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« ROCANCOURT, LE FILM » by DAVID SERERO

Playboy France had the opportunity to preview the film Rocancourt, directed by David Serero. Following this, a critique and an exclusive interview with the remarkable director of this unique documentary followed.

It was like Hollywood movies, except everything was true, and the story began in Normandy... This story is about Christophe Rocancourt, as told by the director David Serero. Rocancourt is the adventurer of a world we already know everything about. When there's nothing left to discover, it's inside people that treasures must be sought. Rocancourt searched well, perhaps like no one else, and found treasures, sometimes hidden in the pockets and wallets of innocent fools trying to sell a building or start a half-baked business there.


From one scam to another, Christophe extricated himself from a destiny that didn't promise much to reach the top, where we don't really know what we'll find and often find nothing. But from below, it shines! One wants to climb up there from the famous trenches towards the light and the stars. Rocancourt has mingled with stars, from the most beautiful models in the world to Rourke; he even managed to have a beautiful daughter with the most rugged actors like Mic Miss France!


Everything has been said about Rocancourt; his affairs have been examined from all angles. He's been labeled the scammer of stars, Polnareff's enemy, the Frenchman tearing it up in the States, and the manipulator of his ladies. His accounts, plans, and ideas have often been scrutinized poorly. He even wrote books himself to contribute to the myth. The interest in another documentary about his journey didn't seem obvious, but David Serero found it fascinating.


Serero is also a character! One can easily picture him in a Sergio Leone or Scorsese film alongside his friend Christophe: sometimes a singer and lyrical composer, a filmmaker attracted to controversial figures, occasionally a courageous investor, sometimes a fan of Napoleon or men's fashion. You have to follow him in his flamboyant destiny... It was destined that he would be the one to tackle the legend of Rocancourt from a new angle. What if we filmed Christophe instead of Rocancourt? What if, instead of recounting once again the details of his adventures – admittedly fascinating – we let him speak? What if we sought to know the man behind the mask? That's what Serero wanted to do.


And David Serero never does things by halves! While he could have seated his subject on a couch for an hour-long interview, he instead created an actual film that blends filmed fiction moments that rival what is done in traditional cinema, with car chases, drone shots, muscular reconstructions, acting, and above all, breathless editing. You can feel that Serero spent time behind the controls editing his film like a watchmaker assembling a luxury watch: he sought to make it a gem.

What's even more touching, however, are the moments when Christophe is there, in close-up, perhaps even more so when he walks and wanders in the very footsteps of his lost past rather than sitting facing the camera... These contemplative sequences are reminiscent of the excellent documentary "When We Were Beautiful" dedicated to Bon Jovi.


It's genuinely Rocancourt who carries the film, and it's a sign of success since the movie bears his name. We discover intelligence, sensitivity, an exemplary and loving father, and a wounded child; we find someone who has experienced everything and remains the little Norman he was under the wings of a father he couldn't find in time. We understand that climbing the mountain and indulging in excesses is not enough, that life isn't there, and that these golden interludes are only prolonged nights of intoxication over a few years.


The mornings are painful, and one must rebuild a more humane existence. Rocancourt, who burned the candle at both ends and smoked cigarettes in the most excellent and most prestigious places in the world, now lights candles to pay tribute to Thérèse of Lisieux, the most extremist saint in the best sense of the term – is there a bad one? – in the world. I wasn't so surprised to learn of Rocancourt's love for this figure of spirituality.


Thérèse is absolutism, excess almost to the point of madness, the desire to go all the way and to go there fast. From her birth in Calvados, this other little Norman needed nothing more than her audacity, her passion, and her love to change the world and become a legend exactly where she wanted to end up, freely, on top of the world, and even beyond, after the world, after death. Thérèse is hysterical yet gentle spirituality, crazed yet smiling ambition, contained eroticism, functional excess, and love of life but also impatience for death. It rings a bell! When Rocancourt walks into the church and talks about his relationship with God – with the soft light characteristic of Serero's documentary – you'd believe him without confession!

Another decisive moment is the appearance, once again as miraculous, of his daughter Tess. She seems to have inherited her mother's beauty and her father's vivacity. Perhaps it's because he fathered a saint, and he admires another? Rocancourt hears her speak simultaneously as us and holds back his tears. Fiction has always tried to write an actual film, finally acted out, about Rocancourt's destiny; television continues to create content revolving around his legend; Serero, on the other hand, has created a clever blend that allows us an unprecedented dive into the mind of a fascinating man, sometimes consumed, sometimes luminous, a free man who has his flaws and mistakes, some paid as they were due, others with which he will have to live, and who is reborn today, because that's also Rocancourt, the phoenix of Normandy!



Interview with David Serero:

Playboy France: You were an artist, particularly in music, before being a producer and even a director: how did you think of Christophe Rocancourt as the subject of a film?


David Serero: I've always been fascinated by different life journeys. I'm intrigued by individuals who have changed the course of their fields and left their mark. All my previous films prove this with Elie Tahari in fashion, Hélène Grimaud in classical music, Lisa Azuelos in cinema, Richard Orlinski in sculpture, and Christophe Rocancourt in his domain. I also grew up with his story. When I first moved to New York in 2001, there was constant talk about this Frenchman who had caused a big stir across the country, passing himself off as the heir to Rockefeller. Then, when he returned to France, and we could discover this man so complex and intriguing, I became interested in him. His book "Mes Vies" (My Lives) was a cult book for a whole generation. Moreover, as he kindly put it, we have America in common. I've been living here for 20 years. I understood that his story was French but with an American rhythm. We immediately clicked because he understood my different approach to his life, and since then, I have had a genuine passion and compassion for him.


What do you say to those who might tell you glamorize crime?


I don't glamorize it; on the contrary, I show the effects of a life lost, trying too hard to win it all. There's nothing glamorous about crime. However, my job is to tell a story with as much realism as possible, immersing the audience so they become attached to the story and the character's psychology. I want the audience to be immersed in Christophe's mind. All stories and life journeys deserve to be told, especially when the individual has served their sentence in court.


You're the director of this film, but you're also the producer: was the documentary a financial and technical challenge, and if so, how did you overcome it?


I'm so passionate about what I do that no challenge can scare me or that I can't overcome. With me, everything is made possible and realized. For each subject, I create a new technique. Rocancourt's story is so unique and full of twists and turns that the film had to reflect everything. I had to explore new techniques, and this film made me progress immensely. I mixed several styles and created a new genre of documentary that blends Hollywood thrillers, action films, documentaries, and spontaneous interviews, without forgetting the sensitivity and emotion 100% made in France. I believed in it more than anyone else, and I thank Christophe for believing in me and trusting me in front of the world's most prominent directors and producers. I wanted to do justice to this mythical story that is part of French heritage and that I treated with all my heart and respect. The audience can feel it, even just by watching the trailer.


The film's editing is very dynamic, the colors are graded in an American style, and the documentary seems tailored for platforms. Are these artistic choices intentional, and if so, why?


Thank you very much for your words. I'm glad you see it. Indeed, I have a 100% American entertainment culture but with a French and even suburban soul. Christophe has made this unique journey. Above all, I wanted to make a film for the cinema. In theaters, I tested the film and designed it with effects that could make the audience jump out of their seats. I wanted to create a real cinematic experience for the audience. I even did all the editing and grading myself. The Rocancourt story is primarily made for the cinema.


Did you encounter difficulties getting the film into theaters, and if so, why?


I was surprised that some theaters hesitated to show a film about "someone who has been in prison." To me, it's pure discrimination. He has paid his debt to society. The film begins: "Don't judge me; the courts have already taken care of that." His story is a lesson in pure courage and the journey of a man who fell and managed to rebuild himself and become an ideal father. Christophe Rocancourt is a historical figure with the courage to tell his story, mistakes, and past.


You've already made several films about original characters, you're presenting this film about the Rocancourt myth, and I imagine you have future projects as well: is it a passion for freedom of expression and a desire to give a voice to individuals with marginal, misunderstood, or controversial destinies that also drives you?


These characters are, first and foremost, critical human encounters. When I make a film, I spend nearly a year on filming and editing and another year promoting the film in theaters, festivals, and platforms. So it's hundreds of hours that you spend working on your subject. I love absorbing their psychologies, and I learn so much from each of them. If you want to make an exciting film, you must first and foremost be passionate about your subject!


What are you most proud of regarding this documentary? What sets it apart from other productions on the same subject?


No other film or even reportage has been able to show Christophe Rocancourt's psychology, which has primarily focused on his feelings about the various events in his life. This film is the definitive film on Rocancourt in which he opens up completely. No actor can express what Christophe feels when he finds himself at his father's grave and when he sees a statement from his daughter Tess, or when he is placed in a high-security prison and faces death every day, or even when he revisits the traces of his childhood.


Can one watch it without knowing Christophe Rocancourt?


Of course, the film tells all the equations of his life and the CV of his scars from his parents to today. We are all Christophe Rocancourt, striving to cultivate a better version of ourselves. See this film; I promise you'll see your life very differently.


Any final words?


Here they are: ROCANCOURT. It's the title of my film, which alone evokes so much and also pays tribute to those whom Léo Ferré calls in "Avec le temps" (With Time), those "poor people." These people didn't start life on the same starting line as most. A new adventure begins; the film will be shown in Cannes at the Marché du Film, with a grand after-party at my friends' place at the Arc de Cannes. Then, it will have a new release in June in Paris and other cities in France, Belgium, Morocco, etc. In September, the film will be released in the USA. The story of this film is far from over. And a big thank you for your interest and support for this film, which will remain a significant work in my career.



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