In the Dardenne brothers’ “The Unknown Girl”, Adèle Haenel plays a doctor who investigates a possible murder
Adèle Haenel plays a doctor gets obsessed with the case of a dead woman after learning that the woman had died shortly after having rung her door for help. As Le Monde wrote “the Dardenne brothers have become the masters of a cinema humanist, naturalist, rebel, whose stories feed on the breeding ground of European social misery”
Actress ‘proud’ she walked out of French Oscars over Polanski
Actress Noemie Merlant has absolutely no regrets about walking out of the French Oscars after Roman Polanski won best director to cap what was perhaps the most bitter and fractious awards ceremony in French cinema history.
Merlant followed her “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” co-star Adele Haenel nd the acclaimed movie’s director Celine Sciamma, to the exit after Polanski won best film for “An Officer and a Spy”.
Haenel cried “Shame!” as they left, furious that the Cesars academy had honoured a man still wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, and who has since had to deny several claims of sexual assault.
Haenel — a key figure in the French #MeToo movement, who last year revealed that she had been sexually harassed by a director as a teenager — had declared that “distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims”.
“I am proud that I left with my comrades,” Merlant said of the dramatic night four months ago, which caused an earthquake in the French industry.
– ‘It had to happen’ –
“I think it is good that it caused a stir, that it started a debate.
“The world is changing, and going forward,” the actress told AFP.
“Now we are standing up and we are walking out when things have to change. It’s something I think that has to happen,” said Merlant, who made her breakthrough playing a woman radicalised by the Islamic State in the 2016 film, “Le Ciel Attendra” (Heaven Can Wait).
“Maybe five or 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have done it,” the actress admitted. But after working with “lots of female directors I began to ask myself some quite perturbing questions about women’s lives, about what they wanted to say, and their choices.”
Merlant, 31, said that while the Cesars ceremony was “extremely stormy”.
“I feel deep down that it opened up some things, both in the profession” and beyond it, even “among families and friends”.
– Younger generation shocked –
“It is something that people want to talk about — and even when people don’t want to talk about it, that too is interesting,” said Merlant, who was nominated for a best actress Cesar with Haenel.
“As women speak up, it allows you to ask questions about ourselves,” the actress said. “This is also why so many of this new generation of (women) are shocked” and angry about cases like Polanski’s.
Having worked with a lot of woman directors, Merlant said she has been lucky to star in so many female-driven stories.
“Up to know, I think the women that I played were not objects but the subject, and I want to keep it that way,” said the actress, the star of the new French film “Jumbo”, in which she plays a loner who forms a strange attraction to a fairground ride.
“I really love to go out of my comfort zone and to take on roles and stories that scare me, that take me somewhere else,” said Merlant told AFP in March, before the release of the film was delayed by the French lockdown.
The elite world of French cinema is divided over the 45th César Awards ceremony, the French equivalent of the Oscars. A movie by the controversial and divisive Franco-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski won three awards, including the coveted Best Director prize. This was a bitter pill to swallow for many, including feminist groups who had called for a boycott of the ceremony. The incident once again ignited a fierce debate about the question of “separating the man from the artist”. Does this episode highlight a deep-rooted problem in French society? And are things slowly starting to change?
The elite world of French cinema, one of the pillars of the country’s exception culturelle, was bitterly divided after Roman Polanski was named best director at France’s equivalent of the Oscars.Several actresses walked out on Friday night as the César was awarded to the Franco-Polish director who is still wanted in the United States after he admitted the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.The award was viewed as provocative and a slap in the face for sexual abuse victims and #MeToo campaigners who have struggled to gain recognition in France. Outside the ceremony, feminists clashed with police. Polanski, 86, had stayed away, saying he feared a “feminist lynching”.On Saturday, Ursula Le Menn, an activist with Osez le Féminisme (“Dare to be feminist”), the group that organised the protest outside the ceremony, said the award showed that nothing had changed in the world of French cinema. “The empathy shown is a facade …. There is no real change of mentality,” she said.
Polanski’s film, J’Accuse (An Officer and a Spy), about the Dreyfus affair, was nominated for 12 Césars, and won two others – for best adaptation and best costume design. But it was the decision to name him best director that caused the most outrage.
“Polanski has presented himself like Dreyfus, a victim, and used his film for his own defence. For women who have had the courage to speak out about the abuse they suffered, there is an enormous pain seeing this man distinguished,” said Le Menn.
“We ask women to come forward and speak out and they see not only are there no consequences for their aggressors, but those same aggressors are honoured in this way.”
Actress Adèle Haenel, who last year revealed she had been sexually abused as a child by another director, shouted “Shame!” as she left the awards. Others followed, including the director Céline Sciamma. The ceremony’s host, Florence Foresti, also failed to return to close the event. On her Twitter account Foresti said she was “disgusted”.
Alexis Poulin, a French journalist and co-founder of an online media site, said many in France felt the same way. “A lot of people in France are disgusted this morning. What happened yesterday was wrong and I have been saying this for ever. I think it’s unfair Polanski is given all these honours,” he said.
“Giving Polanski a prize was quite a statement. The film is something a lot of people work on, not just him. Giving him the prize protects him – it says you cannot reach him and the French cinema elite will stick together: it’s like a cinema mob and he’s the godfather.
“It says to the victims, ‘we don’t want to hear you, you are nothing, we don’t trust you’,” Poulin added.
J’Accuse recounts the persecution of the French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus in the 1890s, convicted of trumped-up charges of treason. In an interview to promote the film, Polanski admitted he saw himself like Dreyfus: “I am familiar with many of the workings of the apparatus of persecution shown in the film… I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done. Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case.”
Poulin said the award had revealed a deep problem in French society. “Polanski fled and found refuge in France. In France, we accept rapists on the run because they’re artists. It’s a problem of French society.”
Polanski admitted the statutory rape of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey in 1977 after more serious charges were dropped in a plea bargain. While awaiting sentencing, he fled the US. France has refused to extradite him.
Since then, a number of other sexual abuse allegations have been made against the director, who became famous with his film Rosemary’s Baby. The most recent was last November when a French photographer, Valentine Monnier, accused Polanski of raping her in 1975, when she was 18, at his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland. Polanski has denied all the allegations.
He received backing on Saturday from the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who tweeted: “That the #Cesars waited until #Polanski was absent and could not respond, to mock him, humiliate him, overplay disgust and go so far as to refuse to pronounce his name, that says a lot about where the real “Miserables” were last night.”