"He gave me a secret"

Catherine Breillat remembers Bernardo Bertolucci

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Catherine Breillat on a "little dialogue" she had with Marie-Hélène Breillat and Maria Schneider in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris: "We found it ridiculous to say, but the beautiful choreography by Vittorio Storaro and the Louma, changed completely the sense of the scene."
Catherine Breillat on a "little dialogue" she had with Marie-Hélène Breillat and Maria Schneider in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris: "We found it ridiculous to say, but the beautiful choreography by Vittorio Storaro and the Louma, changed completely the sense of the scene." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Catherine Breillat upon reading the tributes for Bernardo Bertolucci by Saverio Costanzo, Richard Peña, Atom Egoyan, Don Rosenfeld, and Frédéric Boyer on Tuesday, sent the following to me this morning on the filmmaker, who directed Catherine and her sister Marie-Hélène Breillat in Last Tango In Paris and became a life-long friend. Bernardo Bertolucci died on Monday, November 26 in Rome at the age of 77.

Marie-Hélène Breillat and Catherine Breillat as dressmakers Monique and Mouchette in Last Tango In Paris
Marie-Hélène Breillat and Catherine Breillat as dressmakers Monique and Mouchette in Last Tango In Paris

"I am also very pained by Bernardo Bertolucci's death. When I played for him this small character in Last Tango in Paris [dressmaker Mouchette], I learned something fundamental for my cinema after: We had a little dialogue with Maria [Schneider] and my sister [Marie-Hélène Breillat, who played Monique]. We found it ridiculous to say, but the beautiful choreography by Vittorio Storaro and the Louma [camera crane], changed completely the sense of the scene. Me, I never had a Louma (too expensive, just a dolly, but the principle is the same and I learned that from Bernardo).

"I met him after some time and sometimes since 1972 in different festivals, and had always friendly talks with him. Last time I saw him, was at the Venice Film Festival in 2007. I was on the jury, he got a special Golden Lion prize for all his cinema, and came to get it on the scene with a deambulator to walk. I was surprised and came to him during the dinner. He said to me he was so proud of this prize because Italy never recognized him before and it was the occasion to make his "coming out" of his invalidity. But he said also that now he does not film again.

"I said to him, I had the same problem. After my attack, I did not want to show myself as an invalid for one year. Only shooting The Last Mistress, I appeared to the public, saying, I’m handicapped but my films are not. And I implored him to make a new film as soon as possible. It would be his real coming out. And really I insist, insist and insist, because he was so discouraged. And I always thought, I have helped him. I always was happy with that. And now very sad of his death. He was not only a great director, he gave me, without knowing it, a secret in my way of shooting. I loved him very much." - Catherine Breillat

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