Long and short of Ismael's Ghosts

Desplechin on choices, Cotillard, Amalric and Gainsbourg.

by Richard Mowe

Cannes opening film line-up (from left): Hippolyte Girardot, Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Arnaud Desplechin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel and Alba Rohrwacher in Ismael’s Ghosts, opening film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes opening film line-up (from left): Hippolyte Girardot, Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Arnaud Desplechin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel and Alba Rohrwacher in Ismael’s Ghosts, opening film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Richard Mowe

The director of the Cannes Film Festival’s opening title Ismael’s Ghosts tried to explain away why there are two versions of the film on view - a short and long cut.

Arnaud Desplechin
Arnaud Desplechin Photo: Richard Mowe

The Cannes first night audience saw the slim one: “There’s the original one, which is more intellectual,” said Desplechin at a media encounter. “And there’s the shorter one which you saw this morning which I would describe as more sentimental.” The extended cut currently is screening at the Pantheon Cinema in Paris, owned by Desplechin’s producer Pascal Caucheteux.

The American distributor Magnolia Pictures has yet to decide on which version to show in the States. Desplechin said that it was his producer’s idea to have two versions.

Marion Cotillard, who had previously worked with the director on My Sex Life…, said that she felt drawn to the “ghost” of Carlotta based on the feeling of the script. “I felt that I had really understood the character when I understood how she breathed. The way someone breathes dictates the way the person speaks or behaves, the way that person is physically or psychologically.”

Marion Cotillard
Marion Cotillard Photo: Richard Mowe

Desplechin said that Cotillard has “an ability to reinvent herself, and this is typical of her character Carlotta.” He added: “I loved her in the Dardenne brothers' films. She has the capacity to create a myth and get rid of the myth when it bothers her. I became aware of Charlotte after the controversy over Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. It was her way of accepting that scandal that impressed me. She accepted the scandal in a calm way.”

He noted that as a film-maker he has no master plan, preferring “to take things as they come.” His previous film My Golden Days talked about first love. “I wanted to make something that was completely the opposite, looking at how more mature people embrace life and love,” Desplechin said.

He had told Mathieu Amalric that he considered him melancholic and for their seventh outing together he was determined to give him a different kind of character. “I was pleased not to be melancholic,” Amalric confirmed.

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