Champagne, wine, and French food flowed freely to the packed crowds of Hollywood’s DGA theatre Monday night to celebrate the opening festivities of the 18th Annual City of Lights, City of Angels French Film Festival (COLCOA). Catered by Club Culinaire of Southern California, which includes such renown restaurants as Church & State, Lexington Social House, K-Zo Restaurant, 9021 Pho, Josie Restaurant, French Market, Luxe and Sofitel Hotels, festival goers were delighted by the French delicacies. The sated guests were then ushered into two capacity-filled, renamed “Truffaut” and “Renoir” theatres, for the North American premiere of Claude Lelouch’s “We Love You, You Bastard.”
COLCOA’s Executive Producer & Artistic Director, Francois Truffart opened the festival, explaining its creation 18 years ago through the Franco-American Cultural Fund and its partners the DGA, MPA, la SACEM and WGA West. Truffart went on to announce COLCOA’s two closing night films, the North American Premiere of “In the Yard” starring Catherine Deneuve, and “Mea Culpa” co-written and directed by Fred Cavaye. Truffaut introduced many COLCOA filmmakers in attendance including, Diane Kurys (“For a Woman”), Jean-Albert Lievre (“Flore”), the enthusiastic filmmakers from “Babysitting,” Dany Boon (“Superchondriac”), and the filmmakers from the COLCOA’s opener, the great writer-director Claude Lelouch, co-writer Valerie Perrin and star Johnny Hallyday.
“We Love You, You Bastard” is Lelouch’s 57th film (including documentaries and shorts). A keen observer of life, Lelouch hit the International film scene with Palme d’Or and Oscar winning “A Man and a Woman” (1966). In his latest, Lelouch and co-scripter Perrin examine the life of a retired war photographer, Jacques Kaminsky (French rock icon Johnny Hallyday) who finds an idyllic chateau in the Alps in which to enjoy peace, the beautiful landscape and hopefully rebuild his relationships with his four estranged daughters from four separate conquests.
Trying to get all four daughters, interestingly named Spring (Irene Jacob), Summer (Pauline Lefevre), Autumn (Sarah Kazemy) and Winter (Jenna Thiam), to visit their challenging father is next to impossible. But with the help of his best friend, Frederic (singer, Eddy Mitchell), who also happens to be his doctor, a lie about illness is concocted and all come running.
As all four daughters meet Jacques’ new love, Nathalie (Sandrine Bonnaire), various accusations and reconciliations through laughter and tears play out amongst the blended family members. But as in life, nothing is simple and soon unexpected events throw the family in further turmoil – will it bring them closer or tear them apart?
Gloriously filmed through winter, spring and summer against the Alps countryside, Lelouch (who performed cinematography duties as well) revels in beautiful vistas populated with nature's animals, in this case a prominent Bald Eagle (who is the namesake for Jacques' Eagle Estate), cat, fox, dog, sheep, deer, etc. Lelouch shows great skill in shot compositions, but more importantly it’s his direction – he elicits wonderfully naturalistic performances from his large ensemble cast – that wows.
After the screening, Matthew Weiner (writer/director/creator of “Mad Men”) spoke with Lelouch and Perrin about making the film. As a father of seven children with five wives, Lelouch admitted the film was personal, and that he only talks about what he thinks he knows. Lelouch called himself a “reporter of life,” although death is also important, explaining that often, “A character succeeds in death what he couldn’t do in life.”
When Weiner praised Lelouch about his directing, Lelouch modestly replied, “I’m not impressed with my directing ability, I’m impressed with the gift my talent gives me.” His actors presented Lelouch with an incredible gift of their talents in “We Love You, You Bastard.”