Reda Kateb : dancing with the camera

Montre Classima 10263 automatique, boîtier en acier, bracelet en cuir d’alligator Baume & Mercier

Pull en coton et cachemire marron, chemise en coton marron Ermenegildo Zegna

Montre Chiffre Rouge A03

automatique, boîtier en acier, bracelet en cuir d’alligator cousu main Dior Horlogerie

Veste en lin crème, pantalon en laine bleu marine à rayures craie Brunello Cucinelli Pull en coton bleu Eden Park Foulard en soie bleu marine (personnel)

Montre Altiplano automatique, boîtier en or blanc non serti, bracelet en cuir d’alligator Piaget

Smoking en laine bleu marine MP Massimo Piombo

Pull en cachemire bleu Drumohr

Carré en soie imprimé (personnel)

Montre 1858 Manual Small Second à remontage manuel, boîtier en acier, bracelet en cuir de veau italien pleine fleur marron Montblanc

Veste en laine noire à rayures Etro

Pantalon en laine bleu marine à rayures craie Brunello Cucinelli

Polo en coton taupe Giorgio Armani

Assistante stylisme Ariane Haas

Coiffeur Stéphane ForlayMaquilleur Tatsu Yamanaka

Production Iconoclast Image


Jean-Cyrille Boutmy, Marion Dufranc & Mathilde Loviconi / Marché Paul Bert Serpette, marché d’antiquités, art et décoration au cœur des Puces de Paris Saint-Ouen.

Montre Drive de Cartier automatique, boîtier en or rose, bracelet en cuir d’alligator Cartier

Veste en mesh vert olive, pantalon en coton vert olive et polo en coton crème Berluti

Foulard en soie imprimé (personnel)

This elusive actor moves seamlessly from one role to the next. Off-screen encounter with a multifaceted man, fresh from portraying Django Reinhardt on film.

The great thing about Kateb is the way he keeps his distance, staying perfectly outside the frame. He’s made an impressive number of films, including A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, 2009), Hippocrates (Thomas Lilti, 2014), Lost River (Ryan Gosling, 2015) and The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (Wim Wenders, 2016). The Reinhardt biopic, directed by Étienne Comar, was his first major role. We met him in Montreuil, at La Station Services bistro, surrounded by friends and neighbors. He was still in character, but oh so calm, speaking in tranquil tones about his life and the fine clothes he models in this article.

Is dressing in clothing that is not one’s own a way of experiencing other people’s taste?

Fortunately, these designers get me. They have a fresher take. There’s really not a lot at stake here, other than appearing to be different from what I really am. I can dress very differently depending on the place or the people. Here in Montreuil, I don’t have to check myself in a mirror before going out. I look at photos of myself with a certain distance; I’m not the one with the best take on myself. It’s all about remaining oblivious to certain kinds of change.

Your face reveals so many landscapes: your father’s (Algeria) and mother’s (Spain, Italy and Czechoslovakia). Are you adding to this geography?

I haven’t questioned my identity or heritage for years now. They now come up in conversations. As I see it, my relationship to identity is shaped and molded by the people I want to be with from one day to the next. The geography would be the different kinds of music I listen to, depending on my mood. To feel joyful? Nigerian music from the ’70s and ’80s. To shake off a feeling of melancholy? I welcome it for what it is, and listen to blues, for its resonance.

Can you identify certain influences in your voice, your vocal range?

No, because I don’t have any confidence in it. And at the same time, as I’ve mentioned, I cultivate a certain distance vis à vis myself. If I hear my voice, there’s something unpleasant about it. A little while back, I recorded an African tale set to music by Mory Kanté. Someone said I had a certain “blackness” to my tone of voice. It was exactly right. I’m not African, yet I have an African voice. I stay in my own world, I listen to a lot of these various kinds of music: for the most part, they usually dovetail with who I think I am.

Did you learn a lot about yourself with Django?

I don’t know. It’s like coming home after a long trip. You don’t immediately feel the effects. I discovered things about the Manouche community, about life during the war, about Django. I still can’t really articulate it all yet. I learned to play guitar. The rest doesn’t really belong to me anymore; it all belongs to the viewers now. The film intersected with our lives, it was never ours. As François Truffaut said,“shoot against the script, edit against the shoot.”

Oddly enough, Reinhardt was a modest person in an obscene era.

Yes, he conveys this in his music. It was his elegance. He never tried to be in sync. Our era can be pretty obscene as well; this is something I felt that he and I shared.

You’ve said that you have a proactive approach to the camera. Do you feel that way now?

I’m not really someone who seduces the camera, I’m not actively aiming to do that. But behind the camera, there’s a certain way of looking that serves as a thread for the narrative action. I dance with the camera, I’m aware it’s there, I play with it. It’s anything but head on. The camera is a partnerI reveal a few things, yet keep other things hidden and make it come and find them. It is an alchemic dance. There’s nothing that makes me happier in my job than when it all clicks, comes together, when people grasp exactly what I’m doing.

Are you ever “beside yourself”?

I try to avoid getting angry as much as possible. I use irony to work things through, even if you have to be more direct at times to solve problems.

Alber Elbaz once said to you: “Do extraordinary things with an ordinary life.”

Yes! That resonated with me. I’m not trying to lead an extraordinary life, but I make sure I’m not enduring it. Great things are for others. I was born and bred in the theater and cinema. Now it’s time for me to give something back.

Franck Mesnel


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