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April 15, 2011

Zoom In On Charlotte Gainsbourg

Every once in a purple moon there comes an artist that at once encapsulates the aura of many: a delicate yet majestic siren; an exquisitely polymorphic body and soul; a royal muse. It is Charlotte Gainsbourg who keeps us perpetually flabbergasted and with an open jaw, staring in trance, whether she is at the moment a singer, an actress or a down to earth beauty. We are honored to post the following Q&A regarding her newest album IRM, her awarded performance for Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist (as well as their follow-up collaboration), and her feelings about being a multifaceted artist.

charlotte2LR Photo by Nick Knight

You’ve mentioned before that you never felt like a proper actress or musician, and yet you’ve been acclaimed as a performer. Does the success in any way allow you to reconcile your self-perception with the public’s idea of you as an actress/singer?

I don’t really have a problem with the fact that I don’t see myself as an actress or a singer. Maybe it’s for my own freedom of mind. I like considering projects like accidents. They happen. It doesn’t take away the desire, the effort or the pleasure.

In interviews following the release of both your albums, mandatory questions regarding your musical connection to your father surfaced, even when both 5:55 and IRM stand on their own stylistically. Aside from singing in English, what is the creative process you undertake in finding your own voice?

I’m still in that process. It’s not something that I feel established, it evolves. Some songs also impose a certain way of singing. For others I need to try different ways, until it becomes obvious.

I understand that your collaborations with Beck have not ended with IRM, what can we expect from this new venture?

We did four new songs that will be attached to the ‘live’ record. Entirely written by Beck! There’s a style I wanted to push a little. Trying to be stronger. A little more ‘rock’ for one song. Because it’s not obviously in my nature, that’s what I find appealing. I just love working with Beck. I feel we can still find new grounds together. Knowing each other better. Having gone through live shows. It gave me a new experience and a new perspective.


Photo by Nick Knight

You’ve collaborated with Beck, Cocker, Godrich, and Air, are there other musicians you would want to work with in the future?

I’ve collaborated with other artists for those extra songs on the live album. The Villagers, Noah and the Whale, Connan Mocassin and Asa.

How would you interpret the difference of being eyed by the film camera as opposed to being observed by an audience in awe during a live performance?

There’s no comparison. A camera comes close but you pretend to hide behind a character. On a stage, I can only be myself, hopefully transported by the music. And I look into the people’s faces, whereas you avoid looking into the camera. A different game.

Lars Von Trier is notable for submitting his actors through a difficult and exhausting process when filming, and not many of them have come back for seconds, yet you mentioned that you enjoyed the experience of being pushed to the limits. What can we expect from your new collaboration in Melancholia?

It was very different. First of all, my character had nothing to do with the one I played in Antichrist. The whole project differed. A bigger cast. What felt like a bigger crew, just because we were no longer five in a cabin lost in the middle of the forest! Yet, Lars’s way of shooting was the same. And I got the same rewarding pleasure of exploring the scenes, the effort of trying non stop, thanks to his demand.

Your awarded performance on Antichrist is just the sort of notoriety Hollywood craves for when finding new stars to drive their big budget films, have you been pursued much by those projects? Would you be interested in partaking on some of them?

I don’t think Antichrist has been looked upon with a favourable opinion in the US, even with that award! But yes, I do have interesting projects coming from there. Mostly independent projects rather than the big budget hollywood films. I find everything interesting. The fun is to be able to go from a french film to music project, to an english speaking film, etc.

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Special thanks to Nathalie Canguilhem

text by: Garance Wilkens

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