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LEKHA SHANKAR


An exchange of Film News, from Thailand, India and other film-spaces across the world.

 


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Interview with Irene Jacob, Iconic French Actress, Acting with Robot, on Asian Tour.

irene%20jacob.jpg

IRENE JACOB

 

Exclusive interview with legendary French Star, in Bangkok

 

“ This Asian Tour has been an amazing experience!"

 

She is one of the ‘greats’ of French cinema, who has acted in films across the globe, with  the legendary Directors of our time.  

But her recent Asian tour saw the great actress Irene Jacob not on the screen, but on the stage. It was a riveting play, directed by, not a Western, but a Japanese playwright. And she performed, not with a regular cast, but a life-sized android robot!

“ It was not easy-” confessed Irene, during an exclusive interviewnin Bangkok, where the gorgeous, 50-year-old actress spoke of her diverse stage and screen achievements.

Irene Jacob’s debut film Goodbye Children was with the great French director Louise Malle. Her next film The Double Life of Veronique was with Poland’s legendary film-maker Krzysztof Kieslowski, which won her the Best Actress Award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in 1991.

She also acted in Red, the final part of  the Polish director’s famed Three Colours trilogy, which received three Academy Award nominations.

 Then came films with Italy’s masterful director Michelangelo Antonioni

Beyond the Clouds), Greece’s famous Theo Angelpolou (The Dust of Time) , and British Director Oliver Parker (Othello) .

She  acted with the top actors of the world- Kenneth Branagh (Othello) William Hurt ( The Big Brass Ring) , William Dafoe (Victory),  Tommy Lee Jones ( US Marshals).

Irene Jacob studied theatre at the top schools in Paris and London, and acted in many stage plays, before she moved to cinema and became a world-famous star.

Today, she straddles both fields with ease, as was obvious during her recent trip to Bangkok, where the screening of her  famed 1994 Kieslowski movie ‘Red’ was followed by the staging of her riveting, new stage play ‘The Metamorphosis’( based on famed novel by Kafka).

The actress was on an Asian tour with the play, and ardently wished she could have staged it in India too.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview with the famed actress in Bangkok,where she was friendly, charming, and refreshingly honest.

 

You’ve worked with some of the legendary Directors of cinema. Can you tell us something about them?

 

Yes, I’ve worked with some pretty memorable Directors, and they each had their special processes. Some used pace, others created atmospherics, some were very exact, others minimalistic. The important thing was to get into the Director’s psyche, and make the right choices. It was not easy, believe me! For instance, Antonioni was very exact, and laid out every scene, scrupulously. But Kieslowski wanted to create a dynamic tension with his camera, and shot every scene from numerous angles, which he later selected from, in the editing room.

What about the famous actors you acted with?

I studied Shakespeare under a British coach to do ‘Othello’, and it was tough and incredible, speaking in English, and working with a great Shakespearean actor like Kenneth Branagh! American films were a new experience- here; the actors are in total control. Tommy Lee Jones kept cutting off many lines, saying that the less he said, the more strong he would sound! William Dafoe was very inventive with his body and his lines.

What do you think is your own strength as an actress?


I like to be mesmerized by a script, to learn something new about human relationships, to play with different emotions. That’s why I’ve been very picky with my films, and have refused many big Hollywood movies.  I’ve shot films in Russia, Finland, Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, and enjoyed all of them.

Is that why you chose to act in this Japanese play?

This was a very special experience, because we were involved in the writing of the play with the Director, right from the conceptual stage.Besides,it was to be an Asian tour, which was an amazing experience for me and my family. We played in Beijing, Taipei, Bangkok, and the audiences were so unique in each city!

How challenging was it acting with a robot?

Very difficult, because the robot’s lines are ‘programmed’ in advance,  so, our timing had to be very precise, and we could not extemporize. The Director also ‘wrote’ many ‘silences’ which needed perfect timing. But it was a great, new experience, especially as my husband Jerome and I played in it together.

Your husband is a well-known stage actor, isn’t he?

Yes, he’s got vast experience in theatre, and helps me a lot. We understand each other well, and have shared many great experiences. With our two boys now, aged thirteen and ten, we need to organize our life better.

What are your other interests?

I love to do book-readings, which I do often, at varied venues.  I love jazz-music, and have sung in a jazz band with my brother. I also enjoy cooking, which I find very relaxing. As a family, we enjoy watching movies, and our sons have got a pretty good insight into them.

Dreams for the future?

I’m happy that I’ve never stopped working! At this stage of my life, I would love to do a role that fits my age, which opens a new kind of imagination. I admire actresses like Catherine Deneuve and Meryl Streep, who, at their age, are doing so many diverse roles!

Any favorite artistes from Asian cinema?

I have many favorite Directors –Jia  Zhangke from China, Hou Hsiao-hsien from Taiwan, and of course, Satyajit Ray from India.

 

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About LEKHA SHANKAR

SHANKAR LEKHA

I'm an Indian film-writer, based in Bangkok, and write for publications in India & Thailand. I also coordinate and curate film programs in the two countries, at cultural centres/clubs, film festivals.


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