“Ouistreham”: the writer Emmanuel Carrère films a France on the fringes

(AFP) – For his third film, he gave a part of himself to the main character: the successful writer Emmanuel Carrère draws up in “Ouistreham” the portrait of downgraded women in a pre-“yellow vests” France.

Adapted from the novel by journalist Florence Aubenas “Le quai de Ouistreham”, published in 2010, the film, in theaters Wednesday, is intended to be a work of fiction and not a documentary. It was presented in July in one of the main sections of the Cannes Film Festival.

At the heart of the plot, Marianne Winckler – Florence Aubenas’ alter ego – played by Juliette Binoche, a recognized writer who undertakes to write a book on unemployment and precariousness in France.

She then settled near Caen and, without revealing her identity, joined a team of cleaning ladies with whom she became friends.

Economic precariousness, hellish pace (60 beds to make in 1h30, clean a room and its sanitary facilities in less than 4 minutes), class contempt: the film throws a harsh light on these essential but invisible little hands.

By focusing on the intimacy and fates of voiceless and downgraded people, the film takes a political turn, fully assumed by the director. “If it can have a very small impact on the social level I would find it great. This was the case with the book which made things happen. Since then, there have been the + yellow vests + it’s a bit of that, of this world that the film is about, “he told AFP at the Cannes Film Festival.

– Treason ? –

Crowned last spring with the prestigious Spanish Princess of Asturias Prize for all of his work, the author of “Yoga” and “The Adversary” has distanced himself from the journalist’s book.

“Florence Aubenas has always said that she was a journalist while I am my moods, I tend to make money out of it”, he said ironically during the screening of the film to the press, stressing that he had included ” a part of romance to create a dramatic tension “.

This dramatic tension is tied around the budding friendship between Marianne and one of her companions in galley, Christelle. Friendship that never existed in the book.

“It’s part of her job (Florence Aubenas, editor’s note) to know that you shouldn’t get too close, that you shouldn’t go so far as to be very intimate. The heroine of the film, who doesn’t is not Florence Aubenas, who is a writer and not a journalist, she goes there being less aware of the risks she runs (…) and that plunges her into a kind of moral abyss which is one of the subjects of the film “, had -he says.

By concealing her true identity, isn’t Marianne engaging in an exercise in lying? Doesn’t she betray the “invisible” that she had just come to highlight?

Questions omnipresent in the film but never settled … Even if Carrère the writer admits to having an opinion on the subject.

“I project a little into this character some of my scruples, but that said my method has never been that of immersion. It can be that of being a very, very close witness but I always said what I was. I don’t at all condemn this way of doing things, we can’t do otherwise (…) But I couldn’t do a book like + Le Quai de Ouistreham + with this method, it wouldn’t work ” , he admitted to AFP.

In the title role, Juliette Binoche is very accurate. She is accompanied by non-professional actresses, some of whom play their own role.

As for Florence Aubenas, she did not participate in the scenario: “It was almost necessary to drag her to show him the film”, had entrusted the director.