Broadcast this September 23, a documentary explores the hidden sides of the career of the actor, whose immense talent was deployed far beyond comedy. Interview with one of his two sons, Philippe Raimbourg.
Professor of financial economics at the University of Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Philippe Raimbourg was 17 years old in 1970 when his father, Bourvil, died. While France 3 is broadcasting the documentary tonight The crossing of Bourvil, it evokes for us lesser known aspects of the man and the artist.
There is a gap between the image of the character Bourvil, often reduced to that of the tender and naive peasant, and the great diversity of his repertoire. How do you explain it?
His first job was that of peasant comic, a sector he exploited before acquiring another dimension, thanks to the dramatic roles of The Crossing of Paris, in 1956, then from Two-sided mirror. Its common thread was public satisfaction. It seems consistent that after the comedy he said to himself: and now, what about emotion? ; that it oscillates from one to the other. One of his great strengths was, moreover, to pass very quickly, and effectively, from laughter to tears.
Where did he thrive the most?
In the comic register. Because he loved more than anything to make the audience laugh. He then had the impression of holding it in his hand and taking it where he wanted! This motivation justified his professional involvement, but it required great respect from the public. He was, in the strongest sense of the word, at his service. He played to please her. This concern guided his career.
“He who was popular in Russia and even in China, had in him the American dream!”
Bourvil will embody antipathetic characters (including his Thénardier des Miserables), but the ultimate – and great – break comes with the film released after his death, this masterful red circle, in which Jean-Pierre Melville reserves for him a role of opaque commissioner, who lives with his cat.
This very original character, troubled and solitary is indeed a complete break with the image that the public had of him. He would have continued on this path if he had had the time. He liked comedy, but he did not renounce the tragic, heavier roles. I think of this physical film that is The Big Mouths, with Lino Ventura. I remember my father returning from filming in the Vosges. He was very involved in it.
Did he tell you about other desires for his career?
Yes. My father wanted to work with North American companies. He had been fascinated, after having participated, in 1961, in the filming of the longest day, by their professionalism. He who was popular in Russia and even in China, had in him the American dream! He would also have liked to play Molière, on stage…
To return to comedy, if his greatest successes are the very family Corniaud and The big mopby Gérard Oury, he toured more with Jean-Pierre Mocky, from the anticlerical A funny parishionerup to sexual satire The heel. Did Bourvil also like to shock?
It was not a question, for him, of being on the wrong foot, but of trying out other jobs. Regarding the subject ofA funny parishioner, my father rejected clerical conformism when it was not accompanied by sincere faith. He condemned the falsity of a mimetic step.
Was this partnership with Mocky a subject of debate for you?
My mother was against it, finding Mocky too iconoclastic and disturbing. My father would ignore it, if the scenario pleased him.
“He was a joyful person but also very hardworking, organized. A man who took care – perhaps excessively – of his health and who didn’t let himself go much.
What music did Bourvil watch on television, listen to, in his intimacy?With my father, we watched few films on television. We mainly followed the news. In music, he listened to classical, but he also liked the Beatles. He found that they were innovative and judged them to be very good melodists. He particularly appreciated text singers like Jean Ferrat and Georges Brassens, our neighbor who had become a friend. after singing Aragon and Castile, he was also expected to record other titles by Boby Lapointe. The latter, popular, also appealed to intellectuals; an approval that my father sought. It must be remembered that Bourvil’s mainstream comedies were snubbed by the intelligentsia. It touched him. No doubt he had a complex about having left school after the 5ealthough he was a brilliant student.
In the same spirit, a few months before passing away, Bourvil will record two songs by Gainsbourg: Poor Lola and an irresistible parody of I love you toowith Jacqueline Maillan, baptized That…
There, he really dares! It’s frank and fine at the same time. And it’s funny! I had attended the recording at the Billancourt studios. I can see my father and Maillan laughing during the takes. Serge Gainsbourg even came to greet them…
What works of your father touch you the most?
His surreal post-war songs, like Beans Where Timichiné la pou pou, which parodies Tino Rossi. And, in the cinema, besides The Red Circle, fortune (Alex Joffé, 1960), which deals with war in an original way, and in which it is overwhelming.
Who was he on a daily basis for your brother, Dominique, and you?
He was a joyful person but also very hardworking, organized. A man who took care – perhaps excessively – of his health and who didn’t let himself go much. Likewise, he didn’t really like seeing us heckling, my brother and me. But it was not a sad comedy. He was fundamentally optimistic and loved life!
r The crossing of Bourvil, documentary by Bernard Faroux (2022). Friday September 23 on France 3 at 9:10 p.m.