Masterclass to students from the French film-maker and actor focused on dark comedy.

Albert Dupontel with NFTS students and Chris Auty NFTS head of producing

The NFTS was honoured to welcome this week one of France’s most successful directors and biggest acting stars Albert Dupontel.

Dupontel has directed some of France’s most unusual dark comedies over the last 15 years and worked as an actor with many great French directors, including Bertrand Blier and Gaspar Noe. He starred in Noe’s controversial and ground breaking film Irreversible.

Speaking in conversation NFTS head of producing Chris Auty, the multi-talented Dupontel talked about his latest film 9 Month Stretch, which he wrote, directed and acted in. It won the César Award for Best Writing (shares with Laurent Turner).

Describing writing as “the most difficult part of the medium,” he said he has great admiration for writers as the ones who “initially craft the story”.

One of his favourite aspects of filming 9 Month Stretch was being able to shoot on digital, which allowed him to “keep rolling the camera and let the actors explore their roles more”.

Dupontel has been proud to stand outside the main stage of French cinema and said he likes to focus on both darkness and humour - no surprise given his close relationship British comedians The Pythons who have played cameo roles in his films. Terry Gilliam appears in 9 Month Stretch and Terry Jones plays God in another film.

Explaining how he studied to become a doctor for five years but gave up in order to pursue an interest in stand up comedy, he said it was thanks to his hugely successful, albeit shocking, one man stand up show called Dirty Stories that he was able to finance his first short film and first feature Bernie.

Dupontel said he was proud that he had never depended on government subsidies to make films.

Asked by students what inspired and influenced him as an actor, Dupontel said he admired directors such as Alexander Mackendrick (The Ladykillers) Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot) and modern directors such as the Coen brothers and The Pythons.

Quoting Gilliam, who once said “the worst film in English will travel further than the best film in French”, Dupontel said he hopes one day to make a film in English because of the hurdles faced by French directors in getting their films released to international audiences.

All photos credit: Simona Susnea