Current Issue #487

Film Review:
The Truth

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s follow-up to his Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters features one of the grandest grande dames of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve, at her most formidable, and almost strong enough to see you past a few very French flaws.

A film of several notable firsts, this is Kore-eda’s first production outside Japan (and not in his native language) and the only time thus far in which Deneuve has worked alongside Juliette Binoche, and while it touches upon some of this auteur’s pet themes, the emotions somehow aren’t as rich or moving.

Diva movie star Fabienne Dangeville (Deneuve) is introduced intimidating a journalist as she discusses her long career and her forthcoming autobiography (La Vérité/The Truth), and then her family turns up from New York to help her celebrate – if that’s the right word. Screenwriter daughter Lumir (Binoche) is immediately, and understandably, on edge, but her slightly goofy TV actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and their impressionable young daughter Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier) are mostly oblivious to the deeper, scarier issues at play. And not just due to the language barrier.

Fabienne has rather foolishly accepted a part in a sci-fi film called Memories Of My Mother, and when her fed-up manager later leaves in a huff, Lumir reluctantly fills that role, and the blurrings of fact and fiction come thick and fast, from the morphing of Fabienne and a famous witch she once portrayed, to echoes of another drama titled La Vérité (1960), to ambitious concepts of identity and performance, to the biggest and most burning question: is Deneuve essentially playing herself? Well, let’s hope not.

For a movie called The Truth, this pretty daringly leaves you unclear what exactly is real and what isn’t, and the many unresolved aspects might have some viewers feeling just a touch puzzled – or annoyed. And yes, that uncertainty is kind of the point, but couldn’t we be left sure where at least a bit of la vérité lies? Just the merest soupçon?

The Truth (M) is in cinemas from 26 December

DM Bradley

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