In theaters today, “Les Amandiers” by Valéria Bruni Tedeschi returns to the school of Patrice Chéreau in the mid-1980s. Between fiction and memories, the director brings back to life the fire of a passionate youth in this “center of cultural world” that was the theater of Nanterre. Back to this emblematic place.
“Why do theatre?”
The question is posed to each candidate. On the screen, they are hundreds to want to integrate the school, this “center of the world” and rationale. An answer fuses, everyone agrees, this girl will be taken, her ardor speaks bluntly: “because I see my youth tarnish in the mirror”.
The new film by Valéria Bruni Tesdechi recreates an energy, a bubbling, that of a troupe full of hope and the desire to live as if death was hovering low. Without being backward-looking, yet full of nostalgia – and whatever she says about it – the actress-director uses fiction to describe reality, hers forty years ago in this alternative and ephemeral school of the Amandiers theater in Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine). A comet in the night that left traces and legends. These years of extraordinary training under the aegis of Patrice Chéreau, Valéria Bruni Tedeschi revives them, kneaded between her desires and memories. “These people, alive in front of the camera, allow the past that is within us to become the present again. Only fiction can snatch memories from nostalgia.” Fiction to talk about reality, ambition is almost political.
Forty years later, the Amandiers still exist in Nanterre. Almost everything has changed, however, especially the era is not the same. Currently under construction for four years, the premises conform to the requirements of the times. The Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, which designed the Oslo opera house, is at the helm to create a transparent setting. A representation of the project shows a light gray building against a greige sky. The cinnabar red is no more, synthetic onlookers roam the forecourt in anthracite outfits.
On a metal fence, a chronological frieze encircles the construction site. Above, the generations follow one another, the directors too: Pierre Debauche, Raoul Sangla, Jean-Pierre Vincent, Philippe Quesne… And finally the “Chéreau years”. From 1982 to 1991, the demanding director held the helm of this national scene. In the large black and white photo, he smokes his cigar, file in his arm. Inevitably, this school is a distant memory today, few people on the spot knew it. She had only two promotions, it must be said, the first in 1983-84 and the second in 1986-87, that of Bruni Tedeschi, but also of Vincent Pérez, Agnès Jaoui, Marianne Denicourt or Thibault de Montalembert.
More libertarian than the Conservatory, this public training founded with the director Pierre Romans – who was in charge of it – sought to evacuate any didactic learning in a permanent framework. “There was no pre-established method”, remembers the actor Marc Citti, from the same class as Valérie Bruni-Tedeschi. “We were learning on set and working all the time.” The current director of Les Amandiers, the man of the theater Christophe Rauck, remembers a school imbued with the identity of Chéreau, where the actors were at the center of theatrical concerns, far from the technologies and other artifices used in the productions. current scene.
Very close to Chéreau, Pierre Laville, director of the Théâtre des Amandiers from 1969 to 1974, remembers the intensity of this training which strangely passed under the media radars. It ended with the death of Pierre Romans in 1990. “This school could not have lasted anyway”, considers the man of the theater, “Chéreau became a star and this exaltation so strong at school could only be ephemeral, like all passions…”
At the mention of this formation, it is the effervescence that comes back above all, the very one that the film shows. For dreams and utopias then had no obstacle. “On had the impression that everything was possible, it was the Mitterand years, culture was showing up everywhere, the Villette, the Pyramid… Coluche and Gainsbourg were on TV, it was as if libertarian thought had a gable on the street”. IThere was above all in the air the conviction of being able to succeed, of fighting without blushing for one’s ambitions. “The spirit of success was different”, comments Pierre Laville. “He was not diluted in social networks, nor in questions of fame or money”.
If the public and free training of Almond trees was a rarity on the territory, they are more than thirteen today in France. Among them, that of the National Theater of Strasbourg, already present at the time of Chéreau and sometimes compared to the school of Nanterre. “But young people are less carefree today”interrupts Christophe Rauck, “The anxiety of the 80s was nothing compared to that of now. Youth and time are no longer in fusion…”.
For two years at the head of the Amandiers, Christophe Rauck wanted to bring training back to the theater. “La Belle troupe” thus offers twelve students a 2-year professionalization cycle. if it’s not a new school strictly speaking, it is a question of resuming a work of transmission.
Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi’s film therefore recalls a bygone era, no doubt more feverish, but not more beautiful, far from being idealized by summoning in turn AIDS, Chernobyl and the heroin who sneaked in. Even Patrice Chéreau is not idolized, brilliantly interpreted all in shades by Louis Garrel.
Above all, the 2h06 of the film will allow new generations to glimpse a time when utopia and dreams seemed to have the upper hand over the economy to change the world. The young actor Dimitri Doré, one of the most promising of the moment, took to the stage for the first time at Les Amandiers in 2017. Without having known the 80s, he had Chéreau and his school in mind, as if “the insatiability of these students” had been told to him, transmitted perhaps unconsciously. He is not in the film but could have been, and be part of this new troupe that offers Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Like a fictional third promotion from the Chéreau school, these ten-twelve burn with life on the screen and we hope so in life too, fast and strong before the youth does not fade.