A Renaissance for Benoit Jacquot

Benoit Jacquot H 2014
AP Images/Invision

The French director maintains a streak of acclaimed films at the age of 68.

"I was very, very young when I started to want to be a filmmaker," says French director Benoit Jacquot. "I must have been 11 or 12 years old."

At 68, Jacquot has finally hit his career peak. The writer-director of 2012's critically acclaimed Farewell, My Queen premiered Diary of a Chambermaid on February 7 at the Berlin Film Festival. In addition, his 3 Hearts is set for a March 20 U.S. release. Although Jacquot has over 40 directorial credits, he hasn't reached this level of international praise until recently.

Read more 3 Heart's Venice Premiere

He grew up in Paris during the heyday of the French New Wave, where auteurs such as Jean Luc-Godard, Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol inspired him. He began his career as an assistant director to Marguerite Duras before debuting his first film, 1976's The Musician Killer, starring New Wave starlet Anna Karina.

Over the next 20 years, Jacquot made a significant number of films for French television before his 1995 breakout hit, A Single Girl. Jacquot accomplished a cinematic feat with the 90-minute film in which he captured part of a woman's day in real time using mostly handheld cameras. Virginie Ledoyen, his 19-year-old star, was nominated for a Cesar. His second critically acclaimed film was 2004's A Tout de Suite. The black-and-white film set in 1974 captures a young bourgeois woman on the run with a bank robber. Jacquot said that the French New Wave directly influenced the creation and form of these two stylized films.

Jacquot attributes his newfound international acclaim to the actors that he's been able to work with. "In recent years, the celebrated actresses and actors in France have a bond, a friendship, a complicity with me," says the director. "They accept more or less easily to come and be in my films."

For Farewell, My Queen, Jacquot was able to recruit German star Diane Kruger to play Marie Antoinette and breakout French actress Lea Seydoux to play her maid during the early days of the French Revolution. Although the film depicts an important moment in French history, Jacquot was more interested in his characters. "It's not really the story of France that interested me," he says. "It interested me a lot to follow a character during extremely violent and important events. "

Jacquot's newly released contemporary film, 3 Hearts, stars French film royalty: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Catherine Deneuve, and her daughter Chiara Mastroianni. It tells the story of a government tax agent, played by Belgian actor Benoit Poelvoorde, who is wrapped up in a love triangle with two sisters, played by the remarkably similar Gainsbourg and Mastroianni. This "melo-thriller," in Jacquot's words, is a dark depiction of lust, love and family in the countryside of France.

Jacquot, who is famous for depicting the intimate lives of woman in his films, says, "There was the desire to make a film with a principal character who is masculine." However, his true inspiration came from the brilliant actresses in his film. "I wanted to make a film with Charlotte Gainsbourg, her among all the actresses I filmed."

In Diary of a Chambermaid, which is currently on the film festival circuit, Jacquot once again directs Seydoux, who is now set to be the next Bond girl. This film harkens to many of Jacquot's earlier films that have depicted famous works of French literature. "I'm concerned with making a film according to the novel Diary of a Chambermaid, like Bunuel and Renoir did," he explains. The film is scheduled for a late 2015 release in the United States.

Not ready to stop his streak, Jacquot is currently developing a French-language adaptation of the Don DeLillo novella The Body Artist. And the filmmaker refuses to let his age hold him back. "It's simply that I have so many films to make," he says. "And it seems I have 15 more years with the means to make the films I want. "