French starlets sue director over casting-couch exploits

AN AWARD-WINNING French film director was sent for trial for sexual harassment yesterday, accused of forcing young actresses to make explicitly sexual "test films" for his own "personal pleasure".

Jean-Claude Brisseau, 60, who denies the charges, is the director credited with discovering the actress Vanessa Paradis.

Although Mlle Paradis is not involved in the case, her mother told investigators that the director had made a similarly improper suggestion to her daughter when she was only 17 in 1989.

The allegations against M. Brisseau, whose best-known film is Noces Blanches (White Wedding) (1989), go far beyond the classic accusation of using the "casting couch" to obtain sexual favours. He is accused of tricking up to 15 different actresses into undressing and masturbating in front of him as "erotic trials" for scenes in forthcoming movies.

M. Brisseau says that he filmed the trials as part a "minutely prepared" artistic attempt to document the nature of "feminine sexual pleasure".

Four unnamed actresses who have brought complaints against him allege that he masturbated while watching them and that he promised them parts in his movies if they co-operated.

At a preliminary hearing in Paris yesterday, the date of M. Brisseau's trial on charges of "harassment" and "sexual assault" was set for 3 November. The film director - whose last film, Choses Secretes ("Secret Things") was named "film of the year" in 2003 by the respected French magazine Cahiers du Cinema - said that he would "deny the charges en bloc".

The examining magistrate, Corinne Goetzmann, concluded that "all suggestions of an artistic or cinematographic motive" should be rejected. "M. Brisseau sought only the satisfaction of his own personal pleasure."

The magistrate said that she based her conclusions on "the sheer number of these test films, the period of several years over which they were filmed, the fact that the same promises were made to several actresses, the fact that the tests were made in his home or in hotel rooms, and the fact that Jean-Claude Brisseau masturbated openly in front of the actresses".

Scores of rolls of film were seized in a police raid on M. Brisseau's home. Other actresses, including Helene de Fougerolles and Marion Cotillard, were interviewed by police.

The magistrate's report also includes a statement by the mother of Vanessa Paradis that M. Brisseau asked her daughter to masturbate in front of him in 1989 when the actress was 17. Mlle Paradis, who was then making her first film, Noces Blanches, refused, and complained to her mother.

In an interview with the newspaper Liberation yesterday, M. Brisseau said that he was the victim of a "witch-hunt". "They want to try me for perversion. They want, above all, to send me to jail, arguing that my films are trash and just a pretext for picking up girls ... and yet my work in the cinema is intended to make apparent the beauty of feminine pleasure. The aim is to achieve a kind of sexual suspense, without being vulgar, but in remaining credible".

Filming convincing sex scenes was extremely difficult, he said. Audiences were pitiless. If they weren't convinced, they would burst out laughing. "I work on the borders of the ridiculous and the disturbing," M. Brisseau said.

"I reject all disgusting sex films," he said. "My aim was to discover the beauty, a certain grace, in all of that. The only pleasure that I sought was the pleasure of the audience."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future