The December 2013/January 2014 issue of Vogue Paris holds a special treat for lovers of Brigitte Bardot — exclusive photographs from inside her home in Saint-Tropez, La Madrague, as captured by filmmaker David Teboul for his film Bardot, la méprise. Our generous and polylingual contributing editor Kamila Brudzynska has translated from French to English, "Bardot comme jamais," the interview that Teboul granted to Vogue Paris. Merci belle Kamila ! J'adore Bardot toujours !
Bardot comme jamais
By Kamila Brudzynska
"So that's where she has always hidden? Brigitte Bardot is the idol and the inspiration of her generation." — VICTORIA BECKHAM
It has been forty years since Brigitte Bardot quit the cinema. In a magnificent film, the filmmaker David Teboul relies on very rare materials — exclusive access to La Madrague — and looks at the life of BB through an unexpected prism: her melancholy. Or how she remains one of the most beautiful fictional characters off screen.
How to touch on the Bardot topic today, forty years after her departure from cinema and after so many films and books have appeared about her?
DAVID TEBOUL: I did not want actors to take part because I wanted just the words of Bardot. I used her memoirs because I think she has said very interesting things, which she would not today. There is something in the order of present in Bardot’s past, there is something fictional and she makes it exciting, and I wanted to treat her as a fictional character. I did not want a factual portrait, I wanted the transfigured image of her. At first, I asked her to comment on a montage of photos of herself, but I quickly realized that I would have to do this film without Bardot and I knew that this refusal could only give something to the film. Finally, a ghost, it can be extraordinary.
How was your meeting with Bardot?
First, I talked to her husband and he helped me a lot. I told him I wanted to make a labor of love and restoration and it was the key. I did not have a meeting with her in La Madrague, but in her other house, in Garrigue, still in Saint-Tropez, where she was spending the afternoon with her animals. It’s a very simple house, protected better than the one in La Madrague, and she handles her foundation there. The meeting wasn’t the perfect one. She is an elderly woman, very angry and not serene, always with her characteristic passion, but with a bit of violence. I was troubled, because usually actresses are trying to be nice — not her. Bardot is a total renunciation. And at the same time, this is what fascinated me the most, that she lives in her own legend: her house is full of photos of her, books about her, etc. It reminded me of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder. With Bardot one is constantly in the present of her past. She told me: "If I am in your movie, it will serve you. If you have talent, you will be better off without me. It’s a present which I can give you, listen to me, it’s a present!” And then: "If you are not able to manage on your own, you won’t succeed. You must manage alone in your life.” From the beginning, she was taken by my beard: "Your beard is not possible. You have to shave it! Me, I could not!" But what I did gain was permission to film at La Madrague and her other house, and access to her family movies. And she gave me total freedom.
What did you discover by watching her family movies?
I discovered a little girl who wasn’t pretty. A bourgeois family. And the rapport with her mother, which was very interesting: she had a mimetic system with her mother, who was very beautiful and she comes into competition with her. She was free later thanks to dance. Early, Bardot is very physical. Moreover, she starts everything very early: she meets Vadim when she is 15 years old, she marries him at 18, she is a star at 20; in short, when she leaves the cinema in 1973 at 38 years old, she has already lived so much. What moves me about her is a melancholy which I see so early. Bardot is a euphoric melancholic, and like all euphorics, she alternates between the full and the void. This is the tension that I find beautiful, between a form of immediacy and a deep disenchantment that will, with age, catch up. She ended up being re-enclosed in childhood in her imagination, surrounded by her animals, that is to say, having exhausted all contradiction.
Do you understand why she radically abandoned the cinema?
She doesn’t believe in the truth of fiction, it’s a problem for her. She doesn’t believe in the characters that she interprets in the cinema, she believes only in a form of truth of life which makes it a bit tough. The great moments of Bardot are when the cinema and her life merge. The great directors were always inspired by the life of BB: in a very psychological manner with Clouzot, and much more transfigured with Godard, who shed his tricks.
Often, other directors relied on all of her devices, and Godard transformed her; he is the only one who really filmed her face, not just her body, and filmed in gravity, in a stripped game. But what is more important, he captured her disillusionment, her disenchantment — Bardot is a profoundly disenchanted person. I think that after this film, when she has reached something, she doesn’t have control, it’s over for her: she resigned from becoming a huge actress, from playing huge parts because basically, she resigned from work… She never wanted to be an actress. And what is beautiful, she will come to contradict her destiny, which was to be an actress, to reinvent a life.
Et Dieu créa la femme (And God Created Woman) is still a very important film...
This is an incredible gesture, that inspired the New Wave, without it taking that train. This film has been an accident, because with Bardot, everything is an accident: she mixes passion with passion, she is bored. She is a woman who is very bored. A great lover who is terrified of love, and who still thinks there is something that will be even more sublime. She always had the finest men, lesser known actors than her, Jean-Louis Trintignant to Sami Frey and Jacques Charrier, she remained the star. When she met the millionaire — Gunther Sachs, she said she had finally found a man on her level and she was still a huge star. But it’s a pure fiction. She doesn’t believe in the materiality of fiction and this makes her a romantic character outside the cinema. In my opinion, Gainsbourg was her last train because they both are the same, euphoric melancholics. She wasn’t an object for him but she became the subject. And there was something soft and feminine in her love for Gainsbourg.
Why did you want to integrate the film?
I wanted to establish a dialogue between our two melancholies which are opposed by the difference in our statuses. This woman awakens in me feelings of loss… I find her very dark, but while being a party girl. And for Bardot, the truth is in life, while for me it is much more in the artifice of fiction.
Exclusive photographs of La Madrague, the home of Brigitte Bardot in Southern France © 2013 Condé Nast. All Rights Reserved.