Isabelle Huppert and Gaspard Ulliel in Eva
Isabelle Huppert in Villa Amalia
Xavier Beauvois and Diane Kruger in Farewell, My Queen
Léa Seydoux in Farewell, My Queen
“Eva”, “Farewell, My Queen” and “Villa Amalia” are the three film titles that the living legend of European cinema Benoît Jacquot presented before the Bulgarian audience within CineLibri 2018. It was the first time when he visited Sofia.
In his films everything starts because or gravitates to beautiful women. And all of them, of course, are gifted actresses. Benoît Jacquot chooses the stories only after he had chosen the actors to “vocalize” them. Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Deneuve and Diane Kruger are among the remarkable actresses he worked with in cinema. His contribution to the resounding acting careers of a number of magnificent women such as Léa Seydoux, Sandrine Kiberlain and Virginie Ledoyen, can not be denied. The revered French director and screenwriter has over 40 films and 25 scripts in his creative biography. He was president of the jury at the entrance examination of La Fémis (France’s national film school) in 2003. In 2005 he joined the jury at the 58th Cannes Film Festival.
I don’t know if hopelessness and love have anything in common. When we love, we experience both happiness and sadness. But, from a dramatic point of view, sadness is always more interesting.
“Eva” (2018) is a smart Francophone adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s moral mystery of multiple dealings. In brief, Isabelle Huppert’s prostitute (Eva) beguiles Gaspard Ulliel’s gigolo-turned-literary imposter, named Bertrand. Each of them is not only involved in pretending to be something other than they really are, but are prepared to prostitute themselves for their own purposes. At least Eva is clear to herself about what her purposes are, whereas Bertrand, in his pursuit of Eva, is a far more ambiguous figure. It is difficult to say if he has really fallen for her charms or is just using her as a source of inspiration for the new play the audience expects. The other memorable characters are impersonated by Julia Roy, Marc Barbe and Richard Berry.
Back in 1962, Joseph Losey made the first successful film version of James Hadley Chase’s novel – a cryptic story of alienation and obsession, starring Jeanne Moreau and Stanley Baker. Still in Jacquot’s screen version there is something almost musical to the way he orchestrates the increasingly complex variations on his themes. Here the narrative segments gradually develop and enrich that initial subject of a fateful encounter between two strong-willed pretenders. Jacquot’s “Eva” received 2018 Golden Berlin Bear nomination.
“Farewell, My Queen” (2012) based on the novel by Chantal Thomas, is among the cinematographic masterpieces of Benoît Jacquot, a Golden Berlin Bear 2012 nominee crowned by 3 Cesar prizes in 2013. The plot explores the agony of the French monarchy over a period of three days in July, 1789. Set in the Palace of Versailles at the beginning of the French Revolution, Sidonie (Lea Seydoux), known as the reader for Queen Marie-Antoinette (Diane Kruger), is responsible for selecting books and reading them aloud to the queen. Because of her closeness to the monarch, she is able to act as a spy, collecting information about events taking place inside and outside the palace, pressing selected servants for information, and eavesdropping on conversations to gather the most up-to-date gossip to pass along to Marie. However, this is rather a story about seduction, loyalty, and betrayal than a social upheaval.
Dreamy, existential drama based on the novel of the same name by Pascal Quignard, “Villa Amalia” (2009) draws on its implicit power primarily from the presence of Isabelle Huppert. She plays a gifted and brilliant musician whose sense of security falls to pieces when she witnesses her husband kissing another woman. The lapidary style of the book is reflected by the director truthfully.
“Having a camera, choosing a girl to bedazzle you and following her – that’s the cinema,” Benoît Jacquot says. He stands behind the camera and begins to contemplate and admire his actresses. Recognizing that after more than four decades in cinema women remain a mystery to him: “I am not sure that I understand the opposite sex better today. Women are like the horizon – the more you get closer to it, the more it moves away.”