If it weren’t enough just being a French heartthrob and a fabulous actor, 24-year-old Louis Garrel (“The Dreamers”) comes from impressive film-biz stock: he’s the son of acclaimed auteur Philippe Garrel (the two worked together on 2005’s “Regular Lovers,” along with Louis’ César-nominated grandfather Maurice) and actress Brigitte Sy. But beyond Garrel’s blood family, the young star has already developed a creative bond at such an early stage of his career. “Love Songs” (or if you want to impress your friends, “Les Chansons d’Amour”) is his third film with French writer-director Christophe Honoré (“Ma Mère,” “Dans Paris”), a romantic if tragic, pansexual, Nouvelle Vague-inspired musical. During his recent trip to New York, I struggled to understand Garrel’s thick (and charming) Gallic accent as we discussed being a sex symbol, seducing women with song, and how he almost became a lawyer.
This is your third collaboration with Honoré. Why do you like working with him?
I don’t know. I mean, I met him on “Ma Mère,” and we were really excited during the shooting, so we wanted to make a film again. He’s really tender with actors in general. It’s fluid and simple to work with him. I don’t know. I like his tenderness, you know? For me, his movies are really sweet, and it helps me to live. I love to work with him.
When you were auditioning your singing voice for him, you had your audience turned their backs to you. How did you get over that fear when you had to sing for the filming?
It wasn’t fear — I just didn’t want to sing in a horrible way. I’m not a singer, so I reproduce a little bit what I see on television and what I listen to on the radio. I don’t have self-control, really, so I didn’t want to sing like Mariah Carey. I don’t have her voice, so I was afraid. I tried to sing simply and be self-conscious of my singing. [On the set], 80% is technique because you have to put something in your ear; you have to be good at lip-synching. At the beginning, it’s a little boring and feels a bit oppressive. It takes longer to learn how to be free and have fun.
What and where do you sing for fun? Karaoke? Do you sing in the shower?
I sing on the streets with my friends at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. I have a memory of this moment with my friends where I’m singing on a bridge. It was funny. I don’t sing too much. When I maybe want to seduce a girl, I sing a little bit because it’s love, a love song, you know? Before the theater, people were singing on stage so it’s the first art, you know? It’s the most direct way to express emotion.
Are there any sure-fire songs for seducing a woman?
I mean, Jacques Demy songs, [“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”], are really good to seduce. The songs of those movies are really gay. Not “gay,” but gay as joy, because in French the same word that means homosexual is like joy.
They can mean the same in English, too.
Yeah? That’s funny.
Last year, Elle magazine listed you as one of the 15 sexiest men in France. How do you not let something like that go to your head?
The week after, there was an item. A girl wrote a letter about “this fucking shit, this young man. Me, I want to see 40-year-old men. This guy is too young.” I mean, it’s a joke. I turned it into a joke with my friends. I was before Jude Law. Something isn’t right.
With your family’s background, was there any chance that you wouldn’t have gotten into the arts?
I wanted to be a lawyer. I love that job, I don’t know why. I went to a tribunal. But, I mean, the job of a lawyer is really interesting; the part of the truth, of what you say, it’s really strange. Did you see the Barbet Schroeder movie, [“Terror’s Advocate”]? That guy Jacques Vergès, he’s a strange, amazing man.
Do you have any aspirations to direct, like your father?
I did one — it’s a short, about 25 minutes. I’m editing it right now, and after that, I’d like to make another one. Maybe I would like to film my friends, because I have a group of theater friends.
What’s your short about?
It’s really strange to pitch it, but it’s a guy with problems [concerning] divorce. The mother asks him to write a letter against the father. The story is when you’re an adult, men make the girls suffer, you know? When you are a child, the girls make the men suffer. It’s about a nightmare between three men, and the father causes a lot of pain to the mother.
I would also like to make a fairy tale in black and white. Maybe I’m going to call it “Little Taylor.” Little Taylor who fell in love with an actress the first time he sees her, and he starts to make a little robe — dress — for her, but she’s going to betray him for her own kind.
Presuming you’ll still want to act if you begin directing features, do you have any goals as an actor, or people you’d like to work with?
In France, I would like to worth with Patrice Chéreau, who made “Queen Margot.” I would really like to work with Almodóvar and James Gray. I love “We Own the Night.”
[Photos: “Love Songs,” IFC Films, 2007]