For 45 Years Deauville Festival Has Brought American Movies To France
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The Deauville American Film Festival is underway on the Normandy coast of France. For 45 years, this event has brought only American movies to a country that really prides itself on its own film history and culture. And yet this festival is really popular with the French. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley went to Deauville and found that some of this year's entries are surprising.
(SOUNDBITE OF SEAGULLS)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: It's hard not to be charmed by this intimate and picturesque seaside festival. The American movie stars who've passed through Deauville are now part of the town's identity. Along the boardwalk with century-old wooden changing cabins, each bare a Hollywood star's name.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Johnny. Johnny. Johnny. Johnny.
BEARDSLEY: Johnny Depp was here, and 20-year-old Edith Roger came to see his new film, "Waiting For The Barbarians."
EDITH ROGER: Yeah, I just saw Johnny Depp. So it was very, very fast because he didn't tell anything to the people. He didn't take photos. But it's kind of impressive.
BEARDSLEY: This crowd seems unfazed by the domestic abuse allegations that hang over the actor. While Depp didn't grant selfies, Pierce Brosnan did.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Pierce. Pierce. (Speaking French).
BEARDSLEY: The town itself starred in a movie when French New Wave director Claude Lelouch shot his 1966 classic "A Man And A Woman" in Deauville. Lelouch says this festival has given him the keys to understanding America for 45 years.
CLAUDE LELOUCH: (Through interpreter) I've learned more about New York watching Woody Allen than from going there. And Cassavetes and Scorsese have explained the American mentality. These artists show us what's really going on in America behind the facade.
BEARDSLEY: Seventy-four American films and documentaries are screening over the course of 10 days, 14 of them in competition. Deauville opened with Woody Allen's latest, "A Rainy Day In New York."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK")
ELLE FANNING: (As Ashleigh) I can't make lunch.
TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: (As Gatsby) Why not?
FANNING: (As Ashleigh) It's going through this real artistic crisis. It's a scoop.
BEARDSLEY: It's a movie you won't be seeing in the U.S. Distributors aren't touching it because of the sexual predation allegations that continue to dog its 83-year-old director, accusations Allen dismissed in an interview with France Inter radio the day the festival opened.
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WOODY ALLEN: I feel the people that attacked me make a mistake. People make mistakes. They should open my film in the United States. They should stop attacking me.
BEARDSLEY: Attitudes towards Allen are different in France, says Europe 1 radio film critic Bruno Cras.
BRUNO CRAS: (Through interpreter) Most French differentiate between the man's life and his work. Woody Allen and Roman Polanski will always be great directors. What they do in their private lives might go before a court, OK. But there's justice on one hand and their movies on the other, and we separate the two.
BEARDSLEY: While Woody Allen didn't attend the festival, Roman Polanski did. The director fled the U.S. in 1977 to escape sentencing after admitting to having sex with a minor. He seemed to be relieved to be in Deauville.
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ROMAN POLANSKI: This is really laid back, yeah. No great tensions. And, you know, it's different because it's only the American movies. So already that creates more friendly atmosphere because there's less animosity.
BEARDSLEY: Filmmaker Nate Parker was also at Deauville with his first film since "The Birth Of A Nation" was derailed after it came out that he was tried and acquitted of rape in college. Parker's "American Skin," like Woody Allen's latest, does not have an American distributor, but it got a six-minute standing ovation in Deauville. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Deauville, France. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.