The Vincent

Spring/Summer 1997                                                       

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Born to emigrant parents, a Spanish father and a German mother, Vincent Perez grew up on the Swiss plains near Lausanne, surrounded by nature. As a child, he was fond of lying on the ground and looking up at the clouds to feed his fantasies of travel. "I loved telling myself stories," he says. "I watched the cars go by. When I saw a black license plate with white numbers and letters, I dreamed I was going to France."

vhomme2s.jpg (14039 bytes)The young dreamer played sports, climbed trees, and discovered Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times at the age of seven, which "pierced straight through my heart and soul." He also spent a lot of time drawing, but decided not to become a painter at the age of thirteen because he "didn't know about life" and considered himself "too limited". From 1982 to 1987, he did an apprenticeship in the theater. He started out at the Geneva Conservatory, then went to the Nanterre-Amandiers drama school, directed by Patrice Chereau. It was "a small, experimental school that brought together people from all walks of life. Some dreamed of being actors, other didn't dream at all. I was well aware that this would be the last school I attended. I had this notion that once I finished there, I had to be ready."

Theater held a prominent place in your beginnings.

I was aware of this when it happened, and it made me very happy. I like it when theater fulfills a sort of parental role. The stage is like a belly, and when we act, it's a bit like going back to the womb.

What are your memories of these first movies?

I think I was very lucky to start out with Cyrano. Making that movie was a magical experience; we had lots of laughs. And it was a privilege to witness the magnificent encounter between Gerard Depardieu and Cyrano de Bergerac. I also have good memories of Capitaine Fracasse. People judged it harshly, but I thought it was a pretty decent picture. And then I had the opportunity to meet Massimo Troisi. He taught me my very first words in Italian. Finally, Fellini's whole team was there. I thought I was dreaming!

What did working together again with Chereau on Queen Margot mean to you?

It suddenly occurred to me that I had a family. The work I had started with Patrice a few years prior had an unfinished feel about it. We were going to pick up where we left off. Queen Margot is also about Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil and Jean-Hughes Anglade, of course. I always learn a great deal from the actors I work with.

Movie historians call Antonioni the uncommunicative moviemaker. Did you communicate with him?

vhomme4s.jpg (9534 bytes)It took just one look for us to understand on another. I felt as though I was working with a choreographer or an architect, someone who puts everything in spatial terms. By the way he positioned his cameras, he showed all perspectives, including the characters' psychological perspectives. So he has no need for words. And Mastroianni says he's never been a man of many words. One time, Antonioni said that cinema was like mirrors facing one another, and that he made reflections of the thoughts passing from one mirror to the other to reach the soul. Par-dela les Nuages (Beyond the Clouds) was a turning point in my life. When I see that movie, I sense the immensity Antonioni. I feel him, he's there.
Antonioni "knows" cinema.

Was it your appetite for change that led you to make Pavel Longuine's Ligne de vie (Life in Red)?

Yes. I was eager to discover post-Communist Moscow. And I
discovered the Mafia. Actually, Moscow is a lot like Chicago in the 30s. I witnessed gangsters taking the law into their own hands: people were being shot 50 meters from where we were filming. And the craziest thing was that in the space of a few weeks, we became like them. I found myself in situations I never would have thought I'd be able to handle.

And is this where the idea to make a movie about making a movie came from?

I like shooting different impressions while a picture is being made. I have fun doing it. You can tell a story, share memories, things like that. It's instinctive for me.

Let's talk about The Crow 2. Was it the project itself that tempted you, or your desire to work in Hollywood?

vhomme3s.jpg (6633 bytes)Actually, it wasn't The Crow that brought me to Los Angeles. Rather, it was that Queen Margot, Indochine and Cyrano were successful in the States. Among the projects on offer, I opted for The Crow because I admired its producer, Tim Pope. He really is a lot like a bird, he lives in his own world with his own voice, vision and language. He came from the rock and advertising world, and is part of that generation of 35-40 year-old Brits with a real musical culture. We worked together hand in hand. And if the role was problematic, I decided to replace my fears with curiosity.

Is it difficult to personify a comic strip character? Did the fact that you like to draw help you?

I did 7 or 8 Indian ink and acrylic self-portraits after the movie. What's strange is that I wouldn't have played this character without a mask. I did a bit of Comedia dell'Arte at the Conservatory, and I learned that you have an incredible sense of freedom when you're wearing a mask. In the movie it wasn't really a mask, it was more like battle dress. My idea was to show a range of feelings with the same mask by using pantomime.

The Crow is a very violent movie..

In terms of violence, we made it clear that even if you kill everyone who killed your child, it doesn't bring him or her back. Suddenly, the act consists of more than simply getting even. This character guides his victims to death's door. He's like a grim reaper who appears before his victims in a moment of intimacy and reflects their fears like a mirror. We sought poetry in violence, which isn't easy to achieve.

You're producing your first feature-length picture?

I'm finishing up the final version of my screenplay with Tim Burton. He's part of a world I love, a fairy tale universe. Everyone has a fairy tale to tell inside him or herself. I wrote mine. My story recounts four years of my life the way you'd tell a fairy tale. What I really like is that the hero fights dragons to save the princess, who is held captive in a castle. That you face your fears so that you can be ready for love. The hardest thing is really "loving". I I try to love. I've learned not to judge anymore. Each time I feel the slightest twinge of judgment coming on, I nip it in the bud.

[Written by Francois Guerif]

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