Victim of sexual assault during his childhood, doubts and drugs later, borderline roles, suicide at 35: Patrick Dewaere, my hero is a poignant documentary about this incandescent actor, told by his daughter Lola and presented at the Cannes Film Festival. The film crew took the stage on Thursday evening for a few words before a screening as part of “Cannes classics-documentaries on cinema”.
As Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Festival, says in the introduction, “it’s the great documentary that was missing on Patrick, which fills this absence”, forty years after his suicide. Fragments of the story of the actor, who burst the screen by opening the door to his demons in Black sequence, had already been delivered over the years. In the pages of a biography or interviews. Like Gérard Depardieu confident of being aware of sexual assaults by a child criminal during the childhood of his friend waltzers.
It is the actor’s daughter, Lola (2 years old when her father died, 42 years old today), who hangs up the wagons in voiceover. The actress appears between archive images and unpublished audio sequences (parts of interviews, too personal, never broadcast) assembling the pieces of a puzzle forming the face of her father.
“It was not easy to tell this story, to do this voice, I am a little moved”, she only slipped into the microphone in front of the public. Patrice Gellé, producer, warns the public: “This film is a mountain of emotions, like a life on the edge, it’s a film that will not leave you unscathed”. Among the spectators, the youngest are looking on their smartphones for this Patrick Dewaere unknown to their generation. But from the first images, there is silence, attention is there.
The voice of Lola Dewaere brings down the ax. She says she took “between four eyes” before his death his grandmother, mother of his father. “And she ended up confessing everything to me”. Addressing her father symbolically, Lola announces: “During your childhood, you suffered repeated sexual touching and rape (..) which screwed you up forever”. The predator is never named but the family circle is targeted. “The scare in your stomach, you suffered this incest with, perhaps, already, deep inside you, the desire to end it. Your mother, she preferred to close her eyes”.
Testimonials from Fossey, Huster, Lelouch
This seals a destiny (personal depreciation, heroin addiction) already burdened with a complicated genesis. Member of a family of six children, Patrick Dewaere will learn in the course of a conversation that the one who raises him is not his biological father, whose identity he does not know. His mother, and the father who raised him, are presented in the documentary as Thénardiers, pushing their children to run castings for theatre, television or cinema.
Lola Dewaere explains in the documentary that the money from their fees was used, without the children being aware of it, to buy a house that they had to fix up. And to describe young Patrick falling asleep from exhaustion in a wheelbarrow, trowel in hand. The actress Brigitte Fossey, present in Cannes, who was also a child actress, remembers in the documentary having met him for the first time on a set at the age of nine, with this family label of child-actors working tirelessly. She will meet him again as an adult in The Valseuses Where A bad son.
Precious and sensitive testimonies are scattered throughout the film, such as those of Bertrand Blier (who directed Dewaere in The waltzers, Prepare your tissues, Stepfather), Francis Huster, also a victim of child pedophilia, or even Jean-Jacques Annaud (who filmed him in Headbutt and was his friend). Without forgetting Claude Lelouch, with whom he was preparing a film on Marcel Cerdan and Edith Piaf the day of his suicide. A last day when it comes to Coluche and the rifle he had given him.