Stars and stripes in 'reborn' Deauville

Depp, Stone, Gainsbourg and Penn in opening weekend salvo

by Richard Mowe

Striding out on Deauville’s red carpet: Charlotte Gainsbourg, centre in the little black dress, as jury president and her fellow jurors at last night’s opening ceremony
Striding out on Deauville’s red carpet: Charlotte Gainsbourg, centre in the little black dress, as jury president and her fellow jurors at last night’s opening ceremony Photo: Richard Mowe
Under azur blue skies and miles of tapis rouges (red carpets) the 47th Deauville Film Festival - previously exclusively the preserve of American films and now opened up significantly to French cinema too - burst back to life last night with a screening of Todd McCarthy’s drama Stillwater.

Neither McCarthy nor star Matt Damon nor, indeed, French co-star Camille Cottin (from Netflix’s Call My Agent) managed to put in an appearance so it was left to “star” turns by the mayor of the Normandy resort Philippe Augier as well as Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival with whom the Deauville event now has an ongoing and fruitful relationship. Stillwater, presented out of competition on the Croisette in July, is part of the twinning which also embraces a string of new French titles as well.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, jury president at last night’s Deauville opening: 'I have many childhood memories of Deauville, and it has to be said that my father relished the bar of the Normandy hotel'
Charlotte Gainsbourg, jury president at last night’s Deauville opening: 'I have many childhood memories of Deauville, and it has to be said that my father relished the bar of the Normandy hotel' Photo: Richard Mowe
Deauville’s deputy director Aude Hesbert, talking to TV channel France 24 said that after a scaled down version last year, it was important to return bigger and better with such stars as Johnny Depp (for City Of Lies) and Michael Shannon ready to travel alongside directors including Oliver Stone who, in a Deauville tradition, will have a beach cabin named after him. Sean Penn’s daughter Dylan Penn will receive a special rising star award tonight (4 September) for her performance in the film Flag Day, directed by her father and in which she appears alongside him.

Hesbert said: “She is amazing in the film. Dylan is a playing a very daring role, a daughter facing a tough relationship with her father and being directed by her real father as well as playing opposite him.”

As for Deauville’s new French connection, Hesbert addedthat the organisers wanted “to strengthen the cultural bridge that exists between France and America”.

On last night’s red carpet flurry was Charlotte Gainsbourg, president of the jury for the films in competition, surrounded by her fellow jurors. She claimed to be rather overawed by presidential duties and said that she would be opting for “team work.” After a lengthy sojourn in New York, the pandemic brought Gainsbourg back to Paris with her two daughters. Her husband Yvan Attal and their son had remained behind. “The pandemic and the then Trump administration horrified me. I was obsessed with watching the news and it was terrifying. I no longer recognised the America that had welcomed me six years earlier,” she said.

Director Oliver Stone will have a beach cabin in his name - a Deauville tradition for visitors past and present
Director Oliver Stone will have a beach cabin in his name - a Deauville tradition for visitors past and present Photo: Richard Mowe
Gainsbourg recalled that as a child she used to watch American films on video with her father Serge Gainsbourg. “I loved the comedies from Billy Wilder and Mel Brooks. My father had very eclectic tastes which meant we could go from watching Walt Disney to a horror film or a Western. That invigorated me as a child and I have tried to do the same with my own children.”

She is looking forward next week to presenting her own film about her mother Jane Birkin, Jane by Charlotte - especially as she has a special affection for the area where her mother has a house featured in the film. “I have many childhood memories of Deauville, and it has to be said that my father relished the bar of the Normandy hotel,” she revealed in one local newspaper. This year marks the 30th anniversary of his death prompting Charlotte to reflect that in our current politically correct climate may be there would not be a place for his tempestuous rock ’n’ roll antics.

Festival director Bruno Barde said they had been wooing Gainsbourg to be jury president for years and she followed in the wake of Vanessa Paradis last year. After last year’s precarious edition, which hung in the balance but finally took place, he faced this year’s prospect with more equanimity. “We went on the principle that it would happen. Because of Cannes taking place exceptionally in July we had only a few weeks to get it all together. Art and culture are the first line of resistance in these circumstances. The festival, after all the troubles, is a sign of rebirth and renewal.”

Barde insists that stars as well as unknowns are important to festivals and the public. “They make people dream … but nothing is as important as the film itself,” he said. Although protests by women’s groups have greeted Deauville’s biggest attraction Johnny Depp’s appearance at other film festivals including Karlovy Vary and San Sebastian the French seem more muted preferring to concentrate on his cinematic achievements rather than his stormy private life. Le Figaro daily carried a full page ad as recently as this week for the men’ fragrance Sauvage for which Depp continues as Dior’s ambassador in ads and commercials.

The loyal Deauville audiences have responded enthusiastically with packed screenings over this weekend. Meanwhile the Barrière group hotels (a Festival sponsor) are reporting 99 per cent capacity for the next few days. The international media, however, are conspicuously absent, preferring instead to seek out more professionally productive options in virtually concurrent events in Toronto, Venice and upcoming San Sebastian.

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