The Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda won the Cannes Palme d’or in 2018 with his film “Shoplifters” about a family of thieves. The following year, the master of family drama made his first film outside of Japan: “La Vérité” with Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke.
I was immediately impressed by the first appearance of Catherine Deneuve in the role of the ageing star actress Fabienne. In the opening scene, she embarrasses a journalist, not even botherhing to hide her bored face and tells him that she has heard and answered all questions before. “That was the last question from my interview in the Actor’s Studio.”
Fabienne lives in her own kingdom in her city villa with an enchanted garden. Everyone circles around her: the partner and passionate cook, the old friend and secretary. Then there is her daughter Lumir, played by Juliette Binoche. She has lived in America and has not been to Paris for years. For her eccentric and self-centered mother, a visiting daughter with her husband and granddaughter is not something she looks forward to.
“La Vérité” is the first film that the great Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda made outside of Japan. In his films, he examines and infiltrates the concept of the classic family. What is it about? Doesn’t every family have its secret? Is there anything like blood ties at all?
Soon the secrets within the family that have created wa distance between mother and daughter surface and the Diva Fabienne and screenwriter Lumir have to find each other again as mother and daughter. In the process, the two can’t stop swiping at each other during meals that are as opulent as they are extensive. Catherine Deneuve plays her part like Queen, complete with a retinue.
“La Vérité” is the title of Fabienne’s memoirs. However, the content appears to be more of glossing over, bending, and half-truths. In any case, daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) does not find her own childhood experiences in it and finds that the memoir is filled with embellishments and half-truths.
It is a pleasure to watch these actresses spar as mother and daughter. In Kore-eda’s film, Binoche plays quickly, reactively, flexibly. After all, her figure has to defend herself from her mother, who is always seem a little bit nervous and distracted.
Deneuve gives justice to her role, portraying a woman who is self-sufficient with great coolness, albeit as long as she is the focus of the conversation. Shrugging shoulders, smoking, always a aloof when it comes to unpleasant truths, or the truth in general, even in her memoirs.
Overall, the film catches all of the possible tension between reality and fiction, noting how this is a film about actors and their life outside the movie set.
With this film, Hirokazu Kore-eda artistically negotiates the relationships between family and the world of acting. We witness the dedication of Fabienne on the film set in front of a camera of a science fiction film and see her suffering as she is upstaged by a younger colleague. The movie hits too close to home: about ageing on earth and staying young forever in space.
The scenes are also about the cinema as an immortality machine, about acting as a fight against transience. Isn’t a strategy of feeling young to consistently reinvent yourself? Even in anecdotes?
Towards the end the movie pierces us with the thought of everyone being little performers of a version of ourselves for our families; taunting us witht the necessary we tell in order to meet each other half-way. We are presented with the alternative of seeing the hard-spoken truths as ironicallly including the moments when one allows the other person to keep her appearance, her game, and her role.