Tonino de Bernardi’s tragic Huppert
by Gabriele Barcaro
Tonino de Bernardi is once again closing the Venice Film Festival Horizons section, this year with Médée Miracle. An underground filmmaker who works outside all market logic, marginal by choice, the Turin-born director pursues a dogged and anti-commercial idea of cinema: so much so that during his 40-year career only Appassionate (in competition at Venice 1999) has been released theatrically.
And yet his films, especially the most secret, clandestine ones, continue to charm: even Isabelle Huppert, who met de Bernardi in Locarno in 1993 and after a decade of postponed projects finally plays the lead in this contemporary interpretation of Euripides’ tragedy.
Medea’s name has been changed to Iréne (the reference to Ingrid Bergman’s character in Europa ’51 is not coincidental), a foreigner who leaves everything, including her country, for the love of Jason, a Frenchman who soon grows tired of and cheats on her. Abandoned, she vents her anger in promiscuity with the clients of the bistro where she performs (singing “Crazy Love” by Nick Cave and Marianne Faithfull), is labelled a depraved mother, and contemplates killing her daughters.
Yet the “miracle” of the title lies in her repudiation of the murder. Turning her violence inwards, after an initial bout of depression, will ultimately lead her to an altruistic fate.
Already a convincing Medea on the stage, Huppert (winner of the Volpi Cup in 1988 and 1995, and a Special Lion in 2005) turns the heroine into a modern woman, who moves through the desolate landscape of the Parisian banlieu, made grey by the “dirty” images of the Tommaso Borgstrom, de Bernardi’s long-time cinematographer.
The French actress is flanked by Lou Castel, Isabel Ruth, Tommaso Ragno and Maria de Medeiros. The director admits he changed his mind about the actors (“they are not objects that cinema transforms into merchandise, but a means to reach territories that frighten us”) yet despite the big names and (even) commercial appeal of its lead actress, Médée Miracle (an Italian/French co-production between Paris-based companies Stella Films and Les Films du Camelia, Turin’s Lontane Province Film and ARTE) has not yet found distribution in Italy.
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(Translated from Italian)
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