Faithfull (2017)

December 10th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Sandrine Bonnaire | Documentary with Marianne Faithful | France 2017 | 62′.

With 63 films under her belt, Sandrine Bonnaire is a talented actress but needs to hone her documentary making skills. This portrait of British singer/songwriter/actor/performance artist Marianne Faithful, who celebrates forty years on the stage, is slim not only in running time, but also in technique. She fails to bring out the essence of the English singer, songwriter and actress in a strangely invasive film, reducing Marianne Faithfull nearly to tears on one occasion during filming.

FAITHFULL relies heavily on early Sixties footage and TV clips for its watchability. We learn that Faithfull first met Jagger at a party in early on in her career when she was attacked by the main-stream media for not committing herself to being the motherly female “when there are so many ways for her to spend her days; cleaning the home for hours or rearranging the flowers”. On the London stage, she was Ophelia, confessing unashamedly that she could sometimes not perform, because of drugs. Then there are wonderful clips from “The Girl on the Motorcycle, in which she starred as Rebecca.

But it was a miscarriage at 19, at the end of her five year long relationship with Jagger which really damaged her. “Mick wanted children” – and yes he did indeed, having now fathered eight. What followed was a descent into drugs, influenced by her reading William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. But Faithfull always got up and persevered, as her more recent concerts show, getting even better.

Bonnaire will be remembered for a rather embarrassing scene in the car when Faithfull asked her more than once, to turn off the camera and leave her be. But Bonnaire, instead of listening, put the camera even closer to her wounded face. Subconsciously, the director repeats exactly the treatment the teenage singer got from the establishment press. The only way to enjoy this documentary, is to concentrate on Marianne Faithfull’s music, and there is luckily a great deal to enjoy here. AS


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