Cécile de France: Acting for the best

For centuries artistic Belgians have headed to Paris to hone their talents. Actress Cécile de France, born in Namur, followed the example of Brel, Simenon, Magritte et al when she was still a teenager. It paid off – she became a star, working with great directors either side of the Atlantic.

“I left to study drama in France when I was 17 years old,” she says. “I’d been in love with acting from the age of six, and went to a school where drama was important, so had appeared in a lot of amateur productions – I fell for the theatre before the cinema. My parents were passionate about it too.”

Theatrical education
At 19, after a couple of years of theatrical training with Jean-Paul Denizon, she won a coveted place to study for three years at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de Théâtre in Paris and Lyon: “I’m thankful for the structured way of working that I learned at ENSATT,” she says. “I still draw on those disciplines in all my work, in building up how best to play a character, and the physical side, and practicalities like looking at costume, make-up, hair…”

Another constant in her career established while she was a student, and in the years immediately after graduation, is her keenness to take on an impressive breadth of roles and styles. Her early theatrical grounding saw De France acting in Shakespeare after a Feydeau farce, Greek tragedy succeeded by The Playboy of the Western World followed by Strindberg, “I love the variety of theatre, the energy,” she enthuses. “Every night’s performances are different, the audience reaction and the atmosphere, so every night is unique. It’s the immediacy too, the instant reaction from the audience.”

Leaving the stage behind
That diversity within the theatre was soon matched by a similar diversity in cinematic role. De France’s first French hit film L’Art  (Délicat) de la Séduction was made in 2001, just three years after her studies finished, and it seems as if she has been on set pretty much ever since. She has since worked with big names in both French and American cinema, like Gérard Depardieu and director Xavier Giannoli with whom she made the romantic film When I Was a Singer (Quand J’Etais Chanteur): and Alexandre Aja whose 2003 horror movie Haute Tension won her – and him – international recognition, opening doors to Hollywood for both.

In De France’s case Hollywood’s doors opened first to her role as Monique in the 2004 Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan comedy adventure Around the World in 80 Days, and in 2010 to a decidedly different part, starring with Matt Damon in Clint Eastwood’s supernatural fantasy movie Hereafter. “Working with Clint Eastwood was very formative, his style challenged some of the usual ways of doing things,” she states.

Emotionally committed
Her times in Hollywood have shown her, as with Hereafter, that it’s not geographic location that determines the experience on any given film: “I don’t think there are actually any great cultural differences or different ways of working between the two cinemas, in France and in Hollywood,” she says. “The differences you do find come out of the individuals with whom you work in those places. OK, in Hollywood the crews are maybe bigger, the resources behind a production there can be huge, but the artistic differences come out of the creativity of the individuals, the directors, camera crew, costume designers, all the talented people you get to work with in both countries.” She refuses to single out any particular film as a special favourite, like a mother refusing to name her favourite child: “Every time I work on a project there is a big artistic investment in time and energy and emotional commitment, so afterwards saying you preferred one over another feels wrong.”

Fine art cinema
De France is, however, happy to express her enthusiasm about her most recent project, La Belle Saison. The film, released in August, was co-written and directed by Catherine Corsini: “It’s a love story between two women, my character Carole who is a militant feminist living in Paris in the early 1970s at the height of that movement, and Delphine, a young country girl who comes to the city to work, played by Izïa Higelin. It’s history with a capital H in a way then, recounting the courage of those struggling for sexual equality, and at the same time it tells the story of the personal lives of the characters. It’s beautifully made, beautifully filmed, wonderfully aesthetic – ‘solar’. I truly think it’s a masterpiece of cinema as fine art.”

She had the opportunity to put her critical faculties to the test on other people’s work at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where she was on two juries (and where she had already acted as MC in 2005). “The experience of being on the short films jury was fascinating,” she says: “These are the talents of the future, some who will undoubtedly be significant creative forces in cinema. The quality of the work is extremely high, it’s cause for great optimism about the future of our cinema.”

Future directions
What about her own future? Given her habit of taking on different challenges, does she have ambitions to be a director? Her answer is unequivocal: “Certainly not. I love acting, and anyway I don’t believe that I have the team skills needed to be the captain of the ship.”

There are calls on her time though – a world away from the movies – where she must need some of those captaincy skills: “Of course I love to spend as much time as I can with my children [she and her partner Guillaume Malandrin have a son Lino born in 2007, and daughter Joy, born three years ago], and doing projects around the house – manual work like plastering, painting, sewing curtains, bits and pieces of DIY…”

De France already has other – cinematic – projects on the go, including a part in the upcoming Vince Vaughn thriller Term Life, where she plays Vaughn’s estranged wife Lucy, another venture into new dramatic territory as the film is based on a graphic novel. There are plenty more possibilities for growth ahead, and she drops a hint about the appeal that adding a further territory to her portfolio has for her.

“I’d really like to work in London. I love British cinema, its dynamism, there’s a whole-hearted energetic approach, and I like the city itself too for that same energy, and for the feeling of being surrounded by history there.” British casting directors take note.

Source: Cécile de France: Acting for the best | Discover Benelux


Coronavirus: Why so many people are dying in Belgium

Belgium believes its high Covid-19 mortality rate is down to more rigorous counting of cases.

That rate, unlike the total number of fatalities, is a measure of the number of deaths in relation to the size of population.

President Donald Trump pointed to a graph recently, displaying Belgium at the top and the US in seventh place, as a result of the number of deaths relative to population size.

President Donald Trump listens beside a chart showing daily mortality cases during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2020

He was suggesting the US was handling the pandemic more effectively.

Belgium has a population of 11.5 million. That means 66 people in every 100,000 have died from Covid-19. In the US, with a population of around 330 million, it’s 19 in every 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

But those figures are “faulty comparisons” that have been “abused”, argues Prof Steven Van Gucht, a Belgian virologist and government spokesman.

“That’s the difference between public health science and political motivation,” he explains. “That’s purely inspired by showing how good you are doing, and it’s wrong. We are actually reporting in a more correct way.”

What’s different about Belgium?

Belgian officials say they are counting in a way that no other country in the world is currently doing: counting deaths in hospitals and care homes, but including deaths in care homes that are suspected, not confirmed, as Covid-19 cases. Continue reading “Coronavirus: Why so many people are dying in Belgium”

Angèle: The Belgian Singer That France Is Going Crazy For 

Her album has gone two-times platinum in France, she’s the only Belgian singer to beat Stromae’s record for most weeks at the top of the Belgian singles chart, and she’s only just getting started in her career. Angèle is a singer-songwriter and musician spinning heads all across Francophone nations with her unique voice. Her songs have become millennial-girl anthems because of her sincerity, sweet disposition, and entertaining videos.

At just 23 years old, the singer has already developed a very recognizable style. Her music is easy listening, her videos are funny, and the genuine nature and authenticity play a huge role in her popularity. For example, the cover of her first album Brol is a little girl smiling to show that her baby teeth have fallen out. For this kind of bluntness and plenty of Instagram videos of poking fun at herself, Angèle has become the singer du jour.

Like a modern-day Françoise Hardy, Angèle depicts a certain innocent reality in her songs. “Tout Oublier,” featuring her rap-artist brother Roméo Elvis, broke a whole slew of records on Belgian singles charts, winning the artist awards and recognition. With an existential vibe the song features a questioning of the simplicity or complication of happiness — a message resonates with Angèle’s audience (and most millennials these days).

Source: Angèle: The Belgian Singer That France Is Going Crazy For – Frenchly

The Dardenne Brothers – Masters of Social Realism


Rear Window. 2014.
Filmmaking brothers Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne are known on the world film circuit for their social realist dramas, set in the former industrial city of Liege in Belgium. Film critic Emilie Bickerton talks us through their early career and their later obsession with the plight of working class people in their home city. teleSUR