This is the mini-series event of TF1! Broadcast since September 20, “A French Affair” leaves no viewer indifferent who has viewed it. It must be said that the show is inspired by one of the most sordid news items in France. A real drama which Michaël Youn, present at the casting, remembers well.
A French affair : a sordid crime
A French affair looks back on the murder of Grégory Villemin, 4, whose lifeless body was found in a river in the Vosges on October 16, 1984. Very quickly, the media get carried away, the photos of Grégory’s body appearing in the press and causing public stir. Subsequently, an intensive investigation is carried out, between phone calls and letters from a mysterious crow, lead to a suspect who will be murdered by the victim’s father, and accusations against Christine Villemin, Grégory’s own mother. In short, a real soap opera in real time …
While, until today, the culprit of this terrible assassination has still not been identified, the Grégory affair has above all pointed to the many flaws in the country’s judicial institutions. Indeed, on the one hand, the investigating judge in charge of the case quickly found himself overwhelmed (which led to his suicide in 2017). On the other hand, the investigation was the object of a real war between the various police services, which obviously slowed down the investigations. Between the two, the media have been heavily criticized for their heightened sensationalism during a case deemed particularly sordid. This has also considerably complicated the work of the authorities. Paradoxically, however, this affair has changed certain things, especially within the scientific police. The laws on the presumption of innocence and the secrecy of the investigation have also been strengthened.
The Grégory affair has above all entered fully into popular culture. Indeed, before A French affair, Netflix had already taken up the subject with the documentary miniseries Gregory who recounted this terrible story.
Memories of Michaël Youn
Present since September 20 on TF1, A French affair has already aired four episodes out of the planned six. The latter have also benefited from correct hearings with in particular 4.1 million viewers for the first episode. Honest figures, especially since the mini-series has in front of it the inevitable show Love is in the meadow, on M6.
Michaël Youn is part of the 5-star cast of the series, accompanied by equally essential actors such as Guillaume de Tonquédec, Laurence Arné, Blandine Bellavoir, Gérard Jugnot, Michel Vuillermoz or even Gilbert Melki. In a particularly unusual role when you know his filmography, Michaël Youn plays the famous journalist Jean-Michel Bezzina, who was convinced of the guilt of Christine Villemin. Playing this character was all the more special as the actor sometimes drew on his own experience. In fact, he was 11 years old when, from his small television screen, he saw this affair explode. Interviewed by Le Figaro, he recounts his memories in great detail:
I was born in 1973. When the affair broke, I experienced this story live in front of my television. The chains had become the ancestors of CNews and BFM. I saw how the omnipresence of the press, its collusion with justice, the war between the police and the gendarmerie destroyed families, lives: the murder of Bernard Laroche, the suicide of the judge. We harassed people who weren’t ready. These cameras, these microphones, it was science fiction to them. They didn’t know how to react when they opened their door. They sometimes thought they had an obligation to respond.
To interpret Jean-Michel Bezzina in A French affair, Michaël Youn did not do things by halves. Thus, he did everything to immerse himself in the character he embodies:
My character conveyed the theory that it was the mother who could have murdered her son. It was interesting to analyze the progress of his thought because he was sincere. How can we go wrong by remaining sincere? I wanted to find his psychology, while remaining believable and exuding empathy. I want the viewer to say to himself: “He may be right”. I must do more than find extenuating circumstances for him, I must find a possibility for him to be right.
Also, the actor did research to blend in with the journalist’s skin:
I studied it a lot. There are…