Paris (AFP)

It is the meeting of two sacred monsters, one of the cinema, the other of the literature: in "Thalasso", the director Guillaume Nicloux films a comic closed session between Gérard Depardieu and Michel Houellebecq, enjoying himself exploring the " permanent confusion "between reality and fiction.

In this crazy comedy-like comedy on Wednesday, writer Houellebecq, known for his polemical and visionary novels, and actor Depardieu, famous for his talent as well as his excesses, in their own role, meet in a spa treatment in Normandy, in Cabourg.

Not really convinced by the cure, and frustrated by the alcohol-free diet and without tobacco imposed on him, Houellebecq falls on Depardieu while smoking secretly. They will begin to meet in their room to drink good wines and discuss life, death or politics, while five years after his abduction (in a previous film), Michel Houellebecq will hear again about his former captors.

With "Thalasso", the atypical Guillaume Nicloux signs his third film with Michel Houellebecq (after "The Gordji Affair: history of a cohabitation" and "The Abduction of Michel Houellebecq") and the fourth in five years with Gérard Depardieu (after "Valley of Love", "The End" and "The Bottom of the World").

"We really wanted to be on a project, relying on + The abduction of Michel Houellebecq +," said the director of 52 years in an interview with AFP.

"I especially wanted Michel and Gérard to both go into this manufacturing process which is very special, because there is a scenario, a written document, but also everything on the periphery", with particular "What springs out very spontaneously," adds Guillaume Nicloux, who has already played this ambiguity between reality and fiction in several of his films.

- "Michel, it's a bird" -

"There is a porosity between what they are supposed to interpret in the film and what they are," he says. "What interests me is to explore these ambiguous, sometimes troubled areas, and the advantage of this process is that it gives them the opportunity to be even more themselves than if I had wanted to make a documentary about them, because they can at any time hide behind the film's alibi ".

Strolling in a bathrobe in the corridors of the hotel, immersed in a cryotherapy tank or pressotherapy session, trying to force open the wine cabinet of the restaurant or to coax the waiter, confused with Yann Queffélec, Houellebecq is often irresistible in sad dog looks a little lost.

The colorful encounter between the two friends then creates a true comic duet, between confessions, truculence and childish tricks. Guillaume Nicloux does not hide his fascination for his actors, even if, once past the joyous effect of the first gags, the plot tends to run out of steam.

"I think we like to shoot people who have grace, there are anonymous people in the street that I tell myself that I would love to film them, to go a little way with them for what they are, the way they walk, the way they look, the temporality that belongs to them already tells a story, they already have a world in them, Michel has that, like Gérard, "the director says.

For him, the author of the "Elementary Particles" and "Serotonin", which he wants to adapt to the film novel "Submission" is "a bird, with a temporality of his own", and Gerard Depardieu "a child and a ogre".

Five years ago, "there was a meeting that gave us a lot of emotion and intensity" with Depardieu. "These adventures do not leave us unscathed," adds the prolific filmmaker, who likes to surround himself several times with the same actors.

After "The Borders of the World", he also shot again with Gaspard Ulliel in a mini-series, "It was a second time", a mixture of love story and fantasy, which will be broadcast on August 29 on Arte .

© 2019 AFP