Deauville fest embraces American past, future


PARIS -- As the Deauville Festival of American Cinema gears up for its 33rd edition at the end of August, the Normandy event plans to widen its panorama of U.S. movie output by adding a historical perspective.

Deauville will begin this year with a new slot looking at American cinematographic heritage.

"We're going to work on the repertoire of U.S. cinema, starting with Ida Lupino, the first actress to direct films," festival director Bruno Barde said. Working in conjunction with the Cinematheque Francaise -- France's national film archive -- the festival plans to screen three of British-born Lupino's films as a director.

Europe's only major showcase dedicated exclusively to U.S. pictures, this year's fest in the chic coastal resort runs from Aug. 31-Sept. 9. Other events already confirmed for this year's edition include a tribute to Sidney Lumet -- who will accompany his latest movie, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Albert Finney -- as well as a retrospective of the complete oeuvre of Gus Van Sant, winner of the 60th Anniversary Award last month at the Festival de Cannes for his skater movie "Paranoid Park."

"The aim is to show the whole scope of cinema over 10 days," Barde said. "Deauville is a place to show the heritage of cinema, established masters such as Sidney Lumet and then the modernity of someone like Gus Van Sant. And hopefully, the competition titles will reveal the Gus Van Sants of tomorrow."

Lumet had been expected in Deauville last year to accompany "Find Me Guilty" but was unable to attend because of shooting commitments. This year, though, Deauville got its man. "We're very tenacious," Barde joked. The festival also is hard on the heels of an A-list grande dame of American cinema for a second tribute still to be announced.

After several changes in style over the decades, Deauville has developed a blend of popular studio premiere screenings that bring in the stars -- much to the delight of the local crowds -- and more cutting-edge fare in the Competition and Panorama sections, plus a smattering of retrospectives. The 2006 edition attracted 55,000 admissions, a 13% increase compared with 2005.

Deauville runs more or less concurrently with the Venice Film Festival, and as in previous years, the Italian event likely is to premiere a number of major Hollywood titles before they head up to Normandy. Yet Barde is flatly dismissive of any rivalry over A-list Hollywood talent.

"I don't give a damn if a film screens in Venice before us. Are you going to stand up in front of the audience and say, 'We're not going to show you this movie because it's already played in Venice'? The audience doesn't care," he said. "Venice allows American talent to kill two birds with one stone. They can (promote their films) in Italy at Venice, then in France at Deauville. Venice will show maybe seven U.S. films; I'll show 50. Our goal is to show all that's best in American cinema."

Barde and his team have scarcely begun drawing up their 2007 selection, but one film almost certain to have its Gallic premiere in Normandy is Paul Greengrass' "The Bourne Ultimatum," starring Matt Damon, a self-declared big fan of Deauville after the first two films in the "Bourne" series unspooled there. Also in contention are the latest pictures from Ang Lee, Woody Allen and Robert Rodriguez.

"Deauville is a good launchpad for American films released in the latter part of the year," said Paramount France chief Camille Trumer, though he added that the move toward day-and-date releases is pulling more major titles to the summer to be in step with their U.S. bows.

The 11-strong competition lineup in 2006 included eight films from first-time directors, underlining Deauville's efforts to be ahead of the curve in terms of new filmmaking talent. Deauville also created a section for documentary films four years ago, which has grown in strength. This year, Barde hopes to screen the entirety of "The War," documentarian Ken Burns' 14-hour miniseries about the im-pact of World War II on American families.

Every year, the Deauville lineup results in a number of films finding Gallic distributors, but market activity at the Normandy event is destined to remain informal. "There are already three big film markets, between Cannes, AFM and Berlin, and there was a fourth -- MIFED -- which disappeared. We're not going to create something new," Barde said.

Deauville survival guide

A couple of hours' drive through rolling green pastures from the French capital, Deauville is to some extent an extension of fashionable Paris by the seaside. But anyone familiar with the frenzied crush of a Cannes premiere will find Deauville in marked contrast. The relax factor is high.

Be sure to bring your sportswear. Local leisure pursuits include tennis courts, a thermal spa, golf, horseback riding on the beach and a large indoor swimming pool. Only the very hardy will brave the English Channel for a dip.

As befits any self-respecting upmarket beach resort, there is a casino, though the ambiance is more slot machine than 007. For those who fancy a flutter between screenings, Deauville has not one but two race courses.

The festival is headquartered in a modern conference center sandwiched between the fabulous sweep of the beach, with its famous boardwalk and umbrellas, and the town's two fanciest hotels, the Normandie and the Royal, which house most of the visiting talent.

For a small town, there is a good choice of places to eat, and because there are no screenings during lunchtime, you might as well linger over le dejeuner. Gastronomic tastes can be indulged in the Michelin-starred restaurant L'Etrier within the Royal. Chez Miocque is a popular brasserie just behind the casino, frequented more for ambiance than the gastronomy, as is its neighbor, Le Drakkar. Seafood inevitably features strongly on local menus, especially in the restaurants in the sister town of Trouville, situated a short taxi ride away on the other side of the estuary from Deauville. One of the most popular of these is Les Vapeurs, where visiting stars and jury members can regularly be spied dining. Other local specialties include pungent cheeses like Pont l'Eveque and calvados, an apple brandy that rivals the finest of cask-aged cognacs.

For a good beachfront setting in Deauville, try Le Ciro's on the boardwalk, which offers excellent sole meuniere and sea bass.

Budget-conscious film journalists often can be found at Le Garage, a straightforward brasserie a short walk from the festival headquarters that offers good value for the money.

As for nightlife, Deauville tends toward the sleepy after midnight. But during the festival, a few spots will be buzzing, notably the Villa Cartier, a chic temporary nightclub housed in a high-ceilinged manor next to the Royal, where festivalgoers dance late into the night.