Deauville American Film Festival Honours the A List and New Talent

Deauville American Film Festival turned 45 this year. True to its thoroughbred form the showcase for big-name American talent pulled in some of the biggest names including Johnny Depp – as ever a sartorial masterclass in a white tuxedo with edgy accessories – and Kristen Stewart who rocked shorts on the red carpet. Set these glittering names against the backdrop of a Catherine Deneuve led jury and you have the classic classy cine cocktail that is Deauville.

Audiences were treated to a breathtaking roll call of big names in the scene-setting trailer which precedes Competition Screenings. The archive footage of legends was a joy to behold and was well worth viewing several times over. Bette Davis in her finery including an amazing hat speaking with her diva rasp was priceless. Robert Mitchum was typically taciturn. When asked how he felt ….’worse’ he growled. These were epic big-screen sound bites.
But Deauville remains all about new American filmmakers unspooling their works in the shadow of the Hollywood giants – regular visitors to the festival over the years. Who knows, some of the new talent showcased this year might end up on the Greatest Hits reel in years to come. And judging by the 14 films in official competition there are legends in the making.

Talking of which ……The jury was headed by screen legend Catherine Deneuve and included such talents as French actor Gaspard Ulliel and gay filmmaker Gaël Morel. This year’s Special Award went to Swallow, a drama directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis about a woman whose life seems perfect, but she starts swallowing dangerous objects. His acceptance speech was both heartwarming and passionate – qualities which he showed in his film making. Another film which was all heart and also got under the skin of audiences was The Peanut Butter Falcon, directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. They wrote the film for an actor with Downs Syndrome about a young man called Zak ….with Downs Syndrome. The young man was placed in a home for the elderly despite the fact he is only 22 years old. He hooks up with Tyler – played by Shia LaBoeuf and a road movie on the run in a boat unfolds. Feel good and poignant, it scooped the Deauville Town Audience Award.
While good films abounded one film was the runaway 2019 hit with audiences and jury alike Annie Silverstein’s directorial debut, Bull, which won the Grand Prix, the Critics’ Award and the Discovery Award (Prix de la Révélation). Bull is a drama about a wayward teenage girl – Amber Harvard in her first role – who lives in a poor area on the outskirts of Houston in Texas.

As well as new US film talent competing for the competition prizes Deauville also rolled out the red carpet for established names and honoured their significant careers. These included Pierce Brosnan – James Bond was very at home in this casino town. But it was women who took centre stage at Deauville 2019 with Geena Davis, Sienna Miller et Kristen Stewart all being honoured for their cinema achievements. Ms Stewart had already received a French Cesar award for Clouds of Sils Maria and was feted at Deauville by its renowned French director Olivier Assayas – they also went onto work together on Cannes official selection, Personal Shopper. Assayas took to the stage to offer heartfelt words of praise to a woman who has been shaking up Hollywood both on screen and in her personal life. The actress demands freedom in her love life be they male or female. A thoroughly modern mademoiselle who presented her latest film Seberg which portrays the life of the American star of New Wave classic Breathless. In the titular role, Kristen stars in the telling of the little known story of Seberg’s targeting by Hoover’s FBI for her support of the civil rights movement.

As ever Deauville provided a platform for hard-hitting films emerging from the US against a backdrop of French chic and red carpet glamour. All this and for the most part, the sun shone. Somebody up there certainly seems to like Deauville.

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