Passionate about music, cinema and song, the two accomplices meet from June 22 to 25 in Rochefort for the second edition of the Twin Sisters Festival.
She is an actress and producer, but began in opera singing. He is a singer-songwriter, but offers nice parentheses in the cinema. It is on this common ground, between music and image, that their friendship was forged eighteen years ago. Julie Gayet was then the title role of Claire and me, and Benjamin Biolay composed the soundtrack. Since then, their complicity has grown through small shared pleasures and common projects. before the movie Like an actress soon bring them together on the big screen, it is in Rochefort that they meet for Twin Sisters, a festival launched in 2021 by the actress.
A place for professional meetings and events for the general public, which promotes collaboration between the music and image professions (video games, cinema, series, clips, etc.) through round tables on the challenges of the two sectors, master class (Vladimir Cosma, Suzane and Charlotte Abramow…), screenings, concerts (IAM, a feminist show dedicated to Agnès Varda, a tribute to Gainsbourg by Alex Beaupain…). Unwavering support from his friend Julie, Benjamin Biolay answered the call: he will be the guest of an artistic conversation on June 23 in the city made famous by The ladies, by Jacques Demy. For Madame Figaro, they agreed to return to the passion and the bond that unites them.
On video, Benjamin Biolay and Julie Gayet, In the Merco Benzthe music video
Miss Figaro. – Tell us about your meeting.
Benjamin Biolay. – It was Julie who provoked it. As she turned Clara and I by Arnaud Viard, she took the liberty of contacting me for the soundtrack.
Julie Gayet. – The music was an integral part of the film, and we were looking for someone capable of poetry despite this very dark love story, with the discovery of my character’s HIV status.
BB – Sun and light were needed, especially in the most dramatic moments.
JJ – I listened a lot Disappearance, the album you made with Keren Ann, and I loved your elegance, your sensitivity, your universe. I felt you would have the right distance to highlight this story without overwhelming it. There is nothing worse than music that highlights emotions.
BB – It’s true, but there are so many composers who struggle to work in our country, despite their talent, that they give everything when they arrive on a project. They want to show what they are capable of, get a business card. How to blame them?
Benjamin, what exercise is it to compose for the cinema?
BB – It’s impossible to define, because there are as many methods as there are film scores. It’s an empirical work, like a love story, which responds to its own codes. And the place of the film composer has changed a lot: music was a constituent part of cinema during the silent era, but we had our sound stolen from us when cinema became talkative.
JJ –It is for this reason, among others, that the Twin Sisters Festival was born: to revalorize the composer, the third author of the film.
BB – Fortunately, great directors continued to give the composer all the room in the bed, Tim Burton with Danny Elfman, for example, David Fincher with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross…
JJ – Or Agnès Varda with Joanna Bruzdowicz, to whom the Festival pays tribute this year.
Benjamin, does cinema inspire you with music?
BB – Yes, sometimes years later, without my even being aware of it. And then, some filmmakers have such a strong sound identity that they also serve as references. If I tell a musician, “Do something David Lynch,” he knows exactly what I want.
JJ –Me, that’s how I see cinema, like a score, a rhythm in writing. And as an actress, it’s through the voices of my characters that I enter my roles. Is it perched, serious, posed, fast? Then, I feed on all disciplines: unlike Benjamin who writes, builds a universe, I am not a creator. I am at the service of the director, whatever my cap, actress or producer.
BB – Production is creative! A producer with an artistic flair makes all the difference…
JJ – Production is the logical extension of the profession of actress: in both cases, you have to get inside the head of the director to understand his universe and serve him as well as possible.
Production is the logical extension of acting: in both cases, you have to get inside the director’s head.
After the film Claire and me Julie, you have acted in Benjamin’s music videos…
BB – The first was In the Merco Benz. You brought poetry to this song which had long instrumental passages. You then came back for the clips of Let the dogs bark and What can it do ? That’s how our friendship was forged.
JJ – It’s also by shooting these clips with you that I understood what an actor you were. An evidence.
BB – I had already refused a role, but it was you who convinced me to give it a shot. Sylvie Verheyde too. At the time, making films was not a huge challenge for me. My life was already filled with music.
And you never had Julie sing on an album?
BB – We did a session once, in the studio, for a one-time, private use project.
JJ – Benjamin gave me the opportunity to sing a declaration of love for someone very dear to me. An unforgettable moment.
BB – The song is still in the safe…
JJ – It exists, it’s already magic. But singing for Benjamin on an album is another exercise. I started in lyrical singing, but I really feel like an actress: I no longer sing, except sometimes for films, hiding behind the characters. Otherwise, I don’t feel capable of it anymore. And I would be afraid of not finding my feelings of the time.
BB – Lyrical singing is a very special technique, where the singing was thought to be projected: it is complicated to get out of it for more pop songs. A bit like an actor specializing in commedia dell’arte who, suddenly, has to play in the cinema. There is a risk of excess.
JJ – If I became an actress, it’s probably for this reason, moreover: I wanted to bring more nuances to the emotion. If one day I take singing lessons again, it will be for fun only.
You will soon be reunited in Like an actress…
JJ – It’s the first time we’ve played together. A real pleasure, despite the difficulty of the situations: the couple we play is in crisis and, in one scene, the character of Benjamin becomes violent… It was strange.
BB –I was very afraid to play opposite Julie, it’s both more pleasant and more stressful than with a stranger. Especially because we had to argue, which has never happened to us in life. I was afraid that our characters would spoil the atmosphere between us… And then the psychology of the actors on a shoot is a complicated thing.
That’s to say ?
BB – The actors, when they shoot, give something that costs them quite a lot, they are not quite themselves. Like an instrument that vibrates constantly, that is never quiet.
JJ – Thus singers who put themselves on stage completely naked. These are two places of fragility.
The musical perfectly illustrates the meeting of music and image defended by the Festival Sœurs Jumelles. A genre that appeals to you?
BB – Obviously ! The problem with the musical is the substitutes for films from the 1950s and 1960s: The Demoiselles de Rochefort are the reflection of an era, of a style, of a phrasing, of concerns which have evolved… We should renew the genre, and stop paraphrasing Demy and Legrand. You have to be in the music and the energy of your time, as Christophe Honoré was with Alex Beaupain on Love songs.
JJ – I’ve always liked to carry out projects outside the marked areas, and if I had to produce again, it’s precisely towards musical comedy that I would like to go. I think about it even more since the launch of the Twin Sisters Festival. One day I will produce Benjamin’s musical!
Apart from your lives as artists, what binds you?
JJ – Football ! I love it, I produced a documentary on the Lyon women’s football team, and Benjamin is a supporter of Olympique Lyonnais.
BB – We also have the same ideological and political convictions, even if I can get along with people who don’t think like me. And we are of the same generation. That said, it’s hard to dissect a relationship. I can only tell you that we immediately hit it off.
JJ – When I met Benjamin or Chiara (Mastroianni, editor’s note), I felt the same as when I joined the Demy-Varda family, with Agnès, Rosalie and Mathieu. It was obvious, a place where I felt good. Benjamin probably won’t like me saying it, but he’s a real nice guy.
BB – Stop, you’re going to break my bad reputation…
JJ – It reminds me of what Josée Dayan told me: “If you are a little naughtier, you will succeed a little better in this job.”
BB – You’re in a bad way… And then, you go very far when you’re mean, but you don’t go very high.
Twin Sisters Festival, from June 22 to 25, in Rochefort. twinsisters.com