French Rendez-Vous 2015: “In the Name of My Daughter”, the latest Catherine Deneuve / André Téchiné collaboration

Some of Catherine Deneuve’s best performances have been in films of André Téchiné such as “My Favorite Season” (1992) and “Changing Times” (2004). Their seventh and latest collaboration, “In the Name of My Daughter”, directed and co-written by Téchiné, was a highlight of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York City. This fascinating film is inspired by real-life events in the struggle for control of a Riviera casino ending in a mysterious disappearance.

IN THE NAME POSTER

Renée Le Roux (Deneuve) runs the Palais de La Mediterranée casino in Nice. The role is appropriate for Deneuve who gives the part a cool elegance and a formidable presence in maintaining control of her casino.

Describing the character, Téchiné said that “Dressing up was part of her social ritual. Renée is like a goddess watching over her kingdom. But at the same time Renée Le Roux is probably the most resilient character out of all the characters Catherine Deneuve has ever played in my films. This character appears dominant, determined and ruthless and is the total opposite of the instability that was our chosen register (to capture the elusive)” in previous films.

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Behind the scenes, a rival casino with mob ties is attempting to take over Renée’s casino. One of her trusted employees is lawyer Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet).

Renée’s recently divorced daughter Agnès (Adele Haenel) returns to France. Agnes wants an identity apart from the casino. Instead of seeing her mother right away, she swims at the beach. Both Renée and Agnès have casino shares as part of an inheritance.

When Maurice does not receive an expected promotion from Renée, he aligns himself with the rival mob-controlled casino. Openly involved with other women, he begins a relationship with Agnès.

Guillaume Canet and Adele Haenel in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Guillaume Canet and Adele Haenel in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Téchiné has created emotionally complicated characters and builds tension from their interactions. Haenel impressively conveys Agnès’ determination for a life apart from her mother’s casino, as well as her increasing dependence on Maurice. Canet, who directed “Tell No One”, effectively combines Maurice’s surface charm and cold manipulation. Maurice convinces Agnès to side with him and vote control of the Palais de La Mediterranée away from her mother.

Téchiné said a “war-like aspect structures the narrative” and “What I show is a social class in turmoil, its turf wars, its calculating, predatory nature; all of this is ‘political’ in this story about inheritance. The film shows the way in which the people caught up in this are affected. Money and the hunger for power are clearly at the centre of this story, but there is something more, in the subconscious, something impulsive.”

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

After Renée’s betrayal by Maurice and Agnès, Deneuve skillfully shows her character’s initial attempts to keep up appearances with a cool surface.

Events turn ominous when Agnès disappears. In an absorbing aspect of the film, Renée spends decades trying to discover her daughter’s fate, leading to a courtroom face-off with Maurice. Deneuve is very moving in these scenes, as a grey-haired Renée, her face full of anguish at the loss of her daughter, tenaciously fights on for justice for Agnès.

French Rendez-Vous 2015: Catherine Deneuve at her best “In the Courtyard”

Catherine Deneuve continues to have one of the most enduring and notable acting careers in film, from youthful incandescence (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, 1964) to mental unraveling (“Repulsion”, 1965) to cool elegance (“Belle de Jour”, 1967) to alluring vampire (“The Hunger”, 1983) to her Oscar-nominated performance of a plantation owner in turbulent times (“Indochine”, 1992) to her terrific portrait of a former beauty queen in last year’s “On My Way”. (https://cinemasight.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/french-rendez-vous-2014-catherine-deneuve-in-on-my-way/)

Her latest, “In the Courtyard” (“Dans la Cour”) contains one of her strongest roles in her best recent film. The director and co-writer is Pierre Salvadori who previously made clever, character-driven comedies [“Après Vous” (2003), “Priceless” (2006)]. Salvadori successfully turns more serious “In the Courtyard.”

Feodor Atkine, Catherine Deneuve, Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Feodor Atkine, Catherine Deneuve, Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Antoine (Gustave Kervern) is a scruffy musician unable to find employment. Mathilde, (Catherine Deneuve), a retiree, encourages her husband (Feodor Atkine) to hire him as caretaker for an apartment building where they reside because she feels comfortable around Antoine’s disheveled appearance. She can become annoyed with the new employee as when she throws a pear at Antoine from the sixth floor.

A crack in the apartment wall causes Mathilde to become afraid of the ground sinking. Deneuve gives a deep emotional range to her character. Like the wall, Mathilde’s stylish façade begins to crumble. A disastrous slide show for the neighbors escalates into alarming turmoil for her. She develops a growing rapport with Antoine, confiding in him alone.

Catherine Deneuve and  Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Catherine Deneuve and Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Kervern is very effective as a man whose inner pain has controlled his life. Mathilde and Antoine become a compelling combination. Salvadori said he had wanted to work with Deneuve for ages and wrote “In the Courtyard” for her. The role is a great fit.

Catherine Deneuve and  Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Catherine Deneuve and Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

The other characters Antoine encounters are fully realized with intriguing quirks that turn darker as Antoine finds he cannot remain apart from others. Salvadori expertly combines humor with poignancy.

Next post: another impressive Deneuve film