• 22 March 2024


Yesterday, the Auditorium Santa Margherita – Emanuele Severino was honored to host a masterclass by acclaimed French director and screenwriter Philippe Le Guay, known for his distinctive eclecticism and his prolific production. Born and raised in Paris, after completing his literary studies, Le Guay entered the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques in 1980, fulfilling his dream of joining the film industry. His filmography includes thirteen feature films, three of which he made for television, starting with Le Deux Fragonard in 1989, to most recent ones such as The Man in the Basement (2021). A turning point in his career came with The Women on the 6th Floor (2014), starring award-winning actor Fabrice Luchini as the main character. Luchini has since become a recurring presence in Le Guay’s films.

The first part of the talk, organized in partnership with the Alliance Française, was moderated by Marie Christine Jamet, who asked questions about the biography of the director, as to outline the life of a great artist. Le Guay then recalled the milestones of his career as a director: from his dispassionate love for cinema, which he pursued since childhood, to the years at IDHEC and the important friendships he made there. Jamet’s questions drew attention to the dawn of the guest’s career, by quoting his first short film Le Clou (1984), inspired by a moment of his childhood. Moreover, Le Guay reflected on his relationship with acting and on the role of the actor, an art he discovered by spending time with drama students: when they would play Shakespeare or Molière, Le Guay felt as being carried to another world. 

During the second part of the masterclass, some of the most significant excerpts from six of his feature films, chosen by Gabrielle Gamberini, were played to more meaningfully explore Philippe Le Guay’s creative world, which revolves around the representation of situations that, apparently stable, are disrupted by a sudden external element. The first film screened was The Cost of Living (2003), in which the relationship of human beings with money is portrayed in an extremely multifaceted way. The director commented, “The inspiration for this film was Italian cinema, which masters the art of telling the flaws and weaknesses of humans. In particular, I thought of Alberto Sordi’s characters”. Gamberini then played an excerpt from Three Eights (2001) a feature film based on a true story and set in a factory, realistically reflecting on power relations in purely male-populated environments and the concept of masculinity associated with psychological and physical violence. The conversation then moved on to Bicycling with Molière (2013) one of the director’s most celebrated films, a play within a play, whose story, inspired by Molière’s Misanthrope, focuses on the conflict between the two main characters and how viewers can relate to one or the other. The director also spoke about his relationship with lead actor Fabrice Luchini: “I feel for him a form of fascination but also rejection, despite the fact that we have worked together for twenty years”. 

Then, the interviewer then delved into the relationship between the author and the characters, showcasing two other excerpts, respectively from Naked Normandy (2019) and The Man in the Basement (2021). Both films deal with controversial themes, such as those of climate change and of historical negationism. “I like to give voice to my characters”, he declared, “even if I don’t completely share what they say”. Last, but certainly not least, the film screened was The Women on the 6th Floor (2011) which investigates the relationship between social classes by telling the story of a businessman who rediscovers the joy of life thanks to his interaction with Spanish maids who live on the sixth floor of his Parisian building. Particularly striking is precisely the depiction of different lifestyles. “All of us in our lives can open doors and find different places, to me this film is a metaphor for the desire to move and discover new worlds”, said Le Guay. 

The masterclass then concluded with the questions from the audience, allowing the director to give a rather precise definition of his creative world, “a world of a certain colour, once I loved rigorous stories and landscapes, today what touches me the most is the tenderness and the humour of characters”.