Deauville Festival adds a French accent

Slew of Gallic titles join the throng at Normandy’s US showcase

by Richard Mowe

Yvan Attal directs and stars in The Accusation, premiering at the Deauville Film Festival with a cast including his wife Charlotte Gainsbourg and son Ben Attal
Yvan Attal directs and stars in The Accusation, premiering at the Deauville Film Festival with a cast including his wife Charlotte Gainsbourg and son Ben Attal Photo: Gaumont
For most of its 47 years the Deauville Film Festival has focused almost exclusively on American cinema, whether mainstream or independent. The sedate Normandy resort with its proximity to the D-Day landings and many Stars-and-Stripes associations must have seemed a natural location for such an event.

Now though the transatlantic bias has been tempered with an increasing French connection. It started in earnest last year when Deauville teamed with the cancelled physical edition of the Cannes Film Festival to showcase various Gallic titles on the big screen including Maiwenn’s DNA and Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar’s A Good Man as well as other films that were part of the Cannes official selection.

The link continues this year presided over by not only Deauville’s artistic director Bruno Barde but also in the watchful presence of Cannes supremo Thierry Frémaux.

Bruno Barde, Deauville director: Creating 'symbolic dialogue between French and American perspectives'.
Bruno Barde, Deauville director: Creating 'symbolic dialogue between French and American perspectives'. Photo: Deauville Film Festival
Barde notes that the Festival has always sought to forge “a symbolic dialogue between French and American perspectives.” He created a new prize that honours a French filmmaker who has shot a film in the US or about the US, with previous recipients being Jacques Audiard for his Western The Sister Brothers and Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper. The two-way stretch is further strengthened by the Michel d’Ornano Award, dedicated to the memory of the former minister, mayor of Deauville and co-founder of the Deauville American Film Festival.

In 2015 it was renamed the D’Ornano-Valenti Award as an added tribute to the late Jack Valenti, one of the Franco-American Cultural Fund’s founding members representing the MPA (Motion Picture Association).The prize which rewards a first French film to boost its recognition, promotion and exportation, is awarded by a jury of English-language journalists among them Lisa Nesselson, a Paris-based correspondent of various film publications as well as TV channel France 24. This year’s winner has yet to be announced.

The French flourish includes a new film Love Is Better Than Life (L’Amour, C’est Mieux Que La Vie!) from Claude Lelouch who famously and indelibly put Deauville on the cinematic map with his Sixties love story A Man And A Woman, which boasts a stellar cast of Sandrine Bonnaire, Gérard Darmon, Elsa Zylberstein and Béatrice Dalle. The closing film on 11 September is The Accusation (Les Choses Humaines), directed by Yvan Attal, who is married to jury president Charlotte Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg takes the lead role of a radical feminist while her son Ben (Attal) plays a model son against whom a rape accusation is filed, resulting in a family crisis. Other titles in the mix include Christophe Honoré’s Guermantes with Laurent Lafitte about a troupe of actors whose stage show suddenly is cancelled but they decide to plough on regardless; Frabrice du Welz’s Inexorable with Benoît Poelvoorde and Mélanie Doutey; Arnaud Malherbe’s Ogre with Ana Girardot and Cécile Ducrocq’s A Woman of the World (Un femme du mode) featuring Call My Agent’s Laure Calamy.

Ana Girardot in Arnaud Malherbe’s Ogre
Ana Girardot in Arnaud Malherbe’s Ogre Photo: UniFrance
The Cannes Croisette collection comprises Charlotte Gainsbourg’s affectionate portrait of her mother Jane Birkin (Jane by Charlotte); Oliver Stone’s documentary JFK Revisited Through the Looking Glass, which assembles teams of medical and ballistics experts, historians, and witnesses with Stone narrating together with Donald Sutherland and Whoopi Goldberg; Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World (Julie en 12 chapitres) which saw Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve win Cannes best actress accolade; and Catherine Corsini’s The Divide (La Fracture), set in the emergency unit of a Paris hospital during the fallout from a gilets jaune demonstration. The Divide won the Cannes Queer Palme. The final Cannes title for Deauville Compartment No 6 ((Hytti nro 6), by Juho Kuosmanen about two strangers sharing a life-changing train journey across Russia. As has already been announced Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater (another Croisette crossover) with Matt Damon and Camille Cottin will open the Festival on 3 September, heralding a Competition of some 13 American titles.

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