In part two of our interview with Anne Consigny, the acclaimed French actress delves more into her career and a new collaboration with iconic French filmmaker Alain Resnais.
Consigny’s third César nomination came in last year with Lucas Belvaux’s gripping thriller “Rapt.” Based on a true story, the film charts the physical and psychological disintegration of a kidnapped businessman (Yvan Attal) as disgraceful truths from his past surface in the media. Consigny plays Attal’s wife, a woman torn between her duty to her husband and her anger towards his newly-discovered infidelity.
“I personally don’t think I would’ve reacted like her,” Consigny said. “I think I would’ve embraced him and forgiven him. I think she’s right and I would’ve been wrong. She’s very clever; she had her mind in the right place. I’m sure she was still in love with him, but she also knew that something has been broken and it couldn’t be fixed.
“One of the questions the film poses is: Are you free to cheat and betray and eventually get away with it? I personally don’t know. Maybe he was looking for something with those other women that he didn’t find with his wife. I don’t know how you can be in a relationship for more than 20 years without facing any problems. I don’t want to judge her, but I think she might have been hard on him.”
Consigny continues to juggle between small and large parts, indifferent to market or stardom concerns.
“That period when I wasn’t getting any work made me content to accept any roles offered [to] me regardless of their size,” Consigny said. “If I like the director, the script, the actors, then I’ll do [the] role. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small, medium or big part.”
“It’s a little unusual for established actresses to accept that,” I told her.
“I don’t care about what’s traditional and what’s not,” she replied. “I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m not a 20-year-old. I don’t have to worry about building a career. It’s too late for me.”
Before “Rapt,” Consigny had one of her dreams come true: working with legendary French director Alain Resnais (“Hiroshima, Mon Amour,” “Last Year at Marienbad”) in 2009’s “Les herbes folles” (Wild Grass).
“He’s my God,” Consigny gushed. “The first time I met him…it was everything I dreamt of and more. He saw all my movies. He read everything about me, every interview I did. He knew more about me than I knew about him.
“He hates it when you ask him any questions. After finishing my first take in the movie, I looked at him and he was starry-eyed. So, I knew he was content with me. With the second take, it was the complete opposite. He wasn’t even looking. So, I realized, without asking any questions, which direction to take. That was the way he’s chosen to direct us, and that’s the way I prefer.
“Our relationship with him goes beyond the intellectual connection,” Consigny paused, appearing to be lost for words. “You just want to satisfy him, to make him happy, that’s what you do when you love someone. You stop thinking.”
“You seem to be very fond of him,” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “Very much. And not just the artist, but the human as well. He’s a wonderful man. He’s like a child who loves everyone. I asked him to marry me. I took Sabine’s [Azéma, Resnais’s star of the past 28 years and his real-life partner] permission and she agreed,” she laughed.
Resnais was tipped to win the Palm d’Or that year, but ultimately, he didn’t. I asked her if she was disappointed. “I wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t win the award,” Consigny said. “I was disappointed that they decided to give him a special prize for all his work. It felt like a consolation prize. I think he was really sad.”
In the film, Consigny plays Suzanne, the enigmatically hapless wife of André Dussollier’s Georges, an elderly suburban retiree who, after a chance encounter, falls for a dentist played by Azéma. A dedicated and loving wife, Suzanne, strangely, doesn’t seem to be fretful over her husband’s all-consuming infatuation with the dentist, working by the end of the movie to bring them together.
“I think Azéma’s character is a projection of Georges’ violent side,” Consigny said. “She realizes at the end that if she wants to keep her husband, she must accept both sides of his. But the question I kept asking myself was: [does] real love [mean] to love so unconditionally? I’m not sure it is.”
I asked her about her favorite movie of his. “Probably it’s ‘Marienbad,’ or maybe his next one,” she coyly said.
Titled “Vous n’avez encore rien vu” (You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet), Resnais’ latest project features a starling cast of his recent collaborators: André Dussollier, Pierre Arditi, Lambert Wilson, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Claude Rich, Isabelle Nanty and Azéma. The film — which starts filming next month and is scheduled for release next year — is loosely based on Jean Anouilh‘s play “Eurydice,” itself a modern retelling of the myth of Orpheus & Eurydice.
Infused by Resnais’ signature themes of time and memory, the “Vous n’avez encore rien vu” could be the 89-year-old master’s valedictory note; a loving swansong to his art and company.
When Anouilh dies, he asks his confidant to call on his actors to open his last testimony. “When the actors arrive to his place, they don’t find any testimony. Instead, we [the actors] find ourselves in front of a big screen and he asks us to narrate our memories of him. By the end of the story, he declares that the whole thing was a joke; that he just wanted to know how much we loved him and see if this play of his could work. But then, he actually dies, surrounded by his beloved ones.
“All actors play different versions of themselves. We improvise a lot,” she added.
Along with the Resnais film, Consigny will be seen next in Anne Villacèque’s “E-love,” a TV comedy about a middle-aged woman who becomes a serial online dater, and Frank Henry’s debut feature “De force,” a crime thriller starring Isabelle Adjani and Eric Cantona.
In a span of five years, Consigny has scored three César nominations, worked with some of France’s biggest directors and starred alongside some of Europe’s biggest actors.
“Where do you go from here?” I asked her.
“I think a lot about the future,” she said. “I want to progress and I’m so scared of falling behind. I’m always afraid of messing things up, of losing the ability of conviction, of losing what I have.”
“How do you deal with that?” I asked her.
“I don’t,” she replied. “I just…crumble.”
Consigny in a scene from Lucas Belvaux’s “Rapt.”