MAINTENANCE – In turn to live, director Philippe Azoulay followed the director’s creative cavalcade for seven years. A sensitive portrait that captures the creative process of an artist who believes in the incredible fertility of chaos.
The journalist-documentary maker Philippe Azoulay is a child of the ball. He grew up in the great family of cinema. His family produced Lelouch’s early films. This is why he was able to follow the director ofItinerary of a spoiled child when, at 77, this eternal Tintin reporter of the seventh art, put his title in play by launching an insane challenge: to make three films in three years. The documentary will be released in theaters on Wednesday May 11.
LE FIGARO. – How did you come up with the idea for such a film?
Philippe Azoulay. – I wanted to unravel the Lelouch mystery. All of this comes from my film-loving childhood. For me Claude Lelouch is a popular filmmaker. We all grew up with him, like with Platini or Zidane! It is part of the French cultural heritage. One day, shortly after my grandfather died, I went to see him at his home at Club Treize. He told me that he was going through a difficult period, made up of ups and downs. “I’m 77, he told me, I don’t know how long I have left to live, but I would like to make at least three more films in three years. And which would be even better than the ones I have already made.” I went home, and the next day I realized something. Lelouch had confided in me. His crazy project was that of an old filmmaker who had come back from everything and who went back to fighting for a last stand.
What have you done?
I went back to him and said:“What you told me is worth a movie!” I’m ready to follow you on this adventure that tells the artistic, physical and creative challenge of a gentle madman. That way, I could explore the hidden side of a director at work.
How was your film organized?
It was supposed to last three years. Finally, I accompanied Lelouch for more than seven years. The first turn of the crank took place at home, in October 2012, for the camera tests of bitch we love you. I have accumulated over 350 hours of rushes. I decided to show everything, the moments of genius as well as the moments of doubt. Lelouch has an unparalleled capacity for wonder. He is not afraid to show his failures, the fights during filming, the conflicts…
What impressed you the most?
I remember the episode of the tamed eagle which flies away towards the mountains… interrupts the shooting of the film with Johnny Hallyday, and which returns two days later, exactly at the time of its performance recorded on the sheet of road!
How do you get out of such a film?
Proud but exhausted. At first, you’re like a sailor who goes to sea but doesn’t know where he’s going. The filming gave way to great moments of depression, followed by moments of joy. I believe that concerning Johnny Hallyday, we have never seen him as spontaneous, as simple as in this film. He even makes the revelation that as a child, he was the object of inappropriate gestures on the part of a priest. This is not written in any biography! This is probably the first time that Johnny has been shown as he was in private and not on screen, on stage or on television. This is not at all the image that we keep of him. However, I remember that at the time, he was already sick and fighting with all his might…
What do we learn from the cinema of Claude Lelouch?
I wanted to show that a Lelouch film is not a long calm river. The impetus for the film comes from Lelouch himself. He shows up at work, flourishes in improvisation. Sometimes instinct or the moment have virtues that hard work can never provide. His creative philosophy is fascinating. He believes in the incredible fertility of chaos. Something negative can beget something positive. The film with Jean Dujardin and Elsa Zylberstein One+ one -which was a huge success- is an illustration of this. My film is a chronicle of creation in motion, which seeks to capture the era. In this, turn to live restores its letters of nobility to Lelouch’s cinema. We discover a popular filmmaker in action, we discover his finesse, his depth, his working method and his philosophy. It’s much more than an exercise in admiration… It’s a documentary that celebrates an author in his own right!