On the set of “The Truth”, Bardot’s meeting with the devil

By Samuel Blumenfeld

Posted today at 19:00, updated at 19:16

Shaggy hair, huge eyebrows of unusual thickness, arched back, Henri-Georges Clouzot counterbalances his disturbing allure with a salesman’s outfit: tweed suit worn in summer and winter, V-sweater under the jacket, white shirt with cufflinks, black tie. A psychopath who looks like a good guy. The greatest French director of the 1950s, with Jacques Becker and Robert Bresson, stands out for his intelligence and sensitivity. His sadism too, whether in private life or at work.

During the month of August 1959, the director of Wages of fear (1953) spent, as always, his holidays in his suite at the hotel La Colombe d’or, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence (Alpes-Maritimes), where he shared his art collection: African sculptures and Bahian trinkets. The filmmaker dreams of filming a life of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. He loves icons so much that he is about to stage Brigitte Bardot.

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The actress has long been invited into the brain of the director. Looking for a character who could suit him, he first thought of a trial, that of Pauline Dubuisson, in 1951, the only woman in France tried for the murder of her ex-boyfriend against whom the death penalty was required. But this woman, who, to use Clouzot’s words, “Did not look like his crime”, is an intellectual; his personality does not match that of Bardot.

The director then imagines a neighboring story, the trial of Dominique Marceau, a young attractive woman tried for the murder of her lover, Gilbert Tellier, a young talented conductor, promised to his sister. “Justice is not made to appreciate feelings, notes Clouzot. The character played by Brigitte Bardot once cheated on her lover. We only talk about this. She becomes a lost girl. What I want to show is that everyone is telling the truth, but it’s never the same. “ Who better than the scandalous actress to embody this expiatory victim? And what better than a passionate drama to demonstrate the impossibility of establishing a truth?

Oppressive breathing

From La Colombe d’or, the filmmaker goes to the Victorine studios in Nice, where the star is filming. Would you dance with me ?, by Michel Boisrond. When he hands her the long synopsis of The truth – a summary of its four thousand pages of preparatory work – the star reads it without delay. The filmmaker is playing big. At 51, he is convinced that “If we don’t live with young people, we die”.

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