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Philippe Noiret

An honest dealer and his double


- After a three-year silence, Philippe Noiret returns to cinema as a drug dealer in the directorial debut of Belgium’s Philippe Blasband Un honnête commerçant

Philippe Noiret

Un honnête commerçant [+see also:
film profile
, the directorial debut of Belgian screenwriter (Une liaison pornographique) Philippe Blasband had its Italian premiere at the 59th Venice Film Festival. Blasband’s film, a subtly ironic and occasionally cynical “noir” about a police investigation into the drugs trade is vaguely reminiscent of Claude Miller’s Garde à vue (Under Suspicion) although Un honnête commerçant differs in its “surreal realism”. Noiret plays Hubert Verkamen, a sophisticated drug dealer and cruel man whom the police suspect has committed a particularly nasty murder. During his interrogation by the police, it gradually emerges that another Hubert Verkamen exists and the questioning becomes a sophisticated mind-game where fiction becomes reality, and vice-versa. Wearing a hat, dark glasses and puffing on a cigar, Philippe Noiret spoke about this Franco-Belgian co-production.

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You have accepted roles in numerous first-time films during your career. Coincidence or premeditation?
“You’re quite right. There have been quite a few. The truth is that is something I really enjoy. It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction to know that I must have done something right in my life, and young people are still interested in me. “

What made you accept this role?
“I tend to go for the screenplay rather than an individual role. I liked this one right away and said so.”

It is a great crime film with a perfectly balanced storyline. Do you think this is a typically Belgian film or will it appeal to a wider European audience?
“The thing that makes this typically Belgian is the surrealism. The story is a well balanced mixture of realism and surrealism, a characteristic shared by Belgian artists, be they filmmakers, painters or sculptors.”

International festivals like this are important showcases for many films that are looking for distributors. Artists and directors become promotors. Are you more an artist or a business man?
“Certainly not a businessman, unfortunately for my long-suffering wife! I don’t think I am an artist either. I am a craftsman who becomes a sort of artist thanks to director’s art and skill.”

You made Un honnête commerçant after a three-year absence. Is this your return to cinema or just a parenthesis?
”I have been doing an awful lot of theatre in recent years and returned to film this summer. I just finished making Les côtelettes for Bertrand Blier and with Michel Bouquet. Next week I am going to Montreal to begin work on a film by Michel Boujenah".

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