ON CURZON HOME CINEMA
DIRECTOR: KORE-EDU HIROKAZU
CAST: CATHERINE DENEUVE, JULIETTE BINOCHE, ETHAN HAWKE
REVIEWED by KATHLEEN BONDAR
Underlining The Truth is the question of what is the actual truth behind this fraught and humorously observed mother-daughter relationship in Kore-eda Hirokazu first feature set outside Japan (Palme d’Or winner SHOPLIFTERS)? Catherine Deneuve, La Grande Dame of French cinema, plays Fabienne, a perceived version of herself opposite her cinematic match Juliette Binoche who plays her screen daughter, Lumir. Did Fabienne neglect her daughter whilst cultivating her film career?
Overlapping the film are the teased nuances of how much of Catherine Deneuve is Fabienne. This is great fun to contemplate and both Deneuve and Binoche run with it. Who better than two of the most renowned French screen goddesses to play with celebrity personas? The camera stays close to Deneuve and Binoche in this playful but knowing production.
All tied up nicely around a home visit, The Truth follows a classic film narrative, set in present-day Paris with plenty of French movie homages for film students and old-timers. Lumir returns to Paris with her daughter and current New York boyfriend a second-rate soap actor (played with energetic wit by Ethan Hawke) to mark the launch of Fabienne’s autobiography. Lumir reads Fabienne’s memoirs with incredulity. Fabienne disregards her grown daughter’s tantrums with bemusement.
Fabienne also happens to be acting in a far-fetched TV series opposite the latest screen starlet. She is unimpressed by the newcomer’s spotlight antics. Swiftly, Fabienne accommodates Lumir in the role of personal assistant on set. You see, Fabienne functions with an entourage: her deferential secretary (whom she doesn’t know personally after years of dedicated service) and her obliging partner who massages her feet and cooks exacting dishes.
Fabienne is magisterial, dismissive or benign in a glance, unaffected by criticism, receptive to compliments. She shrugs off competitors (Bridgett Bardot included). Her screen character is solipsistic.
Deneuve commands the screen with her heavily hooded, beautiful eyes and imperial profile. Her make-up is flawless; her signature blonde hair coiffed; she balances on expensive court shoes and walks a miniature dog.
Binoche as Lumir, is a freer character in keeping with her (perceived?) off-screen persona. In contrast to Deneuve, she wears little make-up, her hair is loose, and she wraps herself in boho woollen coats. With a mix of admiration and frustration she takes her mother on, however futile her endeavours.
Just as Lumir is equal to Fabienne, Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve are a dual force and a delight on screen. As The Truth unfolds, the answer to what is true or imagined in their relationship remains open-ended. The audience can only enjoy guessing.