Being Maria (2024) Cannes Film Festival

May 23rd, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Jessica Palud | Cast: Anamaria Vartolomei, Matt Dillon, Giuseppe Maggio, Céleste Brunnquell, Yvan Attal, Marie Gillian

Last Tango in Paris was certainly a ground-breaking film shocking audiences to the core back in 1972. A woman directs this new biopic about the abused French actress Maria Schneider, who at age of 19, landed a role alongside Marlon Brando in the Bertolucci film that would make her a star but also destroy her life.

Berlolucci wanted to make a film about two people, Jeanne and Paul, indulging in a sexual relationship without any trappings. They would meet regularly in room and just go from there. But, crucially, without asking or her consenting, the Italian director and his 48-year-old male star sprung an unscripted rape scene on the young woman asking for real ‘rage’ and ‘humiliation’. And that’s what happened. Even though sodomy never took place the fear and loss of control is devastating. And we feel for Maria even though Brando assures her: ‘it’s only a film’. She has seen him as a mentor only to be deceived. And even now, in the light of the #MeToo era, this sequence is particularly resonant.

Maria is from an educated if broken home: her father (Attal) is the seasoned actor Daniel Gerlin who has gone on to form another family after leaving home. Her volatile mother Marie-Christine (Gillain) throws her out of the house – quite literally – for reconnecting him after the two meet and reconnect on a film set in the opening sequence. The twice rejected Maria then moves in with her uncle, but is clearly damaged by her life experience thus far.

Being Maria is directed by Jessica Palud (who has a handful of directing titles behind her: Revenir, Les Yeux Fermes), and co-written with Laurette Polmanss, freely adapting the novel ‘Tu t’appelais Maria Schneider’ by Vanessa Schneider, Maria’s cousin, It paints a convincing portrait of this young woman desperate to forge a career in acting.

Encouraged by her father in this endeavour, she contacts an agent and then finds herself in a café where she meets Bertolucci (Giuseppe Maggio who authentically, like the director, doesn’t role his ‘r’s). He has picked her out for the fateful role. (‘roles chose actors, not the other way round’ says her father). But after the furore of that pivotal scene, which happens early on. The film has nothing more to say thereafter and unravels as does Maria’s life. @MeredithTaylor


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