Thursday, July 17, 2014

L'Homme qu'on aimait trop / In the Name of My Daughter

Adèle Haenet, Guillaume Canet, Catherine Deneuve. Click to enlarge the images.
French Riviera [The English title at the Unifrance site]. FR 2014.
Directed by André Téchiné
Produced by Fidélité Films
Genres : Fiction - Runtime : 1 h 56 min
French release : 16/07/2014
Production year : 2013
    Production and distribution:
Associate production company : Fidélité Films
Co-production : Mars films, Caneo Films
Film export/Foreign Sales : Elle Driver
French distribution : Mars Distribution
Executive Producers : Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Assistant Director : Michel Nasri
Authors of original work : Renée Le Roux, Jean-Charles Le Roux: Une femme face à la mafia (1989)
Line Producer : Christine de Jekel
Screenwriters : André Téchiné, Cédric Anger, Jean-Charles Leroux
Director of Photography : Julien Hirsch
Sound Recordists : Brigitte Taillandier, Francis Wargnier, Boris Chapelle, Damien Lazzerini, Cyril Holtz
Production Manager : Bruno Bernard
Press Attaché (film) : André-Paul Ricci
Editor : Hervé de Luze
Continuity supervisor : Claudine Taulère
Production Designer : Olivier Radot
Music Composer : Benjamin Biolay
Costume Designer : Pascaline Chavanne
Catherine Deneuve : Renée Le Roux
Guillaume Canet : Maurice Agnelet
Adèle Haenel : Agnès Le Roux
Pierre Michiels : servant of Ms. Le Roux
Jean Vincentelli : Robert Prudhomme
Even Zakine : Guillaume Agnelet (enfant)
Judith Chemla : Françoise Lausseure
Runtime : 1 h 56 min
Visa number : 136.552
Color type : Color
Aspect ratio : scope
Sound format : Dolby 5.1
    [Franz Schubert: D 279, Piano Sonata (No. 2) in C Major (1815, unfinished – first three movements are extant; the Allegretto in C Major, D 346 fragment is probably the fourth movement)] [tbc]
    2K DCP viewed at La Pagode (57 bis, rue de Babylone, Paris 7), 17 July 2014

Synopsis: "1976. When her marriage falls apart, Agnès Le Roux moves back to the South of France from Africa to live with her mother, Renée, owner of the Palais de La Mediterranee casino in Nice. There, Agnès falls in love with Maurice Agnelet, a lawyer and Renée’s business advisor, who is ten years her senior. Maurice continues to have relationships with other women. Agnès is madly in love with him. As a shareholder in the Palais de la Mediterannee casino, Agnès decides to sell what should have been her inheritance to go it alone. A fixed card game threatens the casino’s financial stability. Someone is trying to intimidate her mother. Behind the scenes hangs the shadow of the mafia and Fratoni, the owner of a rival casino, who wants to take over the Palais de la Mediterannee. Agnelet, who has fallen from grace with Renée, introduces Agnès to Fratoni. Fratoni offers her 3 million francs to vote against her mother in the shareholder’s meeting. Agnès accepts the offer. Renée loses control of the casino. Agnes finds it hard to cope with her betrayal. Maurice also distances himself from her. In November 1977, after a failed suicide attempt, Agnès disappears. Her body is never found. Thirty years on, Maurice Agnelet remains the prime suspect in a murder case with no body and no proof of his guilt. Convinced of his involvement, Renée is prepared to fight to the bitter end to see him put behind bars..." (L'Homme qu'on aimait trop pressbook)

AA: L'Affaire Le Roux is one of the most haunting criminal cases in France since 1977, still topical. In the end credits of L'Homme qu'on aimait trop there is a résumé of the latest turns of the case - from April 2014.

André Téchiné has made a bold decision to film such a true, controversial and topical story, but it has been done before, for instance by Barbet Schroeder in Reversal of Fortune. Téchiné's film remains impartial in the question to Maurice Agnelet's guilt of murder.

From this material one could make be an exciting policier, a bloody mafia thriller, a casino suspense story, or a courtroom drama, and Téchiné's film is a bit of all of that, but mostly is a psychological study.

The formidable Nice casino empress Renée Le Roux is played eminently by Catherine Deneuve in her seventh performance in an André Téchiné film, again different from the previous ones.

Her vulnerable daughter Agnès is interpreted with raw nerve by the new hot young talent Adèle Haenet whom I saw a month ago in Sodankylä Film Festival in her breakthrough role as Suzanne's sister in Suzanne.

Some might see these charismatic women stealing the show and leaving in their shadow Guillaume Canet as the mysterious lawyer Maurice Agnelet. But it is in the nature of the character of Maurice that he is a cool operator, never flamboyant, always in control. From subtle nuances in his eyes and slight changes of expressions on his face one may try to decipher what is going on behind the icy facade of the master seducer. None of that is proof of his being a murderer, though.

In the heart of the film is the pain and suffering of Agnès, who has been unloved by her mother, and is now easy pray for the snake-like Maurice who exploits her self-destructive and suicidal tendencies callously.

More than the loss of her casino in the mafia wars of Nice the disappearance of Agnès is the decisive turning-point for Renée who launches an untiring legal campaign against Maurice and the mafia. She turns into a mother tigress after all. It is too late for Agnès now, but not too late for those who exploit and harass defenseless ones.

Further aspects of interest:
- Swimming is the most characteristic activity of Agnès, and Maurice is usually there watching her.
- Questions of national identity are essential for Téchiné: here a focus is on the African experience of Agnès.
- Maurice is always recording his phone calls, including the suicidal monologues of Agnès.
- The confession of the family chauffeur: from what you overhear from the back seat you can get an insight to what people really are.
- All Maurice's women have been suicidal.
- Maurice's nightmare 30 years later.

The visual focus is on the three main characters, and the authentic and magnificent Nice locations are impressively used to give the film a fully-formed sense of place and atmosphere. There have been many casino and gambling stories in the history of the cinema, and L'Homme qu'on aimait trop copies none of them.

The restrictions and limitations of digital have been avoided in the cinematography. Only in some nature footage those limitations are fleetingly evident.

André Téchiné interview (L'Homme qu'on aimait trop pressbook):

The film started out as a commission. What did they want you to do? Originally, the idea was for me to make a loose adaptation of Renée Le Roux’s memoirs, Une femme face à la mafia (lit: A woman up against the Mafia) written by her son Jean-Charles. From the outset, I knew that I wanted Catherine Deneuve to play the part of Renée Le Roux. The book tells the story of the casino wars on the French Riviera between the 1970’s – 1980’s, from the protagonist’s point of view. It includes the account of the take-over of Madame Le Roux’s Palais de le Mediterranee casino by Jean-Dominique Fratoni, with the support of Jacques Medecin, the then mayor of Nice.

What interested you about this story? I focussed my attention on the relationship between Renée Le Roux, her daughter Agnes, and Maurice Agnelet: the iron-fisted mother, the rebellious daughter and Agnelet’s desire for recognition by society. It was Agnes that I was most interested in. I wanted to paint her portrait. I agreed to make the film after reading the letters that Agnes had written to Agnelet because, quite unexpectedly, I found a surprising resemblance with another female character that I had long wanted to bring to the screen, Julie de Lespinasse. There are many parallels between the passionate love letters of this 18th century woman of letters and Agnes – heir to the Palais de la Mediterranee’s – letters. For example: “I love you how you must be loved, with excess, madness, ardour and despair.”

You turned the story of the casino wars into a story of psychological confrontation that takes on a myth-like status. This is a war film. But on a human level. I was determined not to remove the events that drive the plot. I wanted to show the process of a takeover of power, the methods used to bring down a casino, the workings of a business in this very shady environment with all the elements of cruelty and servitude. I wanted to follow through on all the events that really happened until the downfall, until defeat. This war-like aspect structures the narrative.

How did you write the screenplay? I started out writing the screenplay with Jean-Charles Le Roux, who had all the facts to hand. We wrote a treatment, outlining a detailed sequence of events to give the film a clear structure. Jean-Charles Le Roux was involved alongside his mother in the struggle to get Maurice Agnelet convicted. He was convinced that Agnelet had murdered Agnes. I made it clear to Le Roux that I was not going to make a film that incriminated Agnelet. This remained a very sensitive issue during our time spent working together. Then I worked with the filmmaker Cedric Anger on a second version of the film to help flesh out the scenes.

Did you change any of the facts in order to strengthen the dramatic impact the film might have? We tried to simplify the plot, notably by removing the characters of Agnes’s brothers and sisters as well as Agnelet’s son’s two brothers (there was not enough time to explore them all). We did this to reinforce the three main characters of the plot and create a central ‘triangle’ of relationships. As to the order in which the events take place, we only allowed ourselves one change: in real life, the closure of the casino and the subsequent occupation by the staff took place later on. Dramatically speaking, I felt that it was more important to tell the story of the “fall” of the Palais de la Mediterranee casino in the same time frame as Agnes’s disappearance.

You also had to decide up to which point you were going to tell the story, beyond Agnes Le Roux’s disappearance in November 1977. For a long time, it wasn’t my intention to dramatize the court case. I harboured bad memories about films where the action takes place in courtrooms. The first time I was truly bored at the cinema was when I went to see Andre Cayette’s film Justice is Done – but there are a lot of good films about court cases too, especially American ones. Anyway, it became clear that it was impossible to ignore the judicial aspect. Renée Le Roux’s determination to see Maurice Agnelet convicted was a key part of this story. For her, it was the crux. And, the justice system and its contradictory decisions constitute the official outcome of this case.

Justice, also meaning the fact of deciding once and for all what is true and what isn’t. Yes, although in this particular case, we don’t really know the truth. There is no body, no crime scene and no real evidence. A lot of the material used during the court hearing was circumstantial or inadmissible. For example, the prosecution said that because Agnelet didn’t leave a message on Agnes’s answering machine out of concern for her welfare when she went missing, proves his guilt. But you could equally turn this argument around and say that a murderer might leave messages to cover his tracks. There were lots of inconsequential lines of discussion like that in the trial.

You never envisaged changing the names or turning the film into a fiction? No. It was important to stick to the real narrative. It’s a way of saying that real tragedy takes place in our world. Incidentally, Guillaume Canet was in touch with Maurice Agnelet, and he told him about the conversations he had with Agnes, after the shares in the casino were sold, and when the press accused Agnes of betraying her mother and she was so desperate. Those are words that I could never have made up, but that I chose to be spoken by the character. It would have been absurd to change the names, and not anchor this unbelievable story in what is its real framework.

Your film The Girl on the Train was also based on a well-known news story. Are there any similarities in the creative process in these two films? What they have in common is that they are both based on extraordinary events that really did happen: real-life dramas. But the stories and themes are very different. The Girl on the Train was about how lying can be a means to hide suffering. L’Homme qu’on aimait trop (In the Name of My Daughter) is about a 3-way power struggle.

You chose not to include the more overtly political dimension that is in the book Une femme face à la mafia (lit: A Woman up against the Mafia) in which Jacques Medecin is one of the central characters. Everything in the book is there in the film. I didn’t exclude any part of the book, including this element, but my film focuses on Agnes Le Roux’s disappearance. Still today, there is no actual proof that her disappearance was linked to the mafia. This film is undoubtedly political, but not at a grass roots level. What I show is a social class in turmoil, its turf wars, its calculating, predatory nature; all of this is ‘political’ in this story about inheritance. The film shows the way in which the people caught up in this are affected.

Money and the hunger for power are clearly at the centre of this story, but there is something more, in the subconscious, something impulsive. For example, when Agnes launches into an African dance that becomes a trance. This moment in the film illustrates Agnes’s unwillingness to conform. Here she uses her body to express herself freely in contrast to the restrictive discipline of ballet that was part of her early education. She is asserting her independent nature. It is an escape, a release. It’s very striking.

How did you decide how the film should look? For the scenes that take place in the casino, I wanted it to look very European, a sort of anti-Las Vegas. In complete contrast to the set design of Scorsese’s – splendidly filmed – Casino. Olivier Radot and I imagined the work of the artist Klimt, and his depiction of bejewelled women and Orientalism. For Catherine Deneuve’s costumes, Pascaline Chavanne took inspiration from Jacques Demy’s Bay of Angels and Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture. In the same way that the set design and the costumes were fantastical, the light in this film acts as a smokescreen. It is similar to that used for say a sophisticated comedy set on the French Riviera. The production values disguise the inherent violence that is to unfold. It’s camouflage. Behind it lies tragedy. I wanted to swim against the tide and against the oppressive nature of such a dark tale. Despite the inevitability of this true story, I wanted to make a film where the mood appears ‘light’, a daylight film where there are practically no scenes shot at night. I wanted to exaggerate the brightness of the colours and the camera movements. I wanted scenes where we filmed the sea and went up into the mountains.

A large part of the complexity and the appeal of this film relies on the character of Agnes Le Roux. How did you choose the actress to play her part? I had been following Adele Haenel’s (Water Lilies) work for some time. I knew that she was a beautiful and powerful young actress. I had seen her play girls from working class backgrounds and I liked the idea of offering her the part of a rich young heiress, and being the daughter of Catherine Deneuve. She has such wonderful natural elegance. And she knows how to be tough. She has Agnes Le Roux’s athletic build, with a mix of vitality and a hint of madness, and is very impetuous: she’s straight up, no frills, a whirlwind of youthful energy. Agnes Le Roux is the antithesis of your average victim: she’s active, sporty; she wants to work and open her own shop. She’s not some fragile little thing, and is a far cry from your archetypal spoilt child. There is something very radiant about her, which, I think I’m right in saying, comes across even more effectively with her hair dyed brown.

L’Homme qu’on aimait trop (In the Name of My Daughter) is your seventh film with Catherine Deneuve. What is particular about this role? It’s the first time that Catherine Deneuve has been asked to really exaggerate the role of masquerade and sophistication in one of my films. We had such fun with her spectacular outfits and she never wore the same thing twice. Madame Le Roux, who was once a catwalk model for Balenciaga, was always ‘on show’ at the Palais de la Mediterranee casino before she took over the running of it, under the influence of Agnelet.
    Dressing up was part of her social ritual. Renée is like a goddess watching over her kingdom. But at the same time Renée Le Roux is probably the most resilient character out of all the characters Catherine Deneuve has ever played in my films. This character appears dominant, determined and ruthless and is the total opposite of the instability that was our chosen register (to capture the elusive). The only precedent I can think of, out of all of her roles in fact is that of Tristana in the last part of Bunuel’s film, when she plays a very hard old woman. In L’Homme qu’on aimait trop (In the Name of My Daughter), she goes further. She is furiously determined; she wants Agnelet’s head on a plate. Despite her age, she is as strong as an ox.

And Guillaume Canet? I had wanted to work with him for a very long time. To play Agnelet, we needed an actor who was very attractive but who was also “ideal son-in-law” material. The part required that the actor went behind the pretense and revealed the other darker side of his nature. I had seen Guillaume Canet play sympathetic roles, but I knew he was also capable of being disconcerting, of obscuring the truth and of being unnerving, a bit like Cary Grant in Suspicion (what exactly has he got in mind?). That’s what interested me about the real Agnelet. A man who protects himself from his own feelings, a closed book, whilst all the while being charming and seductive. Guillaume managed to bring all of these facets together in the role. He wasn’t frightened of being subservient to Renée Le Roux and Fratoni. He wasn’t frightened of being sadistic and cruel with Agnes. He took on the cowardice and cruelty of the character, never looking for pity or affection. Agnelet is an orchestrator: he gets people to play a part; he manipulates them and then records them. But he trips up and falls into the trap of his own lies. He is his own worst enemy. That is his tragic side. During his last trial it was his own son (and supporter) who accused him of murdering Agnes. Behind his Don Juan smile he reminds me of a quote from Pascal: “The twofold nature of man is so evident that some have thought that we had two souls”. - André Téchiné interview (L'Homme qu'on aimait trop pressbook)

Albin Michel website on: Renée Le Roux:
Une femme face à la mafia
avec la collaboration de Jean-Charles Le Roux 
Albin Michel, 1989

"Le 8 juillet 1975 à Nice, sous les grands lustres de la salle de jeux du Palais de la Méditerranée, cinq hommes gagnent dans des circonstances suspectes près de cinq millions de francs. Le 30 septembre suivant, le même scénario se déroule au Casino de Menton, bilan : trois millions de francs. La guerre des casinos vient de commencer."

"Derrière ces deux parties, se profile l'ombre d'un homme, Jean-Dominique Fratoni. Le P.-D.G. du Casino Ruhl de Nice a décidé de devenir "l'empereur des Jeux" de la Côte d'Azur et pour cela, toute concurrence doit être éliminée."

"Pourtant, un grain de sable va anéantir tous ses projets. Renée Le Roux, actionnaire avec ses enfants du Palais de la Méditerranée, le grand rival du Ruhl, refuse de passer sous le joug de Fratoni. Les manoeuvres et les menaces n'arrivent pas à la faire renoncer. L'une de ses filles devient alors l'enjeu d'une partie dont elle n'a pas tous les atouts."

"Agnès Le Roux disparait à la Toussaint 1977, et le Palais de la Méditerranée ferme définitivement ses portes."

"Broyée, humiliée, accusée de tous les maux, Renée Le Roux va se battre, bec et ongles, pour retrouver sa fille et s'employer à dénoncer l'implantation de la Mafia en France et tous les mécanismes du recyclage de l'argent "sale" au nez et à la barbe de l'administration."

"Renée Le Roux, aidée de son fils jean-Charles, a décidé de raconter cette ténébreuse histoire qui a tous les ingrédients d'un roman noir. Au-delà du fait divers qui a bouleversé les règles du jeu et intrigué l'opinion publique internationale, il y a aussi la disparition d'une jeune femme, qui n'a jamais été élucidée."

"Enquête sérieuse pleine de révélations inédites, c'est un document passionnant et parsemé de bombes, où justice, police et hommes politiques ne sont pas toujours au-dessus de tout soupçon.

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