Friday, June 26, 2009

Catherine Deneuve on "The Girl on the Train"

France being the “guest of honor” of the 2009 Taormina Film Fest, the festival was in turn honored by a visit of Catherine Deneuve, one the most prolific French actresses who in her long career has worked and with almost every important European filmmaker in the last thirty years (from Bunuel over Polanski and Truffaut to Lars van Trier). Deneuve was in Taormina presenting her newest film “The Girl on the Train” directed by Andre Techine.

At a press conference during the festival, she talks about her role as a French icon, why she has not made many US movies and explains her attitude towards TV work. She describes how Techine fictionalized the actual news story of a seemingly antisemitic event in Paris, but refuses to answer direct questions on anti-Semitism.

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"The US films that were proposed to me I would not have done even in my own language"

What do you think of your role as a symbol for French beauty? At one time, you were chosen to represent the “Marianne”, a national emblem in France.

Catherine Deneuve: I have the impression that I am more a French symbol than a beauty symbol. At the beginning, I was in movies because I was handsome – that is normal when you start your career when you are sixteen or seventeen. I was very happy to be chosen as a “Marianne” especially since I was not married and had a child – it showed that things had changed since the end of the war.

What is your relationship with the media?

Catherine Deneuve: Cinema critics and the media are different. You cannot have a relationship with film critics. I admire some of them, but I think it is inappropriate to have a personal relationship.

You have worked in other languages. But you never worked in English.

Catherine Deneuve: It is not my own choice – it was other peoples’ choices. For a French actress it is very difficult to make a film that is not in her native language. I think an actor looses a great deal when working in a foreign language. I made films which did not work very well since they were not aligned with US producers’ interests.

In America, they have excellent actresses; they don’t need European actresses. Although there were quite a few Italian actresses that went to the US, that had to do with the fact that they married Americans. So these were special circumstances. American movies have become much more realistic, so there are very few foreign actresses.

The US films that were proposed to me I would not have done even in my own language, so I refused.


"The enthusiasm is still there"

In Italy, many actresses work for TV series – is that something that interests you?

Catherine Deneuve: I have made one TV series with Benoit Jacob. It was a film in two parts which lasted about three hours. To do a project for TV you must have a reason – it needs to be a story that you cannot do in two hours. The story is about the psychoanalyst that had a big encounter with Freud. This could only be done as a television film.

Some actresses find TV more interesting than cinema. I think I have a problem with that. You shoot too fast, the lighting is not good. You need to have a lot of time for the shoot. I am not against TV, though, but you need to have the right circumstances.

You made about eighty movies in your career – how have things changed? Are you still enthusiastic?

Catherine Deneuve: Yes, the enthusiasm is still there. What you need is to have the determination to interpret a role otherwise there is no way you can be an actor. You have to grow with cinema, and I have grown with cinema. I feel that I have grown a lot and evolved a lot. I always felt I had enough time for myself. I always acted to keep balance between cinema and life.

What are your plans in the future?

Catherine Deneuve: I made a film with a young director together with Marine Hands – “The Kitchen”. I am not sure the title will remain the same. The film will be released in October in France. I am also working on another film that should be terminated end of the year, but there are some production problems.


"I am not a spokesperson for anything."

Can you tell us a little bit about the movie?

Catherine Deneuve: It’s about an event that took place in the RER. I am not sure if this type of train exists in Italy – it is a suburban train in Paris which connects the town center with the suburbs. The film is about an event which took place a few years ago and happened within one week. Both media and government replied too strongly without inquiring as they should have done. The girl had a complicated life. She had invented that she had been the victim of an attack because she was Jewish. This reflects what happens today, things happen too quickly and there is not enough time to do inquiries.

What did you think when Techine approached you for this role?

Catherine Deneuve: I was interested in shooting a film with him. I knew he wanted to do a movie on this event. The girl is an opaque girl. So there was no suspense. He wanted to take this event into consideration in order to show what may happen in a country where the media have an important role. The story denounces something in a wider sense in a country that runs too fast.

I believe this is the fifth film you did with Techine – do you have a special relationship with him?

Catherine Deneuve: Yes, we are friends. That makes shooting a movie with him special. I know him well enough so I am not upset when I make a film with him because he is a nervous man. It helps me with my relationship with other actors. The two of us have the impression that we are shooting a new film. Despite the fact that we know each other we try to go further in our adventure. I cannot say that every time it is a new experience, because he’s is trying to do what he has been doing for twenty years – he opens new doors and goes further.

Did Techine invent the story?

Catherine Deneuve: Have you heard about the event in Italy? The event is true. But we don’t know anything about the relationship between the mother and the girl – Techine never met either of them. He talked to policemen and read reports, and then invented the story. He also invented the story of the lawyer in love with the mother.

You said that Techine did not meet the protagonist – but did you meet the mother?

Catherine Deneuve: Of course not – if Techine did not meet the persons involved, why should I? I am shooting a film, this is not a documentary. We do not know a lot about that girl. I was much more interested in the social aspects. Through the anti-Semitic events Techine wanted to deal with a girl who is angry, who has no work – all this is very far away from the real characters.

The film treats Judaism and anti-Semitism.

Catherine Deneuve: I am not a spokesperson for anything.

What is your general attitude on anti-Semitism?

Catherine Deneuve: We cannot discuss such an important topic in the framework of a press conference – what is your question?

Is there a revival of anti-Semitism?

Catherine Deneuve: Your question is framed in a way that it will be the only thing that will be reported from this press conference – so I reject your question.

How was the film received in France?

Catherine Deneuve: It’s a film which does not have a lot of suspense. It has received good reviews but has not been that popular, but that’s because of the subject matter.

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