At the press conference last Wednesday, April 10, with Catherine Breillat (France, 1948), Carlos R. Ríos, director of the D’A – Film Festival Barcelona, acknowledged Esteve Riambau, director of the Filmoteca de Catalunya, for the last twelve years of commitment to the D’A Focus. Once again this year, the Festival’s retrospective focuses on an exceptional director. If last year the explosive pairing was Joanna Hogg – Céline Sciamma (D’A Prize 2023), the names that have been most popular in this edition have been those of Alice Rohrwacher and Catherine Breillat, two very different filmmakers, but who converge in a total commitment to their work and creative freedom. One expresses it by seeking compassion, the other by exploring taboo. As Carlos R. Ríos reminded us, the D’A can boast of achieving real and committed parity. Breillat, who immediately took the floor and did not leave it until an hour or so later, took the opportunity to remember that, if she had been born a man, she would have made twice as many films. This assumption of hers did not prevent her from stating, emphatically and worriedly, that she loves men. A statement that she believes is completely absent, even persecuted, in current feminism. She calls this new wave of feminism “hysterical”, of “moral rigor” and “single thinking”, a metamorphosis of the censorship (political or simply moral), which she has fought against since the first film, A Real Young Girl (1976), when she experienced the marginalization and criticism of those she considered her companions in travel and struggle. “I can’t stand being given orders and I don’t have the duty to educate society, I consider myself, rather, an entomologist.” For this reason, she claimed animosity towards intimacy coordinators, a new figure in the industry who wants to safeguard, protect and offer a safe space to actors and actresses during the filming of sex scenes. “Freedom to explore desire is an everlasting battle; people who defend virtue always return by saying that they protect rights.” Breillat sees cinema as an art of incarnation, even “carnivorous and anthropophagous” and the actor is precisely the sacred vessel of that ritual. She recalled Bardot and Monroe while she blessed the eighteenth-century notion of acting as prostitution, “sacred prostitution,” she specified; “The actor also trades with his body.” Despite the epithets (such as “provocative”) that she is given, Catherine Breillat did not speak to journalists in an incendiary tone, much less frivolously. She looked sincerel worried. “If I could, I would live a second life to be able to help new generations.” She feels a deep affection for youth and is suspicious of gender and identity liberation movements: “We have to ask ourselves what we have done as a society to provoke these new problems in adolescents.”

Samuel Kircher, the young actor in Last Summer, which premiered last Tuesday at the Filmoteca, sent her a letter after filming. He told her that filming the movie had been like falling in love. “The actor must fall in love with the camera!” This is how Breillat conceives shootings: as a collective romance, as a dream. What’s more, it rejuvenates her and makes her forget her handicap, caused by the stroke she suffered thirty years ago. Vital and passionate, at seventy-five years old she invents and rehearses sex scenes to find the emotions she will want to capture: “It’s not easy to film, I’m still afraid of it, especially the sex scenes. But I have never censored myself. I violate myself to be able to film certain things.” A constant struggle to conquer one’s own freedom through fiction, which should never be confused with reality: “You have to film what is forbidden to counteract fanaticism.”


Autor

Marc Barceló Tost
Marc Barceló Tost

Cinematographic journalist for the Sant Sebastià Festival newspaper, he is a programming advisor for Un Impulso Colectivo - Short films, as well as a photographer, short film maker and artistic curator. He has trained at Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola and ESCAC.