• Festivals

Sundance 2021 Interview: (Ma Belle, My Beauty) Lucien Guignard

If you have never had the pleasure to escape to France, Ma Belle, My Beauty, introduces us first to Bertie and Fred (Lucien Guignard and Idella Johnson) who live in an exquisite farmhouse in the south of France. Recently married musicians, the couple are about to depart on a tour; that is if Fred can transition his wife out of her depressed state. His conclusion is to bring her former lover Lane (Hannah Pepper-Cunningham) back into their lives; the same woman who served as their third when all lived back in New Orleans. When Bertie seems to be ambivalent about her ex’s arrival, Lane pivots to the seductive Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), which triggers Bertie in a way that surprises even her.


Rather than focusing on jealousy of the three main protagonists, the film puts an emphasis on the tortuous path people sometimes take to bind themselves to someone else. In her feature debut, director Marion Hill, takes us on a stroll through the breathtaking French countryside, replete with lush landscapes and of course, romance; and in this incarnation, a polyamorous relationship.

During Sundance, we spoke to Guignard about the film.

How is it to be part of your first Sundance but sadly due to the pandemic, you cannot be there to participate?

Obviously, it is a dream to be there, but they made such a wonderful effort to feel like we were participating in this virtual world. We have been art of the zoom world.

The film Ma Belle really examines a modern relationship. We are taught these traditional values about what a relationship is supposed to be and, in the film, you totally blow up that concept. And surprisingly, it all feels normal.

It is a question we ask ourselves. Are we supposed to spend the rest of our life with one person because it is normal? Or is it convention and we are supposed to be like this? These are questions we ask ourselves. These characters are artists, except for Lane, and so they are open and laid back. They are very open and go with the flow and what they are feeling.

How did the film enlighten you about what relationships are supposed to be? Your character is so giving for his partner and is open to something quite different.

His level of dedication and selflessness is quite exemplary. It is quite beautiful. I would say the lesson I got from the script and from the relationship is that you don’t want to just rely on love to make your life complete. With Bertie and Fred, who are really driven by music and are dedicated to their art, are actually happier and have this healthy relationship because they have these open values. That is what really touches me.

You just mentioned music and I must say, I was quite impressed with your singing and guitar playing that we are first introduced to as the movie begins. Later on, we also see you play trumpet. What is your own relationship to music?

Thank you first I have a band and I play my own songs. I sing and play guitar. I have always loved music and I always had a dream about playing trumpet, but life went on and I learned. When Marion (Hill) sent me the script and the character plays trumpet. I went and bought a trumpet and had six months to learn. So, the scene of me playing the trumpet by the fire is really me. I was so happy about that.

You are playing jazz, so how much of that genre is part of your own musical appreciation?

I got familiar with jazz quite late. Before that I didn’t really like it, I don’t think I understood it. Then I was introduced to Errol Gardner and Duke Ellington and then Louis Armstrong. That is even a joke in the film. When I have a part of dinner, I put on either Duke Ellington or Errol.

I must say I was totally impressed with that house you used as your main location for the film. Where was that house? It was so romantic in setting.

Anduze is one of these places known for its pottery. It is quite arid yet lavish at the same time. It is in the middle of these sandy mountains with vineyards all around. This theme about beauty is something Marion wanted to say. Happiness and beauty is not just about a sumptuous surrounding. You need to be dedicated to your values and fight for something, It is like when Lane tastes one of the grapes and doesn’t like it. By themselves, the grapes might not be good but when they are nurtured and transformed, then they have this wonderful wine.

Speaking of nurturing, not only are you an actor but you are also a coach. You have the Namaste group in Switzerland. How has helping other actors or public speakers gain confidence been a fuel for you?

When I studied acting when I was young, I so how it was transforming me and how good it was for me regard to socially and self-love and acceptation. I saw how it was affecting others as well. I was as focused on how to do the exercises myself as I was to the possibility of bringing this to others. I always loved making other people feel better and heal. Learning the art of actor is a massive process as you learn to let go of blockages you might have. At one point after training, I realized I could start giving that back to people. It also keeps me in training. Every time I give a coaching session, it keeps me in the zone.