NARRATIVE. Judith Godrèche’s “long journey” to put into words her controlling relationship with Benoît Jacquot

This is a scene from the miniseries Icon of French Cinema, in which Judith Godrèche recounts her own life. A 14-year-old girl comes to audition for a film by a director named Eric. “You have a boyfriend ?”he asks him, sitting in the shadows, behind the camera. “Yes, well not really”, replies the teenager hesitantly. Slowly approaching her, he says: “Are those his jeans you’re wearing there?” “Yes, how do you know?”retorts young Judith in a small voice. “You don’t mind showing your skin like that? It must be a little cold down there.”continues the director, without answering his question.

This exchange is inspired by the first casting of Judith Godrèche, in the spring of 1986, for a role in Beggars by Benoît Jacquot, which was filmed the following summer in Portugal. The French filmmaker was then 39 years old. It was the beginning of a controlling relationship that lasted six years.

Harvey Weinstein, a first trigger

In an article published by The world, Wednesday February 7, Judith Godrèche, now 51 years old, recounts a relationship of domination and painful sexuality with the director. She filed a complaint against him on Tuesday, but also against the director Jacques Doillon, for “violent rape of a minor under 15 years old” committed by a person in authority. A preliminary investigation was opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office to “all the facts denounced having taken place between 1986 and 1992”. “Not so long ago, I kept quiet about my story,” writes the actress in a letter, also published by The worldaddressed to Tess, his 18-year-old daughter. “It’s been a long journey” before daring to speak, explained Judith Godrèche Thursday morning on France Inter.

One of the major stages of this awareness took place in 2017, when the actress decided to confide in Jodi Kantor, a journalist from New York Times, about the attempted sexual assault she suffered at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. The American producer then seems “untouchable, belonging to this caste whose impunity cannot be called into question”she describes Sunday newspaper (JDD) a few months later, in May 2018. “I had to undertake to break the silence and all the internal construction of protection that I had put in place.”

When she decides to tell her story, she has absolutely no idea who or how many actresses will testify: the details of the investigation are kept secret. The facts recounted by Judith Godrèche date back to the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. She was then 24 years old, and was noted for her role in Ridiculous by Patrice Leconte, whose rights Harvey Weinstein has just purchased. The producer introduces himself to her and tells her he wants to discuss the film in his hotel suite in Antibes. “I was so naive and unprepared for this”she remembers in the New York Times. Once in the room, Harvey Weinstein offers her a massage, which she refuses. “The next moment, he presses himself against me and takes off my sweater,” describes the actress, who manages to leave the scene.

Her testimony, published on October 10, 2017, joins the stories of six American actresses, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. For Judith Godrèche, it is “a leap into the void, and perhaps also a relief”she emphasizes in the JDD. Other women later claimed to have been raped by the movie mogul. This is the start of the #MeToo movement.

The shocking discovery of “Consent”

The actress, who has lived in the United States since 2014, immediately receives a visit from the New York prosecutor, who comes to meet her at her home in Los Angeles, with a view to the trial of Harvey Weinstein (today now in prison after his convictions for rape). She asks him “lots of questions, for an hour and a half“, recalled Judith Godrèche at the microphone of France Inter on Thursday. She suggested that he come and testify. “I tell him that I cannot be a witness, that my presence will ruin his trial”, she continues. In “a form of guilt”she confides to him that she was in a relationship at 14 with a 40-year-old man. “It made me a bad girl, or worse: someone who is okay to abuse again.” However, a first fundamental step has been taken: she publicly denounced one of her attackers.

Her awareness continued in 2020, when a friend sent her Vanessa Springora’s story: The consent. The author describes her controlling relationship with Gabriel Matzneff, which began when she was 14 and he was 50. Reading is unbearable for him. “Page after page. I’m drowning. A misty armor swallows me whole. I’m sinking. Close it”she wrote in her letter to her daughter.

The similarity with her story strikes her: two men with a halo of prestige, one in the literary world, the other in the cinema, have sexual relations with very young girls. Without anyone opposing it, not even their parents. Judith Godrèche’s father let her travel in France and abroad with Benoît Jacquot. A letter he wrote to allow his daughter to travel freely for the filming of a Jean-Pierre Mocky film is mentioned by the actress in The world. “I needed parental authorization to travel but not to sleep with him [Benoît Jacquot]even though it was already illegal under the criminal law of the time ?”she reacts.

Become “a clown, an acrobat”

The consent is a huge shock for the actress, but the desire to protect herself, not to look in the face “the sordidness of reality”according to the formula addressed to his daughter, stay stronger. “There is this kind of desire to repaint the room pink. To not want to look at one’s past or one’s childhood as something that would amount to trauma, to not live as a victim”she dissected on France Inter.

Laughter then constitutes a screen. “For several years, I have talked to you about my childhood, most of the time making fun of things, like a clown, an acrobat”, she observes in her introspective letter. She also chose to make a comedy of her life for her big comeback as an actress and director, with Icon of French Cinema.

But, between two bits of humor, she largely addresses her relationship with Benoît Jacquot, never mentioned, but easily recognizable as Eric. Scenes recall his personal history. We see Eric grabbing the teenage girl (played by Alma Struve) by the arm and yelling at her in the street in New York. The reality was much more violent. “He punches me in the nose, then leaves. I stand there, silent on Broadway”confides the actress to World.

“The little girl in me can no longer keep silent about this name”

Throughout the promotion of the series, Judith Godrèche took care never to quote Benoît Jacquot, “for fear that the subject disappears behind a name”, she explains on her Instagram account on January 6. That day, she publicly denounced the filmmaker. “The little girl in me can no longer keep silent about this name. His name is Benoît Jacquot”, she said in her story posted on the social network.

The final trigger takes place when a video resurfaces, an interview, taken from a documentary entitled The Ruses of Desire: the forbidden, directed by Gérard Miller in 2011 (the psychoanalyst himself is now accused of rape or sexual assault by more than 40 women). Benoît Jacquot returns to his relationship with Judith Godrèche, when she was 15 years old according to him (the actress assures that their story began when she was 14 years old). “A girl like her, like this Judith, who was in fact 15 years old, in principle, and I was 40, I didn’t have the right, I don’t think… But she didn’t give a damn about that and even she, It excited him a lot, I would say.”says the filmmaker.

The director, 77 years old today, and author of around thirty films, then admits that his job allowed him to have a relationship with a minor without being worried. “In a certain way, making cinema is a kind of cover, in the sense that we have a cover for this or that illicit traffic, it’s a kind of cover for morals of this type.”, he declares. On Instagram, on January 6, Judith Godrèche spoke to “the French culture”accusing him of “find excuses for artists who take advantage of their status to put very young women, even teenagers, into their beds”.

Judith Godrèche finally managed to put words, including the crudest ones, on her past, by delivering her “Story of kidnapped child” At World. She denounces the brutal sexual relations she suffered, describes how Benoît Jacquot tied her to a staircase, and took his belt to hit her. “I let him take one shot, two shots, but I can’t.” She remembers protesting: “It’s not funny, it hurts.” In its wake, several actresses have also denounced violence and sexual harassment on the part of Benoît Jacquot, who denies the majority of the facts with which he is accused.

But the filmmaker is not the only one that Judith Godrèche accuses. On France Inter, she assured that the filmmaker Jacques Doillon made her “the same thing”. According to his account, the events took place during the filming of the film The 15 year old girl, released in 1989, and in which she played the leading role. The actress talks about facts that allegedly happened “In Jane Birkin’s House”, who was then the companion of Jacques Doillon.

The filming, for its part, “was amazing”, she says. Jacques Doillon had “fired the actor who played [s]we boyfriend to take his place”. He has “suddenly decided there was a love scene, a sex scene” with the young Judith Godrèche. In total, “45 takes” were needed for this scene. “I take off my sweater, I’m shirtless, he gropes me, makes out with me”, she adds, announcing that she has also filed a complaint against the director, now 79 years old.

The latter reacted through his lawyer: Jacques Doillondiscovery[ert] these accusations this morning by voice of the press”. Herefutes them forcefully and is eager to explain himself in court, Marie Dosé told AFP. After Judith Godrèche, the actresses Anna Mouglalis and Isild Le Besco in turn denounced the director’s behavior in The worldTHURSDAY.

“It’s because I have a teenage daughter that I manage to realize what happened to me, to tell myself that I navigated alone in a world without rules or laws”declared Judith Godrèche to the magazine Sheearly December 2023. “I understand that it is time to tell my story, she wrote to Tess, in her letter published in The world. For you, for all those who still live in imposed silence. In fear. It’s time. You need to know. You will have to hide your eyes at times. I hope you will forgive me. I know it’s late, but I just figured it out. This thing — consent — I never gave it. No. Never ever. So, it’s time.”

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