INTERVIEW – Actor Xavier Inbona, who plays Christ in the 50and film by Claude Lelouch, tells how he perfected his mastery of the seventh art in the Cinema Workshops in Beaune founded by the director.
In love is better than life the 50and film by Claude Lelouch, Xavier Inbona embodies a Jesus as benevolent as very 21st century, who tries to thwart the shenanigans of a devil more real than life camped by Béatrice Dalle.
This “beginner45-year-old didn’t follow the beaten path to become one of the director’s favorite actorsA man and a woman. Math Sup, math Spé, an MBA, the one who, for a time, would have seen himself as an engineer very quickly turned around by studying the art of theater under the guidance of Jean-Laurent Cochet. And then in 2016, after a few wanderings in the cinema, he found his way by applying to the Ateliers de Cinéma Claude Lelouch. A chance, a virtuous imponderable as his mentor likes to say, since six years later, he is at the top of the bill alongside Gérard Darmon and Sandrine Bonnaire.
For Le Figaro Xavier Inbona, recounts his apprenticeship in Beaune and tells us why with Claude Lelouch, adventure will always be adventure.
LE FIGARO. – How did you discover the Ateliers Claude Lelouch?
Xavier INBONA. – In 2013, I dropped off my acting portfolio at Films 13, Claude Lelouch’s famous cinematographic address. It was not entirely a coincidence because since my childhood one of my favorite films is The Beautiful Story that Claude shot in 1992. For the anecdote, it happens that among the photos in my portfolio, there was one where I played Jesus… But all that will remain a dead letter, no one will think of contacting me then . But in 2016, people talk to me about the Ateliers de Beaune. The idea seduces me although I think I’m too old – I’m 40 – to integrate it. I am told no and that all you have to do to apply is send a short film shot with a laptop. The jury gives a theme, for example “the perfect crime” Where “the last day of a love story“. After, alea jacta isthe Ateliers and of course Claude choose the lucky ones, that is to say the apprentices of this very free school.
What are the qualities required to be able to follow the training of the Workshops?
You know, Claude Lelouch believes in fate and maintains a kind of positive superstition with his lucky number, 13. At first, as he himself is an autodidact, he gives a chance to as many budding filmmakers as possible . I believe that every year 500 short films are sent to him. With his assistants he first retains 26, 2×13… Then he finally keeps 13. Why, how, does he select these? It’s his intuition. The apprentices are between 15 and 65 years old, they come from the world of cinema and other backgrounds. The spirit of the Ateliers de Beaune resembles that of the artists’ studios of the Renaissance. With Lelouch, we touch on all the techniques of cinema: writing, framing, lighting, music, editing, staging, post-production…
Personally, what did you work on in Beaune?
There in Burgundy, everything is concrete. We are in a real film factory. I rubbed shoulders with the job of machino, – I’m the worst in the world! -, of soundman, of manager and even of “rush man», the man who has the heavy responsibility of carrying the rushes to the laboratory at the end of the day.
And then, you also worked on Lelouch’s films…
Yes, it is a signal privilege. I played a bomber in The Virtue of the Imponderables. I turned into a handyman on the set of Best Years of a Life, that is the tip of the iceberg. But I also worked on a documentary dedicated to the bicentenary of the Caisse d’Epargne. On this project, in addition to being an actor, I composed the music. And besides, I think that’s when Claude spotted me, because he’s been very sensitive ever since. A man and a woman to the opera of his work. His great friendship with Francis Lai is the greatest proof of this.
After working at the Ateliers, playing Jesus in love is better than life how would you define Lelouch’s cinema?
Claude believes in the miracle of the impromptu, in “small scents of truththat his camera often captures. I’m going to let you in on one of his secrets. During the scenes, he sometimes challenges the actor by saying to him:There you play!Lelouch’s cinema marries the meticulousness of the cameraman with the letting go of the actor. All of Claude’s genius lies there.
love is better than life by Claude Lelouch, in 2022, with Gérard Darmon, Sandrine Bonnaire, Béatrice Dalle, Xavier Inbona…