelist Valérie Perrin, with whom he has lived for almost twenty years, Editor’s note), all the women in my life have made me grow and move forward. The question I never stopped asking in my films is: how do I make love stories last? Because crazy love wears out quickly. When a relationship lasts thirty or forty years, we witness a transformation: this love becomes a deep friendship. And it’s not bad at all…
You often say that you feel like you’re still 18 years old…
Francis Carco, poet and lyricist, wrote: “Growing old is nothing. What is terrible is remaining young and not seeing it.” Yes, I stopped at that age. I never cease to marvel at everything, like a young man. I am interested in everything that works and succeeds. For me, “yes” has always been stronger than “no”.
Do you think a movie will save the world from chaos?
I never stopped thinking that one day, a film would be so beautiful, successful, generous, compassionate, that it would manage to change the world. It could be a narrative as strong and embodied as the Bible or the Torah. I believe in cinema like others believe in God.
You are of Jewish tradition through your father, Catholic through your mother…
Out of love, my mother converted to Judaism, which did not prevent her from continuing to go to church regularly. I was raised in both traditions which, for the child that I was, expressed the same thing using two different languages. Religious traditions interest me because they have the power to bring human beings together and develop the same basic scenario: that of love. Religions speak to us of true generosity and offer refuge to those who are in trouble. This is why they are all respectable. What changes is the staging!
Do you believe in God?
If I ended up believing in God completely, it is because in one lifetime, I witnessed the expression of multiple forms of goodness and miracles. Meeting Valérie, the woman of my life, is one of them! God is the Great Boss of dreams. We artists convey visions of the divine in our works, but in a hidden form. Because, you know, the Big Boss must remain discreet…