Profile: Jean-François Richet
- Tom Dawson
- 21 August 2009
The French film-maker behind Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One
Name Jean-François Richet
Born 2 July, 1966, Paris
Background Having grown up in the satellite town of Meaux, east of Paris, Jean-François Richet made his feature debut in 1995 with the Cesar-nominated Inner City (Etat des lieux). He went on to write and direct Ma 6-T va crack-er, a tale of teenage gang warfare in a Parisian housing project, which drew comparisons to La Haine, and he also made All About Love (De l’amour), a suburban female revenge story starring Virginie Ledoyen. In 2005 Richet remade John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 in America.
What’s he up to now? This fortnight the second part of Richet’s epic biopic of the notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine (played by Vincent Cassel) will open in cinemas. The films were shot back-to-back over a period of nine months and were box-office hits in France, attracting over three and half million spectators.
What he says about growing up with Mesrine ‘In the suburbs we had a vague idea of who he was. We knew that he was a gangster, and that he was gunned down by the state. We knew he was a rebel and we admired that. His name was graffiti tagged on walls.’
On the enigma of Mesrine ‘To me Mesrine was a man of honour. Once he’d given his word, he would stick to it. He was very OTT – he had an exaggerated personality. He operated by negation – that’s how he asserted himself. There are times that you want to like him and times where he things he does are hateful.’
On the war with Algeria ‘Mesrine was a paratrooper in the Algerian war for three years. I wanted in one scene to show him in his true colours. He’s asked to kill a young Algerian and instead he kills somebody else. It illustrates his contradictions in extreme circumstances.’
Interesting fact Richet financed his first film Inner City by gambling his unemployment cheques on games of roulette.
Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One is on selected release from Fri 28 Aug.