See it for Deneuve or just a matchless mom.
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda (Shoplifters)
Cast: Catherine Deneuve (8 Women), Juliette Binoche (Who You Think I Am)
Runtime: 1h 46m
By: John DeSando
Catherine Deneuve without stretching plays a French cinema goddess, Fabienne, a diva who is the unremitting self-center of a family. All that and she underplays her to great effect that endears us to her as to her fans.
Although it’s possible this comedy is a take on Deneuve’s life, such an inference is unnecessary given Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda’s (Shoplifters) universal vision. Not only is Fabienne the essence of the superstar, she also represents the matriarch we all think of when we envision transcendent mom power.
Daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) and family visit mom in Paris to celebrate Fabienne’s autobiography and role in a sci-fi where mother never grows old—now how fitting is that background? Given the scenery Deneuve could chew up, she has none of it. She softly throws in bits of sarcasm and bitchiness yet generally with an even temper, almost self-effacing, except she makes sure everything goes her way.
For cinematic reference points, strong mothers are countless; two come especially to mind: echoes of the mother’s visit in Bergman’s Autumn Sonata and an actress’s moving in with mom in Postcards from the Edge. Koreeda’s difference is the almost peaceful turns that could have been harrowing but end up being the natural flow of any family, not even an artistic one for that matter. You just need a strong mom.
Fabienne can’t stop the aging process, which shows especially in her diffidence about her acting. However, none of this concern about aging detracts from her charm. To see the embodiment of an ageless French film icon and enjoy the central role a mother plays in all our lives, The Truth is, it’s all true here with the work of a gifted Japanese director and a true film goddess.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com