What better way to unwind after an exhausting Saturday afternoon shopping at Century 21 (in Bay Ridge, of course, where untouched racks of Ted Baker and Ben Sherman shirts await) than listening to French public radio on podcast? Even better: One of my favorites shows—Kathleen Evin's usually sedate L'humeur vagabonde—ran into a highly entertaining glitch called Jeanne Balibar.
Balibar is a French actress with an immediately identifiable voice (not unlike that of Delphine Seyrig) and immediately identifiable intellectual aspirations (inherited perhaps from her philosophy professor of a father, Etienne Balibar, a disciple of Louis Althusser). She currently stars in Jacques Rivette's latest, Ne touchez pas la hache, a Balzac adaptation.
Evin, who liked the film, invited Rivette to discuss it; he took three weeks to decide that he didn't want to plug his flick on the radio, and so Balibar was dispatched on the promo front. Her segment would be prerecorded by one of Evin's producers then played on the air.
Balibar proceeded to show up late at the hotel room where the interview took place, wore dark glasses the entire time, and responded to questions not only grudgingly, but in a voice dripping with resentment and condescension. When the taped segment ended, Evin explained that it was all the journalist's fault: Balibar was cross because she had been prevented from smoking. But of course!
Here's a translation of some choice moments:
Asked if she had to be particularly precise when dealing with Balzac's text: "You must always be precise when you claim to give the public something artistic."
But how did she approach that particular text? "As usual, with the precision that is always mine, whether there are words or not. Burlesque and silence require as much precision as when there is language. I detest the beautiful, I only love the corrosive. What is beautiful is what Rivette and Balzac do: steel against steel."
How did she work with costar Guillaume Depardieu? "Guillaume and I are animals, wolves, vampires. Each of us howls to death when there's a full moon. That's why we made this movie together. I built the scenes around Guillaume, so you could see that magnificent soul. I literally did that: I built the language around him, the body around him, the movements around him. That's what I suggested to Rivette."
Evin, back in the studio: "We'll wish her a good vacation—I think she needs some rest."
And because I just can't get enough Balibarisms, here are a couple of excerpts from her first album (yes, la Balibar sings, too).
MP3 Jeanne Balibar "Johnny Guitar" from Paramour (2003)
MP3 Jeanne Balibar and Maggie Cheung "Hélas" from Paramour (2003)