Rendez-Vous with French Cinema opens in New York

Filmmakers remember Alain Resnais.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Charles Cohen on Catherine Deneuve in On My Way:
Charles Cohen on Catherine Deneuve in On My Way: "an incredible performance by the iconic Catherine Deneuve." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The Film Society of Lincoln Center, uniFrance Films and Cohen Media Group presented on the opening night of New York's Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Paris Theatre, Emmanuelle Bercot's On My Way (Elle s'en va), starring Catherine Deneuve. François Ozon with his star of Young And Beautiful (Jeune Et Jolie), Géraldine Pailhas, directors Sébastien Betbeder - 2 Autumns, 3 Winters (2 Automnes, 3 Hivers), Justine Triet - Age Of Panic (La Bataille De Solférino), Katell Quillévéré - Suzanne, Axelle Ropert - Miss And The Doctors (Tirez La Langue, Mademoiselle), Rebecca Zlotowski - Grand Central, and co-screenwriter Antonin Baudry of The French Minister (Quai D’Orsay) were among those who walked the red carpet.

Young and Beautiful director François Ozon with his star Géraldine Pailhas
Young and Beautiful director François Ozon with his star Géraldine Pailhas Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The evening was hosted with style by Charles Cohen, Isabelle Giordano, Executive Director of uniFrance Films, Jean-Paul Salomé, President of uniFrance Films and director of Playing Dead (Je Fais Le Mort).

"Cohen Media Group is thrilled to once again be a part of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. We are especially proud to have presented (along with The Film Society of Lincoln Center and uniFrance Films) this year's Opening Night film, On My Way - featuring an incredible performance by the iconic Catherine Deneuve." -Charles S. Cohen, Chairman & CEO, Cohen Media Group.

With the recent passing of Alain Resnais on March 1, I asked some of the filmmakers their thoughts after the premiere of On My Way.

Anne-Katrin Titze: One of the great masters of French cinema died earlier this month. Can you talk about the impact of Alain Resnais for you?

Justine Triet director of Age of Panic with Miss and The Doctors director Axelle Ropert co-screenwriter of Serge Bozon's Tip Top
Justine Triet director of Age of Panic with Miss and The Doctors director Axelle Ropert co-screenwriter of Serge Bozon's Tip Top Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Axelle Ropert: It's complicated. Alain Resnais is not by any means my favorite French filmmaker. What is striking for me about him is that he is the rare French filmmaker who became so marked by the Shoah, the Holocaust. It's unusual, because he is French, white, he is not Jewish, bourgeois and there is something very moving in his interest in that from the 1950s onwards and it's something rare in French film as well.

AKT: When did Resnais first cross your horizon?

Rebecca Zlotowski: Very soon. Very early. Actually, I've been asked three years ago with my first film, by a big daily newspaper, Libération, what's your absolute director, and I said Alain Resnais. I think he is the director in France that could have a conciliation between intelligence and feeling. Sometimes as a director I feel that we have to choose between emotion and intelligence. And I think that he showed us the path to combine both. To have the approach of fun and inventiveness - which is something very, very experimental. And he never gave up the experimentation, not only experimentation but the experimental. He managed to be emotional and experimental.

Catherine Deneuve with Jean-Paul Salomé and Isabelle Giordano from uniFrance
Catherine Deneuve with Jean-Paul Salomé and Isabelle Giordano from uniFrance Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: Do you have a personal favorite among his films?

RZ: Mon Oncle D'Amérique (My American Uncle). I saw it again three months ago on a plane. It's not a plane movie but it was so effective for me and efficient. As I was looking at, I said to myself, this film was a huge success at the box office in France. It never happened again. It's so intelligent, so difficult and astonishing and I think it's free, you know. It's one of the freest films I've ever seen. I envy his freedom.

AKT: When did you first encounter a film by Alain Resnais?

Katell Quillévéré: My first encounter with Resnais was in high school. All high school students in France see Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog) in the third year. I was 14 years old. It's a film that hit me with unexpected violence and force. Anybody who learns history in France encounters Alain Resnais. He is an immense filmmaker because he addresses problems of enormous scale, problems of history and the communication of history and at the same time he renovated the formal language of cinema. Any filmmaker in the world should see his films. At the same time, he's also a popular filmmaker who was able to touch and feed the public. So he's a total filmmaker, dealing with issues on the scale of civilisation and renovating the language of the medium. I learned a lot from Hiroshima Mon Amour or Muriel.

Sébastien Betbeder, director of 2 Autumns, 3 Winters
Sébastien Betbeder, director of 2 Autumns, 3 Winters Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Emmanuelle Bercot captures something real, fragile and brutal when Catherine Deneuve as Bettie takes us on the road in On My Way (Elle S'En Va). Though the road is not made out of brick, Bettie's color is yellow from the opening credits to her golden Mercedes. At a darts tournament in a rural sports bar called Le Ranch, a group of women welcome her into their world for an evening which includes a younger man who convinces her to wear a huge pink curly clown's wig and spend the night with him. A soccer field early in the morning, cows looking on, a tractor in the fields, a autoroute rest stop restaurant, people who don't star in films, preoccupied and muddling through life, a friendly guard who lets her stay a rainy night on an ugly grey leather sofa in a country side furniture store - nothing really terrible happens, and yet, not enough to feed her soul. When she meets her grandson Charly (Nemo Schiffman) and agrees to drive him to his cryptic grandfather’s, the film changes direction, picks up speed, loses the car and eventually turns into a romantic comedy with barbecues in the garden, bunny rabbits, and a bold happy ending for the family.

Action! French & American Women Filmmakers

Tonight, Saturday March 8, at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York, on International Women’s Day, there will be a screening of Julie Gayet and Mathieu Busson's film Cineast(e)s: Women Filmmakers. A panel discussion moderated by Isabelle Giordano will feature Julie Gayet, Rebecca Zlotowski, Katell Quillévéré, Justine Triet, Axelle Ropert with American filmmakers Nobody Walks director Ry Russo-Young, Stacie Passon, director of Concussion, and Deborah Kampmeier, director of Hounddog.

On My Way opens in the US on March 14.

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