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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

    £15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

    Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links