Big names – including Antonio Banderas, Laura Dern, Michelle Rodriguez, Woody Harrelson, Jeff Goldblum – had Deauville in their diary for the annual celebration of Hollywood, which takes place in France. Yes, you heard that right. The French blow an annual fanfare for Uncle Sam cinema. And not just any batch of Gallics, these are the good citizens of Deauville – a chic resort often described at the 21st arrondissement of Paris. This was also the road trip destination of one France’s most emblematic films Un homme et une femme. A low budget black and white tale of very French amour. No greater contrast to the bombast of the opening film Barry Seal starring Hollywood action man and sometime heartthrob, Tom Cruise.
But, for two weeks at the end of summer, Deauville is festooned in the stars and stripes that share the flag poles with the tricolour. Red carpet rolls out for American stars who are welcomed in grand style. Any suggestion that Hollywood is a blockbuster culture free zone is banished as Tinsel Town gets the warmest of welcomes in this chicest of resorts. VIP visitors are lodged in the grandest of settings, the beachfront palaces the Royal and the Normandie.
In a cute nod to its Hollywood-sur-mer status the visiting stars are happy to be photographed for beach hut naming ceremonies. The roll call is impressive, from Harrison Ford to James Franco and this year pulses of Deauville bathers were set racing with the inauguration of the Robert Pattinson beach hut. The naming ceremonies also extend to hotel suites in the promenade 5 star hotels. Lussorian was just along the corridor from the Michael Douglas suite.
Deauville is also very upfront about its debt to sponsors, which share the limelight with the visiting acting US talent. Fluttering in the sea breeze above the purpose built Centre International de Deauville – a state of the art auditorium – are many a corporate insignia. This year they included Renault, Air France and Delta who joined forces to transport the big names first to Deauville and then around town.
The most prominent of sponsors is Kiehl’s who host a beauty salon come nightclub in a smart uptown villa on the seafront. The setting has had the care and attention of a very imaginative design team. Photos of stars adorn the walls and guests are invited to visit a very stylish photo booth to take their own close-up for display. Outside, looking out to sea, is a swanky terrace and, in pride of place, a big yellow taxi. Guests are encouraged to hop aboard to record a webcam of Deauville film memories which then beam out via YouTube. Social media by the seaside. Aside from a bar and a buzzing dance floor, the nightspot for the festival, there is the beauty bar. The Kiehl’s team has descended en masse from Paris to offer skin care consultations – there is even a swanky barber service so that gentleman can get pampered ready for the premieres.
Despite the accent on luxury the focus on film is not lost. The screenings are packed and the audiences are both informed and passionate. As is the jury. This year it was headed up by none other than France’s current toast of Hollywood – Oscar winning Michel Hazanavicius. He is arguably the perfect jury head as his film The Artist was a loving tribute to the golden silent era of Hollywood. An Oscar winning case of a Frenchman paying homage to Hollywood from an outsider perspective, which stole the hearts of moviegoers worldwide.
Meanwhile, in Deauville, budding American cineastes were attempting to steal the hearts and the votes of the high powered French jury headed by Hazanavicius which included Yasmina Reza, who became an international theatre sensation with her play, Art.
There was plenty to capture attention this year including the story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, a raw and raucous tale of youth, Beach Rats, and the touching story of a small town Texas girl in Katie Says Goodbye.
But the breakout hit of Deauville 2017 was David Lowery’s A Ghost Story which was a slowly paced and arty and scooped three prizes: the Revelation Prize, the Critics prize and the Special Jury prize, which it shared with Menashe. Despite the slew of awards the top prize eluded A Ghost Story, and went to Chloe Zhao’s The Rider.
At the closing ceremony there was one very special nod to talent in the form of a lifetime achievement award which went to Woody Harrelson. Jury president Michel Hazanavicius paid tribute to the charismatic and enigmatic Hollywood hard man and noted there was a brooding quality in his acting. “If he is making mayonnaise… you know something is going to happen” said Hazanavicius before offering him in a job in one of his future films. The Deauville to Hollywood connection remains strong, as the festival celebrates its 43rd year. When it comes to celebrating Hollywood, Deauville continues to make a bigger splash.
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