The Vincent



In Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, the French-speaking Swiss actor -Vincent Perez - electrifies the screen. The film has received good reviews and he is the one in the limelight. Or, better said, she, Viviane… Francois Truffaut used to say that a woman's legs are like a compass measuring the world. Vincent Perez's legs, their hair painfully removed, covered with nylon and ending in high heels, are charming. Actually they belong to Viviane, formerly Frederic, a girl you immediately want to become good friends with.

"It's the nicest thing you could say to me," smiles the actor. Surprising in Patrice Chereau's movie, with the secret of Viviane well kept, the Swiss actor accepts praise without false modesty. "It would be a pity denying one's work. I wanted to face something completely unknown in every sense. But please, remember that playing a woman is banal in movies. It's even a classic part, from Shakespeare to Japanese theater." His woman is surely generous, intimate, far away from music-hall-style drag queens.

Still, we wouldn't have expected this. His career started to be a stylish, but slightly monotonous, one: young lover with Depardieu in Cyrano, Catherine Deneuve's dark lover in Indochine, the damned lover in Queen Margot, the Duke of Nevers in Le Bossu... The American experiences, especially The Crow II, did not lessen this impression of a dead-end street, a golden one, OK, but…

"I know it was embarrassing, obliging. Now I dare more. I work following my first impression without a career plan."

It's the way Viviane was born - by a project launched by the rebel of New York - Abel Ferrara. The movie was never made. She stayed there with her makeup, her thin skin, already beautiful thanks to the advice of his then girlfriend, Carla Bruni.

"I showed the pictures to Chereau who immediately accepted this crazy thing. And then I had to face my own fear! After being the virile lover of Queen Margot, it was quite different! Voice exercises, training in walking, and especially a total immersion during the two months of shooting reassured him.

"During filming I stayed in her shoes 15 hours a day. My girlfriend taught me the feeling for detail so peculiar in women, this self-sensuality that makes them cuddle and curl themselves. When we found out the exact shade of her lipstick, I realized we had it."

While the family in Those Who Love Me… suffer while united around its dead spiritual father, Viviane reassembles the pieces of their souls falling apart around her.

"To her, this funeral is especially the funeral of her life as a boy, of Frederic. Two results with one move!" And her pathetic and painful nakedness: "this wonderful creature will never be whole. It's her tragedy, her courage."

From Paris to Hollywood, what do you still have of your Swiss roots?

"Sometimes an accent, the countryside (silence), a childhood on a farm, my luck. I am Swiss, but I have often noticed that the Swiss have no problems in traveling. Now I understand that I looked for my way in the movie world in order to be in contact with other realities, other cultures."

He will soon work in an adaptation of a novel by Joseph Conrad, and then he'll be in the heart of the Serb-Croatian war, a British film. Viviane only lived for a while.

"I don't think so. She's going to stay close to me, as a friend." And about this second-role prize she could give him, Vincent Perez certainly doesn't want to talk…

[With special thanks to Cinzia Masina for her translation]

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