Ciné Lumière reopens with a Catherine Deneuve retrospective

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David Jenkins welcomes the return of South Kensington’s Ciné Lumière, which reopens this weekend with a Catherine Deneuve retrospective

The Ciné Lumière is back after being closed for six months for refurbishment, and who else to head up celebrations for the grand reopening of this vital London font of French cinema but the ‘Ice Queen’ herself, Catherine Deneuve? Deneuve presided over the original inauguration of the cinema in 1998, so her return as MC this Friday evening feels entirely appropriate, especially as few French actors possess her glamour, charisma, good taste and dramatic panache.

Looking back, Deneuve’s catalogue of roles reads like a wish list of modern French classics. Her films reflect not only an ability to ally herself with directors attuned to her enviable panoply of talents (among them Ruiz, Von Trier, Demy, Vadim and de Oliveira), but they also track her 50-year journey from ice-blonde 1960s glamourpuss to a confident, classic beauty whose mere presence in a movie demands attention. Her stature, too, has surged and she manages still to surprise, provoke and enthrall with each new performance.

It’s no coincidence, then, that the first film to screen in the Lumière’s revamped cinema is Arnaud Desplechin’s witty ensemble drama and Cannes hit, ‘A Christmas Tale’, in which Deneuve excels as the officious and predictably elegant matriarch of a dysfunctional family which includes Mathieu Amalric, Jean-Paul Roussillon and Anne Consigny among its ranks. This will be swiftly trailed by a four-day mini retrospective of Deneuve’s screen career, opening on a playfully erotic note with a brilliant late Buñuel double of ‘Belle de Jour’ (1967) and ‘Tristana’ (1970). Following that, old Hollywood sentimentalism and star-power combine in François Truffaut’s much-loved glance at the ethical dilemmas of creating art in wartime, ‘The Last Metro’ (1980), with Deneuve offering a multi-textured, award-winning turn as a theatre actress harbouring her Jewish playwright husband from the Nazis.

Despite her standing as a world-class actor and celebrity, details of Deneuve’s personal life remain scarce, with the recent release of her ‘private diaries’ doing little to sate the appetite of her fanbase. Yet there’s a soul-baring, deeply personal edge to her performance in André Téchiné’s superb ‘Ma Saison Préférée’ (1993), in which she plays a bemused wife, mother, daughter and sister, who’s unsure of how to cohabit with the various members of her distracted and depressed family. There’s also something pleasingly delicate and emotionally ambiguous about her role in the director’s later ‘Les Voleurs’ (1996) in which she plays a philosophy professor drawn into a murderous plot.

Though this retrospective claims to represent a selection of Deneuve’s ‘greatest roles’, it’s worth noting the strange omission of films such as Jacques Demy’s adorable 1964 soap operetta, ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ – the film which allows you in on the joke of François Ozon’s ironic musical ‘8 Women’ (which rounds off the season) – or Roman Polanski’s 1965 London-set horror-thriller, ‘Repulsion’, which offers some neat career context into how she was later to become the YSL-clad object of Buñuel’s cine-fantasies. Still, there’s a chance to catch the British premiere of Gaël Morel’s ‘Après Lui’ (2007) in which she stars as a chic divorcée who runs a bookshop in Lyon and develops a crush on one of her dead son’s friends.

With all manner of Francophone treats in the pipeline over the coming months, it’s great to have the Ciné Lumière open for business again, and it’s great to have a proper movie star in town propping open the doors.

Read Time Out's interview with 'A Christmas Tale' director, Arnaud Desplechin.

The Catherine Deneuve retrospective runs at the Ciné Lumière Jan 11-14; ‘A Christmas Tale’ opens on Jan 16.

Author: David Jenkins



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