Ardisson speaks to the dead

The universe of virtuality continues to grow in the arts and media. An indication of this is the new show by French host and producer Thierry Ardisson. Having interviewed almost every French personality, the Man in Black now prefers to direct his questions to those who are dead and whom he is reviving.

Posted at 6:00 am

In hotel of the time, which launched on France 3 on Monday evening, Ardisson creates the illusion of a lengthy documentary interview with legends that French audiences want to relive. And who better to launch this concept than Dalida, icon among icons, who died 35 years ago.

Thanks to technological abilities, the singer’s admirers saw and heard her answering the questions of the host, who met her in a room of this famous personality hotel of time, actually Le Meurice, a magnificent palace in Paris.

Disappointing the script and acting of the actress hiding under Dalida’s face (sometimes the lack of naturalness in the questions and answers is annoying), the technical aspect and the staging of the show are absolutely impressive.

This process is based on the principle of deepfake (video or audio recording modified with artificial intelligence) was developed by Studio Mac Guff. Called Face Retriever, it merges the face of a personality, in this case Dalida, with that of an actress.

The voice was reconstructed by specialists at the Institute for Research and Acoustic/Music Coordination (IRCAM). The result is stunning. The sound of the voice was heard in Orlando, Dalida’s brother. He could not tell the true from the false.

If Dalida was fully recreated, you should know that her words are authentic. We use statements she made in thousands of interviews throughout her career. At the very end, Ardisson has him narrate his May 3, 1987 suicide from information gathered after the tragedy. Disturbing moment…

Three episodes have been filmed so far. French viewers will soon see Coluche and Jean Gabin (who makes a brief appearance in the episode of Dalida). Ardisson (aged 20 years by Face Retriever for meeting the singer) hopes to make more episodes.


Thierry Ardisson was rejuvenated 20 years for his meeting with Face Retriever’s Dalida.

As you might have guessed, this emission is very expensive to produce. Each episode takes a month of research, a month of writing, three days of shooting, two weeks of editing, and a final month for special effects.

There are no image rights for the dead. Although he was not obliged to do so, Thierry Ardisson asked his guests’ heirs for permission. Coluche’s entourage rejected the first version of the script but approved the second.

This isn’t the first time Ardisson has had the fantasy of interviewing the dead. A few years ago he had done the same with doubles of John Lennon or Victor Hugo. But this time he’s taken the time to come up with a concept that’s already garnering a lot of attention. Press coverage of this program over the past few days has been tremendous.

Dubbed the “TV UFO” by chroniclers, this show fascinates as well as disturbs. On Monday, the comments on social networks were very numerous. The vast majority of people said they were baffled by this concept. The term “bluffing” came up often. However, some have expressed unease at having a dead woman being interviewed.

After the spirit of Elvis came to do a duet with Céline, after these Japanese stars offered concerts in the form of a hologram, recreated in 3D after the “ABBAtars” tour of the four ABBA members (the tour was due to take place on 27 London) , here missing guests who come to tell us in sublimated surroundings what they have already said.

They will tell me that the exploitation of the virtual in the arts world is not a thing of the past. Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon often exploited this in their creations. But this nifty use of deepfake in a documentary interview opens up unimagined possibilities for the film and television industry.

Why bother trying to find an actress who looks like Marilyn Monroe when you can replicate the real Marilyn Monroe? Why kill yourself to rejuvenate an actor for flashback scenes when you can take 15 or 30 years off them deepfake ?

All of this is very interesting. But there is this game of truth and lies that is scary.

A woman on Twitter yesterday after watching the show asked: “Does that mean you can get anyone to say anything? Yes, ma’am, we can! But I wanted to tell him that this thing has been possible for a long time. No need for deepfake Therefore.

I see these new phenomena emerging with a mixture of fascination and concern. I tell myself that it’s getting harder and harder to separate the true from the false. Or if you prefer: it will be easier to make a fake.

I also fear that over time we lose the joy of dreams and fantasies, the real ones.

But most of all, I keep asking myself how well we will use these tools. Because for every creator who wants to dazzle, there is an idiot who wants to deceive and mystify.

Ardisson wants to make people dream. He wants to have fun. With him, at least, the convention is clear.

Still, I wish he’d asked Dalida, who was so close to Mitterrand, what she thought of the recent presidential election.

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