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CANNES 2024 Cannes Première

Review: Being Maria


- CANNES 2024: Re-tracing the tormented trajectory of actress Maria Schneider with modesty and utmost precision, Jessica Palud delivers a feminist work of denunciation with very modern undertones

Review: Being Maria
Anamaria Vartolomei in Being Maria

"You’re a blank page and there’s a wounded air about you that I really like (…) We’ll film the nudity in the most artistic way possible, but the film does revolve around an intense physical relationship". Maria Schneider (the remarkable Anamaria Vartolomei) is 19 years old and her film career is at an embryonic stage when, in a Parisian cafe, Italian rising star Bernardo Bertolucci (Giuseppe Maggio) offers her the role of Jeanne in his upcoming film, Last Tango in Paris.

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It’s 1971 and the film shoot - involving American star Marlon Brando (the impeccable Matt Dillon) - triggers an international scandal which profoundly destabilises this young woman’s life. In Jessica Palud’s poignant movie Being Maria [+see also:
interview: Jessica Palud
film profile
, unveiled in the Cannes Première line-up of the 77th Cannes Film Festival, the French filmmaker decides to avail herself of Schneider’s tragic fate to highlight the responsibilities of men in the 7th art, where an obsession with the work itself can easily leave women crushed.

"He’s kind, like all other men are: he fucks anything that moves and then goes home to his bourgeois wife. And stop snivelling!" Maria’s mother (Marie Gillain) is devastated when she learns that her 16-year-old daughter is now meeting up with her actor father (Daniel Gélin, played by Yvan Attal) who never looked after her and who has never recognised her as his. But the world of cinema is dazzlingly bright for this young woman, and before she knows it (after being brutally kicked out of the maternal home), she’s a fledging actress. Three years later, she reaches the summit of her career, landing her first big role in front of the cameras alongside a global star, courtesy of a filmmaker labelled a genius by the press. Filming kicks off, but one day, unexpectedly, everything goes wrong ("masks fall and the truth comes out", "I felt like I was being raped by two men at the same time") in just one single sequence which clouds Maria’s future in every respect…

Adapted by the director in league with Laurette Polmanss, based upon Vanessa Schneider’s novel Tu t’appelais Maria Schneider, the film casts a meticulous eye over events as they actually unfolded (the section reconstructing the film shoot is incredible) and the ruthless side of this industry which will shamelessly allow anything in the name of media hype and which repeats the same old mistakes without a care for the people concerned. Clearly, the place of women in cinema ("beautiful idiots or perverted girls", "films are mostly written by men for men, the majority of directors are men") is at the heart of this story, a question which resonates clearly with the modern age given that certain toxic, male tendencies are still being far from being eradicated. But the greatest quality of Jessica Palud’s feature film is that it allows the facts to speak for themselves in a moving and elliptical portrait which is beautifully enhanced by photography coming courtesy of Sébastien Buchmann.

Being Maria is produced by Les Films de Mina in co-production with Moteur S’il Vous Plaît, and StudioCanal (who has just acquired Orange Studio) who are steering international sales.

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(Translated from French)

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