Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2020 7:05 am 
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Opening Night Film


Koreeda jumps boundaries smoothly enough, carrying French divas

Koreeda's first film outside Japan, in French, focuses on Catherine Deneuve as Fabienne (which incidentally is Deneuve's middle name), a French screen icon who has just published her memoirs, ironically called The Truth since they seem to contain very little truth. Her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche, low keyed here but obviously a diva herself) differs with how her mother relates her life there.The men currently in her life also have issues with her. Disagreements come to a head at Fabienne's secluded house where Lumir comes with her TV actor husband (Ethan Hawke) and their young daughter. Hawke plays one of his amiable loser roles, the more thankless because his character doesn't understand French, which is what is mostly being spoken. The issues on the table could interfere with an upcoming project where Fabienne is already not comfortable about appearing with a young diva (Manon Clavel). Is Fabienne imperious, bitchy and jealous? Yes. Was this whole thing tailored as a vehicle for Deneuve? Bien sûr.

There is general agreement that though this isn't a great film, Koreeda has jumped East-West boundaries smoothly enough. Jessica Kiang wrote for The Playlist that the director avoids the "potential for melodrama" and despite the "misleadingly grandiose title" the film sagely eschews the "grand, tormented revelation" in favor of "an accretion of little moments" that are "often very funny but also sometimes "a little sad," remaining well "embedded" in the lives of the film's "sharply drawn, idiosyncratic" personalities. That is true, but while Koreeda juggles all his subplots smoothly, this film feels ultimately rather inconsequential. A "grand, tormented revelation" might have been welcome. Yes, there are numerous amusing moments and some putatively sad ones. But this is a far cry from Koreeda gems like Maboroshi, After Life, Nobody Knows, Still Walking, Like Father, Like Son, and the 2018 Cannes Palme d'or-winner Shoplifters.

This isn't, as some say, one of Deneuve's best roles, because it's not embedded in an interesting enough plot. Libération, which wasn't impressed, calls this movie a "a kind of sitcom deluxe." It is a chance to watch a lot of Deneuve in a freer-than-usual self-satirizing mode. The scenes (and discussion) of the film-within-film, a sci-fi time-travel item where Deneuve's character's mother (Manon Claver) becomes younger than her daughter by living in space, seem too complicated, though obviously were deemed necessary to show Fabienne is still working, or trying to work, but finding doing so complicated for multiple reasons.

The Truth, La Vérité, 106 mins., debuted at Venice Aug. 2019 with a dozen international festival appearances following. At its French theatrical release Dec. 25, the AlloCiné press rating was a respectable 3.7 (74%), while the Metascore showing anglophone reactions is 76%. IFC releases the film in the US Mar. 20, 2020. Promotions are on view at IFC Center, NYC.

Thursday, March 5, 6:30pm (Introduced by Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke)
Thursday, March 5, 9:15pm
(Binoche unlikely to be present due to Coronavirus travel concerns.)

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