He filmed Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, up close, during the 1974 presidential campaign. Documentary filmmaker Raymond Depardon remembers this shoot, around a character “modern” who has “break down a barrier” in French politics.
In 1974, part of the countryside, he went behind the scenes of the in-between rounds of the election by filming, without restriction, the daily newspaper of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, a format unheard of at the time. Long censored, the film was finally released in 2002.
Which scene from Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s campaign marked you?
When, as the election results approached, he said to me: “I would like to be alone.” That day he was not in a good mood. He was watching TV, but the remote didn’t work, so he changed channels right on the set. There, I understood that he already wanted to prepare for the loneliness of power. He knew it was going to happen to him. He liked solitude. He had just been elected President of the Republic, we were talking about him everywhere, about what he was going to do, about his program, so that annoyed him a little. He wanted to change the channel. On France 3, he came across an American TV movie where the character, a black American, said: “I’m not happy we’re talking about you on all channels.” There are things that chance brings that are magnificent. While I heard the horns and the people partying in the rue de Rivoli, Giscard, “Monsieur all alone”, tweaked his TV.
The documentary shows a closeness to the French, why was it so popular?
He was knocking down a barrier. He was very modern, compared to the politicians of the time. We were always with the image of de Gaulle, even of Pompidou who was part of a Gaullist tradition. The transition had not been made with the new era we were entering, the way of moving, of speaking, of dressing, the way of being. He reassured, we said to ourselves that with him, the purse would be well maintained (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was Minister of the Economy and Finance, editor’s note). He left behind important reforms for history.
Are you happy to know that your film will go down in history?
Yes, I am very touched because, at the time, a lot of journalists turned more around Jacques Chirac, whom I also filmed as a reporter, of course. He was very photogenic, but Giscard was a little intriguing, he scared people a little. Maybe they had a little reserve (towards him). But I absolutely do not regret having made this film, because there was something very cinematographic about him. It was new, totally revolutionary, to be able to follow a politician in this way. Then it was an important period in our history, in our culture, somewhere. It’s important that this film exists.