Cécile de France: Acting for the best

For centuries artistic Belgians have headed to Paris to hone their talents. Actress Cécile de France, born in Namur, followed the example of Brel, Simenon, Magritte et al when she was still a teenager. It paid off – she became a star, working with great directors either side of the Atlantic.

“I left to study drama in France when I was 17 years old,” she says. “I’d been in love with acting from the age of six, and went to a school where drama was important, so had appeared in a lot of amateur productions – I fell for the theatre before the cinema. My parents were passionate about it too.”

Theatrical education
At 19, after a couple of years of theatrical training with Jean-Paul Denizon, she won a coveted place to study for three years at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de Théâtre in Paris and Lyon: “I’m thankful for the structured way of working that I learned at ENSATT,” she says. “I still draw on those disciplines in all my work, in building up how best to play a character, and the physical side, and practicalities like looking at costume, make-up, hair…”

Another constant in her career established while she was a student, and in the years immediately after graduation, is her keenness to take on an impressive breadth of roles and styles. Her early theatrical grounding saw De France acting in Shakespeare after a Feydeau farce, Greek tragedy succeeded by The Playboy of the Western World followed by Strindberg, “I love the variety of theatre, the energy,” she enthuses. “Every night’s performances are different, the audience reaction and the atmosphere, so every night is unique. It’s the immediacy too, the instant reaction from the audience.”

Leaving the stage behind
That diversity within the theatre was soon matched by a similar diversity in cinematic role. De France’s first French hit film L’Art  (Délicat) de la Séduction was made in 2001, just three years after her studies finished, and it seems as if she has been on set pretty much ever since. She has since worked with big names in both French and American cinema, like Gérard Depardieu and director Xavier Giannoli with whom she made the romantic film When I Was a Singer (Quand J’Etais Chanteur): and Alexandre Aja whose 2003 horror movie Haute Tension won her – and him – international recognition, opening doors to Hollywood for both.

In De France’s case Hollywood’s doors opened first to her role as Monique in the 2004 Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan comedy adventure Around the World in 80 Days, and in 2010 to a decidedly different part, starring with Matt Damon in Clint Eastwood’s supernatural fantasy movie Hereafter. “Working with Clint Eastwood was very formative, his style challenged some of the usual ways of doing things,” she states.

Emotionally committed
Her times in Hollywood have shown her, as with Hereafter, that it’s not geographic location that determines the experience on any given film: “I don’t think there are actually any great cultural differences or different ways of working between the two cinemas, in France and in Hollywood,” she says. “The differences you do find come out of the individuals with whom you work in those places. OK, in Hollywood the crews are maybe bigger, the resources behind a production there can be huge, but the artistic differences come out of the creativity of the individuals, the directors, camera crew, costume designers, all the talented people you get to work with in both countries.” She refuses to single out any particular film as a special favourite, like a mother refusing to name her favourite child: “Every time I work on a project there is a big artistic investment in time and energy and emotional commitment, so afterwards saying you preferred one over another feels wrong.”

Fine art cinema
De France is, however, happy to express her enthusiasm about her most recent project, La Belle Saison. The film, released in August, was co-written and directed by Catherine Corsini: “It’s a love story between two women, my character Carole who is a militant feminist living in Paris in the early 1970s at the height of that movement, and Delphine, a young country girl who comes to the city to work, played by Izïa Higelin. It’s history with a capital H in a way then, recounting the courage of those struggling for sexual equality, and at the same time it tells the story of the personal lives of the characters. It’s beautifully made, beautifully filmed, wonderfully aesthetic – ‘solar’. I truly think it’s a masterpiece of cinema as fine art.”

She had the opportunity to put her critical faculties to the test on other people’s work at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where she was on two juries (and where she had already acted as MC in 2005). “The experience of being on the short films jury was fascinating,” she says: “These are the talents of the future, some who will undoubtedly be significant creative forces in cinema. The quality of the work is extremely high, it’s cause for great optimism about the future of our cinema.”

Future directions
What about her own future? Given her habit of taking on different challenges, does she have ambitions to be a director? Her answer is unequivocal: “Certainly not. I love acting, and anyway I don’t believe that I have the team skills needed to be the captain of the ship.”

There are calls on her time though – a world away from the movies – where she must need some of those captaincy skills: “Of course I love to spend as much time as I can with my children [she and her partner Guillaume Malandrin have a son Lino born in 2007, and daughter Joy, born three years ago], and doing projects around the house – manual work like plastering, painting, sewing curtains, bits and pieces of DIY…”

De France already has other – cinematic – projects on the go, including a part in the upcoming Vince Vaughn thriller Term Life, where she plays Vaughn’s estranged wife Lucy, another venture into new dramatic territory as the film is based on a graphic novel. There are plenty more possibilities for growth ahead, and she drops a hint about the appeal that adding a further territory to her portfolio has for her.

“I’d really like to work in London. I love British cinema, its dynamism, there’s a whole-hearted energetic approach, and I like the city itself too for that same energy, and for the feeling of being surrounded by history there.” British casting directors take note.

Source: Cécile de France: Acting for the best | Discover Benelux


Comme une Française: French Slang Anyone Can Use!

French slang words aren’t only used by young people. In French, we have some common slang that’s used by all French people — no matter their age or level of education. And you can use them, too, even as a non-native speaker! In today’s lesson, I’ll introduce you to 5 very common French slang words and explain how YOU can start using them in everyday conversation to sound more authentically French, without sounding awkward.

Take care and stay safe.
😘 from Grenoble, France.


Comme une Française: “Advanced” Beginner French

Whether you just started learning French or you’re ready to brush up on the basics ahead of your next visit to France, you’re in the right place! Today’s lesson was created specifically with beginners in mind, to help you go beyond the fundamentals and really become confident in your ability to speak and understand basic French.

In the next 30 minutes, you’ll enjoy some of my best ‘advanced beginner’ French lessons from 2022 so far. Did you learn something new? Be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Take care and stay safe.
😘 from Grenoble, France.


Les petits mots de Romy

Romy Schneider
Romy Schneider

Romy Schneider écrivait. Beaucoup. Notamment sur les tournages. Tous les réalisateurs qui ont travaillé avec elle en témoignent. Certains ont gardé ces précieux trésors.

[ Google Translation ]

By Anne Audigier

An exhibition at the Cinémathèque, a beautiful book which will be released in October… Romy Schneider still inspires just as much. Clémentine Deroudille , the curator of the exhibition and retrospective dedicated to Romy Schneider at the Cinémathèque and Jean-Pierre Lavoignat, who is therefore dedicating a book to her, spoke about the actress in ” Le Grand Atelierphantom” dedicated to her by Vincent Josse.

Among the objects and other souvenirs to be discovered in the exhibition: Romy’s little words. Notes, telegrams, a few lines scribbled on a memo. These little words that she never stopped sending to the directors she worked with. ” It was both spontaneous reactions “, explains Jean-Pierre Lavoignat ” like ‘you didn’t look at me enough during the scene’. Sometimes it was excerpts from books. The son of Claude Sautet, who kept everything, showed me letters from Romy Schneider, where she copied pages from Freud or pages from Goethe to share them because it corresponds to feelings or emotions .

In this mass of documents, an exchange of telegram just before the filming of “César et Rosalie”.

September 1971: Romy Schneider is in Mexico where she is filming ” The Assassination of Trotsky” with Alain Delon. Sautet is working on his next film ” César et Rosalie”. He offered the role of Rosalie to Catherine Deneuve who, enthusiastic at first, let things drag on a bit. Sautet will tell later that he too let things drag on because he wanted Romy.

Jean-Pierre Lavoignat says: ” Sautet sends him a telegram on the set, offering him “César et Rosalie”, and Romy replies :

I know that Madame Deneuve refused it. I’ll be your Rosalie, but I’m not Rosalie.

A telegram in which there are mistakes, Romy Schneider not fully mastering French writes: ” She learned French in a quasi-phonetic way,” recalls Jean-Pierre Lavoignat “therefore in all the letters, even in the last years she writes, there are spelling mistakes that make it even more touching and sincere.”

We can also talk about a service sheet from ” Max et les ferrrailleurs “, where Romy Schneider with a greasy makeup pencil wrote: ” Mon Clo, you will tell the producer and the production manager that I will not come to dinner this evening, since neither the machines nor the electros were invited “.

Tavernier, with whom she shot ” La mort en direct”, said that on the set, she signed all these little words with the name of her character.

Costa-Gavras, who directed Romy Schneider in ” Clair de Femme” , adapted from the novel by Romain Gary, also remembers these little words: ” In the evening, when we parted, she would say little words to me. In the morning, when she arrived, she would say little words to me . One day Costa tells her that they can talk about it, that she doesn’t have to write. Romy’s answer fuses:

You have to write because talking takes flight, it goes away. Writing remains.

” I think she had to say her anxieties,” explains the director, ” anxieties that you can only have when you’re actors and actresses. Really great actors think about every moment. Every moment, there’s You have to get into the character. You have to be the character. Otherwise, the audience doesn’t believe it. “

Source: Les petits mots de Romy

‘Petite Maman’ review: The best family movie you’ll see in a while

Identical twin sisters play a pair of mysterious playmates in Petite Maman, an enchanting film that achieves an emotional depth that eludes many movies twice its length.

Source: ‘Petite Maman’ review: The best family movie you’ll see in a while : NPR

The writer and director Céline Sciamma makes beautiful movies about girls and young women navigating the complexities of gender and sexual identity. You can tell as much from their titles: TomboyGirlhoodPortrait of a Lady on Fire.

Her wonderful new film, Petite Maman, is no less focused on the inner lives of its female characters. But it’s also something of a departure: This is Sciamma’s first work to earn a PG rating, and it’s both the best family movie and the best movie about a family that I’ve seen in some time.

It tells the gently surreal story of Nelly, an 8-year-old girl played by the remarkable young Joséphine Sanz, who has long brown hair and a sharp, perceptive gaze. Nelly’s just lost her maternal grandmother after a long illness. Now, she watches as her parents go about the solemn task of packing up Grandma’s house — the very house where Nelly’s mother, Marion, grew up years earlier. To pass the time, Nelly plays in the woods surrounding the house. It’s there that she meets another 8-year-old girl, who also happens to be named Marion. She’s played by Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine’s identical twin sister.

This eerie encounter naturally raises a lot of questions: Who is Marion, and why does she look so much like Nelly? Is this forest the backdrop for a modern-day fairy tale, or have we slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum? Sciamma is in no hurry to provide the answers. The title Petite Maman — which translates literally as “Little Mom” — provides a bit of a clue. But one of the pleasures of this movie is the way it casually introduces a series of strange events as if there were nothing strange about them at all.

At times the movie feels like a live-action version of Hayao Miyazaki’s anime fantasies like Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro: full of childlike wonderment, but also very matter-of-fact in its approach to magic. Rather than being puzzled by the situation, Nelly and Marion simply accept it and become fast friends. You accept it, too, mainly because the Sanz sisters have such a sweet and funny rapport onscreen.

Sciamma’s camera follows the girls as they run around the woods, gathering leaves and branches to build a hut. Eventually Marion invites Nelly over to her house, which looks an awful lot like Nelly’s grandmother’s house. There, the girls giggle as they cook up a messy pancake breakfast and act out a hilariously elaborate murder mystery. Few recent movies have so effortlessly captured the joy and creativity of children at play.

Petite Maman itself plays a kind of game with the audience, and you figure out the rules as you watch. You learn to tell the girls apart based on slight differences in hairstyle and the colors that they wear. You also get to know a few of the adult characters hovering on the periphery: At one point, Nelly introduces her father to her new best friend, and if he thinks there’s anything weird about this, he doesn’t show it. Meanwhile, Nelly’s mother — the older Marion — has temporarily left the house, needing some time to herself to grieve her mother’s death.

And without a hint of didacticism, Petite Maman reveals itself as very much a movie about grief, about how a child learns to cope with sudden loss and inevitable change. It’s also about how hard it is to really know who your parents were before they became your parents. But in this movie, Nelly gets the rare chance to see or perhaps imagine her mother as the sweet, sensitive, independent-minded young girl she used to be.

Although Petite Maman is decidedly different from Sciamma’s art-house touchstone Portrait of a Lady on Fire, they’re structured in similar ways: In both films, two female characters are granted a brief, even utopian retreat from the outside world and something mysterious and beautiful transpires. If that’s not enough of an enticement, you should know that Petite Maman runs a tight 72 minutes and achieves an emotional depth that eludes many movies twice its length. It’s funny, sad, full of enchanting possibilities and over far too soon — sort of like childhood itself.