Catherine Breillat Talks Taboo-Breaking Love Story Between Child Lawyer & Teenage Stepson In Cannes Film ‘Last Summer’: “She Is Not A Predator!”

French director Catherine Breillat has been breaking taboos throughout her career and her new Cannes Palme d’Or contender Last Summer is no exception.

The erotic thriller stars Lea Drucker as Anne, a family lawyer specializing in child protection, who embarks on a forbidden affair with her dissolute 17-year-old stepson Theo (Samuel Kircher), with devasting consequences. Read Stephanie Bunbury’s review for Deadline here.

The film has been warmly received in Cannes where it world premiered to a long standing ovation on Thursday evening.

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Breillat addressed the provocative plotline in the press conference for the film on Friday, saying the initial relationship between Anne and Theo was “pure love”.

“I think that when they fall in love it’s unconscious, there’s a kind of happiness, a sort of intoxication that takes over. They’re not analyzing what’s going on. That’s why she is not a predator, it’s something else,” said Breillat.

Drucker said that she had been guided by Breillat and the other actors in the cast for her interpretation of Anne without “judging or condemning” her character’s actions.

“Knowing that I was working with Catherine, I was ready to be inspired by her character, her view on the world which is so singular and I let myself be transported. I went on this voyage,” she explained. “As an actor, you are like a leaf on water.”

The actress added that she had questioned Breillat and producer Saïd Ben Saïd in depth about their intentions for the physical love scenes and how they would be handled.

“The conversations began a long time before the shoot… I asked them to explain very concretely what the scenes would involve. I have my limits and there are things I know I can’t do,” she said.

“Catherine drew the scenes, almost shot by shot, explaining exactly what she wanted to show and not show. She said, ‘What interests me the most is the faces’. I thought ‘Great, it’s going to be easy’, which was naïve on my part.”

Earlier in the press conference, Drucker revealed that early on in their conversations on the role, Breillat had brought up Caravaggio’s painting The Esctasy Of Mary Magdalene as a reference for the expression that she wanted Anne to have as she falls for her stepson.

Kircher, who is the son of actors, Irène Jacob and Jérôme Kircher, admitted he had been nervous about this aspect of the role but said Breillat had been meticulous in setting up each love scene with him.

“I was a bit nervous in the beginning and I was asking myself how it would go but then I was reassured. Catherine would talk to me before and after each scene,” he said.

“It also helped that my parents know Léa and she is someone who is very, very well-intentioned and generous,” he said.

Kircher said he had been drawn to the role of the way in which Theo who has been emotionally neglected by his real parents, finds validation and recognition in his relationship with Anne.

“It’s the first time he is treated like an adult and this is overwhelming for him,” he said.

Last Summer marks Breillat’s first film since Abuse Of Weakness, which played in Toronto in 2013. She was last in Competition at Cannes with The Last Mistress in 2007 and before that, her film Sex Is Comedy played in Directors’ Fortnight in 2002.

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