Sunday, 26 September 2010

Enter the Void: A Reunion with Cyril Roy

Cyril Roy is like my petit frère. I got to know him in the mid-90s when he used to play in the awesome garage punk band The Sires (I interviewed them for the legendary hardcore punk zine MAXIMUMROCKNROLL). He also used to work behind the bar at The Elephants Head in Camden Town (my all-time favourite pub). With his raspy Pepé Le Pew French accent and Gallic joie de vivre, Cyril was a much-loved fixture in London on the retro rock scene. Years ago he married a Japanese woman and re-located to Tokyo, where he managed a bar. Every few years he visits London, and is as reliably debauched and hilarious as ever.

A while back I started getting occasional cryptic emails from Cyril saying he got an acting gig and would be appearing in the new film by Gaspar Noé, the French-Argentinean enfant terrible / provocateur notorious for the brutal rape revenge film Irreversible (I’ve never seen that film and don’t intend to – I’m very squeamish. I know someone who saw it years ago and is still traumatised!). This was a very surprising development, as Cyril had never expressed an interest in acting. Sure enough, when the film Enter the Void screened at Cannes in 2009 there was Cyril photographed with Noé and the rest of the cast on the red carpet. I’ve been dying to ask him about it ever since.

Finally caught up with Cyril this week when he was passing through London (touring with the Japanese garage punk band The Minnesota Voodoomen), which coincided with the film’s premiere in London. Managed to snatch a quick drink with Cyril before seeing a screening of Enter the Void at The Curzon in Soho (at the French House, appropriately enough). Over a large Pernod Cyril explained how someone from Noé’s production company asked to rent one of the function rooms at the bar where he works to hold auditions for the film. Cyril had been a fan of Irreversible and was curious to meet Noé. When they finally did meet, Noé – presumably impressed by Cyril’s charisma and grungy sense of style -- asked him if he’d be interested in doing a screen test. Apparently he liked the results, because Cyril wound up with one of the lead roles! To me, Cyril is the best thing in the film – but then I would say that.

Enter the Void is Noé’s hellish, hallucinatory vision of Tokyo as a neon-lit purgatory. The soundtrack is mostly one long menacing industrial throb while Noe’s astonishingly mobile camera swirls and swoops overhead, capturing a cavalcade of depravity below. In truth I’d find it hard to recommend the film (it’s two and a half punishing and intense hours of having your face rubbed in squalor!) but it is virtuoso and original filmmaking – Enter the Void is a bit of an endurance test, but also a genuinely memorable experience. And I’m so proud of Cyril! He told me that Noe paid him the compliment that he “eats the screen.” It’s true, he does.

/ Characteristic pose for Cyril outside The French House in Soho: drink in one hand (Pernod), cigarette in the other. Note the beautiful skull ring /

/ Cyril and Dominique Gillan outside the Wenlock Arms in Shoreditch /

/ Cyril and I outside the Wenlock Arms in Shoreditch /

/ Cyril and French chanteuse Fabienne Delsol (his former bandmate in The Sires) outside the Wenlock Arms in Shoreditch /

/ Cyril displaying his impressive Japanese tattoo. (Trust me, it extends down to his ass) /

Enter the Void UK trailer:

Read Peter Bradshaw's five star (!) review of Enter the Void in The Guardian here.

Read an interview I did with Cyril circa 1998 and his bandmates in Dollicious for Razorcake.


  1. thanks for the little anecdote... i've just seen the film and was curious about this Cyril guy. He ate the screen good!

  2. Thanks, Mike. By the way: all of Cyril's friends in London were anxious about him when the earthquake and tsunami struck in Japan (he lives in Tokyo). Thankfully he got back to us via Facebook to say all that happened to him was he was drinking wine at the time and a wine glass broke -- the guy leads such a charmed life!

  3. Cyril was the best part of the film. I've never met him and felt this way before reading this.

  4. Great anaecdote. I love the Sires and Enter The Void, but I never got the connection! and I came here through googling the lovely French House. I love it when seemingly unconnected things that one appreciates in life all fall wonderfully together like this. Cheers.

    1. Nice hearing from you, Alex! I get the impression we probably have mutual friends. Are you still based in London? Graham