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‘No consent at 14’: French actor fuels #MeToo movement

A French actor has accused a director 25 years her senior of manipulating her into a relationship as a teenager.

Judith Godreche, 51, spoke up after the director boasted that he got away with a 'transgression'
Judith Godreche, 51, spoke up after the director boasted that he got away with a 'transgression' - Copyright AFP -
Judith Godreche, 51, spoke up after the director boasted that he got away with a 'transgression' - Copyright AFP -
Alice Hackman

A French actor has accused a director 25 years her senior of manipulating her into a relationship as a teenager, contributing to criticism that the arts have provided cover for abuse.

Judith Godreche, 51, said this weekend on Instagram that director Benoit Jacquot took advantage of her as a vulnerable underage actor.

Jacquot, 76, did not respond to a request for comment.

Godreche has said she met Jacquot when she was 14 and remained “in his grip” for six years, starring in two films he directed, “Les Mendiants” (“The beggars”) in 1988 and “La Desenchantee” (“The disenchanted”) in 1990.

She decided to speak out after discovering him boasting about their relationship being a “transgression”, and cinema providing a “cover” for it, in a 2011 documentary.

“I threw up,” Godreche told the TMC television channel on Monday evening, seeing him enjoy such “impunity”.

“Consent does not exist when you’re 14,” she said.

“I wasn’t seduced, I was completely manipulated.”

Her accusations come as French cinema is rocked by allegations it has shrugged off sexism and sexual abuse for decades.

At the centre of the storm are allegations against 75-year-old film icon Gerard Depardieu, who has been charged with rape, and faces more than a dozen other accusations of assault or harassment, accusations he denies.

His supporters have claimed criticising him is equivalent to “attacking art”, and President Emmanuel Macron has defended him.

– ‘For our daughters’ –

Jacquot, a director with more than 50 films and TV films to his name, has said he needs to be “in love” with his actresses to film them.

He has worked with established heavyweights such as Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert, but also Godreche, Virginie Ledoyen — known for the 2000 thriller “The Beach” — and Isild Le Besco as teenagers.

In 2015, he described his work as “pushing an actress to pass a threshold… The best way to do all that is to be in the same bed.”

Godreche was among those in 2017 to speak out against US movie producer Harvey Weinstein at the height of the #MeToo movement.

Her latest comments come after publisher Vanessa Springora in a 2020 book described how she was groomed by French writer Gabriel Matzneff when she was 14, a turning point in the discussion about paedophilia in France.

Matzneff, 87, had made no secret of his preference for sex with underage teenagers.

Since 2021, however, sex with children under 15 is considered rape, unless there is a small age gap between both partners.

Godreche said on Instagram she was naming Jacquot “for our daughters… those of you who write telling me that (my) story, which was ‘romanticised’ in the media at the time, incited you to be trapped by an adult who abused their power”.

“His name is Benoit Jacquot. He still manipulates those who could associate their name to mine. Speak up,” she said.

Anne-Cecile Mailfert, president of the Women’s Foundation, was among the feminists who hailed her for being courageous.

“It contributes to the transformation of a society that is no longer as tolerant as it used to be on these topics and is opening its eyes to the fact that no, art does not excuse everything,” she said.

“It shows that #MeToo is a fundamental, deep revolution, and that we haven’t finished seeing its tremors.”

On Tuesday, theatre director Philippe Caubere, 73, said he regretted a relationship he had with a 16-year-old when he was 61, after she filed a complaint against him.

– ‘Stop there’ –

In her latest work, a satirical mini-series released in December, Godreche alludes to a troubling relationship as a teenager but does not name Jacquot.

In “Icon of French Cinema”, which she wrote and directed, she plays her alter ego trying to make a comeback in French cinema, with flashbacks of her experience as a young actor with a director named “Eric”.

Alma Struve, 15, plays teenage Godreche, who in one scene is given too much alcohol to drink at a black-tie dinner.

In another, she shows her younger self filming a scene topless.

“When you’re 15 and there’s a topless scene, there are 45 takes, you have to kiss a man aged 45 years old and this man is your director, it’s crazy that there was no adult on set to say, ‘That’s it, we’ll stop there’,” she told Elle magazine in December.

For her series, she said she hired an intimacy coordinator and a double, and it was “out of the question” that her underage actress kiss an adult.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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