A still from Jean-Marc Barr and Pascal Arnold's 'Chacun sa nuit'

Talking TIFF: Jean-Marc Barr

Jean-Marc Barr was only in town for one day to promote his new film, Chacun Sa Nuit, but he took the time out to talk to me before leaving for the airport. I'm glad he did, because he definitely succeeded in blowing my mind: that is one smart and astute man.

I had some prepared questions, but in the end, it made more sense just to have a discussion than a typical Q&A, since Barr was so eloquent and articulate. The interview was pretty long and there was so much said that I couldn't possibly transcribe it all, so here's a few highlights:

"Well, you know, there's a reason why we did this kind of film. We wanted to show a young generation, a bit like Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen, that is going through the schizophrenia of not having any youth. They have access to pornography quite young, they know about sexuality a bit more than maybe my generation at the same age. We wanted to make a movie set in the beautiful decor of Provence, in this sensual geography, that showed the love between brother and sister and the love between the group members and these two. This love was quite something natural and simple."

"That's what's maybe disturbing: our sexuality, in every culture, has always been controlled, they always try and control it through the church, government, or society. We wanted to show a young generation that had no complexes about it. We wanted to show it without exploiting it: every time you do see a nude scene or a sexual scene, they have a reason to exist in the story. For us, nudity is a costume. If you personally are offended by it, don't go see the movie, because a lot of people won't."

"I don't know about you, but I'm from America, and I'm watching my country become fascistic: I grew up in the sixties and seventies, I know about all the philosophies that have fed the United States in their identity. What's happening today, I am completely against, and the only way I can fight it without using an arm is doing these kind of pictures where all of a sudden people are faced with nudity and modern problems. And if it disturbs them, then they should asking questions of themselves instead of criticizing what they're seeing. I'm sick and tired of being told how to think and what to do, and this is the only way I can retaliate."

"Pascal (co-director Pascal Arnold) and I, we made an English-language trilogy five or six years ago that sold to twenty-six countries around the world, but never even got sold to Britain and the United States. And that for me, is an insult. So I told Pascal, we'll bring the same exoticism that we had in these English films, but we'll do it in French, in France, and we're going to show these bastards: if they imagine us to be completely without morals, let show them. This how things happen in France. And I think this picture will be shown in the United States, because they can watch it knowing it's not them."

"Toronto is a dream. I told the director Mr. Cowan last night that you don't know how import this is to me as an American that we have a film like this — a French film done by an American and a Frenchman with these kind of themes and this kind of time period — and that you've chosen it and you've responded to it the same way that we've responded to it. So that's important, because I think cinema is resistance, and this kind of film playing in the United States I know is going to affect some people, because they just don't get this information. They don't get the simplicity of that sexuality, they don't get the simplicity of that nudity, they always think about how it's being exploited."

"I'm forty-six years old and this is the first time we've had a blog on the film website. The big element that we do not control in all this process — we have the camera, we have the editing equipment, we have the contacts, we have the actors — is the distribution of what's going on. With that, you're a bit caught, because then anyone can't see it. So we're starting to investigate in all these mutations that are happening in distribution. In the future, we might have our own website for the company where we can show our film and sell our film, and even create our own subscribers. Festivals are going to be a thing of the past: why congregate everybody when they can do it on their own on the web? In the end, the critics have no more power."

"We're in a time period where people are trying to control our minds. We structured the story of this film for you to fill in the reasons behind the situations, and not us tell you. If you want an analogy from my own life, I jsut got back from San Diego, where I really am confronted by some family members and some close friends who are completely in agreement with what Bush is doing, and who are behind him. And for me, that's criminal. I still love these people, but I'm having a hard time, because for me they're criminals. We're living in a time — I don't know what it's like in Canada, Canada is much much cooler, you've got a great cultural mix — where the United States does not recognize fascism, and it's happening in the country. Europe had horrible events: we had two cataclysmic wars, so of course we're not going to let it happen again. But it's happening in America. Bush and his government is fascist. It's fascism: it's like the the last ten-fifteen years of the Soviet Empire. The same corruption, the same stupidity, the same propaganda. I mean, mostly the films that are made in the United States are pure fucking propaganda."

"I always imagine what it would have been like to live in Germany and hear the lies of Hitler, and accept it, and then have to deal with it afterwards. If we learn anything from that war, is that you follow your heart and you say what you think and if not you're going to be swept away with the flow."


Jean-Marc Barr was born in Bitburg, Germany. An accomplished screen actor, he has worked with several noted filmmakers, including Carole Laure, John Boorman, Luc Besson and, most frequently, Lars von Trier. He made his directorial debut in 1999 with a Dogme film entitled Lovers and has since co-directed four films with Pascal Arnold. Chacun sa nuit (co-director, 06) is his most recent film.

(Film Still: Unifrance)
(Director Bio: TIFFG)

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