Ten years after Abuse of Weakness, where she recounted what the crook Christophe Rocancourt had done to her, Catherine Breillat is back at the top of her art with Last Summer, a disturbing remake of the Danish film Queen of Hearts (2019), by May el-Toukhy, where a children’s rights lawyer (Léa Drucker) begins an affair with her 17-year-old stepson (Samuel Kircher).
“The President of the Republic was 15 years old when he met the woman who would become his wife, and who had authority over him since she was his teacher at the time. This is why we must not only make stupid laws, we must also look, and I think that case law will do this, at the context,” explains the director and novelist joined by videoconference at the New York Film Festival. York.
To make the original story even more complex, Catherine Breillat transformed the female character; she is no longer shown as a predator towards the boy and they both spontaneously take the initiative for the first kiss they exchange.
“They are irresistibly in love, it’s not just lust. At first they don’t know they’re going to sleep together, it’s a chaste attraction; They are good together and will get younger until they are the same age. I wanted to show this shift towards natural intimacy because it fascinates me. Cinema should not be simplistic, Manichean, rigorous. Still, he’s her stepson; we can say that it is incest on paper. »
If she illustrates female desire in Last Summer by drawing inspiration from a painting by Caravaggio, Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy, Catherine Breillat has often done it in a very frontal, even crude, way. By recruiting porn actor Rocco Siffredi for Romance (1999) and Anatomy of Hell (2014), she once again attracted the wrath of her many detractors who considered her scandalous.
“There’s nothing dirty about romance, even if it goes far. For me, it is of great purity and at the same time, of great despair. It’s a heroic quest for sexual identity, she firmly defends. We really have to ask ourselves why we are shocked. We all have a penis between our legs, we are sexual human beings; we must not forget one thing, that is my new theory, and that is that the human species owes its survival only to desire. But desire is taboo! »
As she prepares to receive an honorary Louve, Catherine Breillat, 75, sums up her entire career thus: “In my films, I have still stubbornly plowed the same furrow, that is- that is to say that my films follow the same line. It turns out that this furrow is the major subject of the half-century. I was hugely frowned upon and criticized for my first films. People said that I didn’t like men and that they weren’t like in my films. Now, I never invent anything so as not to be false, but that doesn’t mean that I hate men and judge them badly. After
Having explored female desire at all ages from one film to another, from A Real Young Girl (1976) to Last Summer (2023), Catherine Breillat has shaken the cage of patriarchy and explored the failings of this which she calls the “culture of the seductive macho”, conveyed in great novels and fairy tales, in order to change mentalities.
“In my films in general, whether in 36 Fillette or in Dirty Like an Angel, the macho hero falls in love, shows tenderness, helplessness, fragility and experiences a kind of redemption. I have the impression that men needed in the culture they were taught to be the strongest. It is important that the weakness appears. What is human is weakness. And it is a strength to be able to be weak, that is to say human. Men change little by little, but we must not ask them to change suddenly. It’s impossible. »