is a heck of an artist’s residency.
Those selected by the French Academy in Rome spend a year living and
working in the Villa Medici on the Pincian Hill. It also comes with money. Given
the French Academy’s long, prestigious history, it rather follows when some
resident come to suspect there are ghosts haunting the villa’s manicured
grounds in Caroline Deruas’s Daydreams (trailer here), which screens
during this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York.
has a few well-received short stories to her credit, but deep down she suspects
she was chosen due to the fame of her celebrated novelist husband Marc (who of
course, is only too willing to take credit for his “networking” on her behalf).
Axèle is pretty sure she was only admitted after she pulled a gun on the
director, but hey, whatever works.
their radically different temperaments and circumstances, they develop a rather
odd friendship soon after their arrival in Rome. Camille is definitely the more
confiding one, but Axèle immediately shares her interest in Lucienne
Heuvelmans, the first woman admitted to the Academy in Rome. In fact, Axèle
soon starts to see ghostly visions of Heuvelmans and the other randy cardinals
and empresses who infamously spent time at the Villa. It is a bit disturbing in
the moment, but at least it inspires some eerie new directions in her work.
villa setting is so amazing, viewers would still stay there if they had the
chance, even if it is haunted. As it happens, the spectral sequences are rather
awkwardly executed and therefore generally unconvincing (especially when
compared to Assayas’s ultra-spooky non-horror movie, Personal Shopper, opening this week in theaters). However, Daydreams is fascinating as a meditation
on the artist’s life and for its potentially messy biographical implications.
Deruas is indeed a former Academy in Rome resident. It is also worth noting she
has been credited as Caroline Deruas-Garrel when co-writing screenplays with her
husband, French auteur Philippe Garrel.
Thiam is basically a revelation as the defiantly unpredictable, borderline
unstable Axèle. She is an absolute force, but one that attracts (and credibly
so). On the other end of the spectrum, Tchéky Karyo gives an unusually subtle
and finely shaded performance as Marc, the husband who maybe does not fully
realize the manipulative nature of his behavior. That sort of leaves Clotilde
Hesme’s Camille stuck in the middle, in more ways than one. Yet for both grace
and grit, nobody can touch Renato Carpentieri’s portrayal of Carlo, the veteran
groundskeeper Axèle befriends.
mordantly skewers the jealousies and pretensions of the cloistered artists, but
her pointedly critical depiction of the Academy’s budget cutting and revenue-raising
efforts only merits embarrassed eye-rolls. Keeping up a Seventeenth Century
institution like the Academy in Rome costs serious Twenty-First Century money. Perhaps
Deruas would care to donate her stipend if she believes booking weddings at the
villa is so tacky. Regardless, the taste she provides of this rarified world is
admittedly intoxicating. Recommended for those who are fascinated by the setting and
milieu, Daydreams screens this
Wednesday (3/8) and Friday (3/10) at the Walter Reade, as part of the 2017
Rendezvous with French Cinema.
Labels: French Cinema, Ghost movies, Rendezvous with French Cinema '17