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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Chiara Mastroianni: The Scion of Screen Legends

Chiara Mastroianni in "Making Plans for Lena"
She is the daughter of two cinema legends, but she by no means lives in their shadows. With 56 films to her credit, Chiara Mastroianni has emerged as a versatile contemporary actress who brings heart, soul and infinite talent to every role she takes on.

Mastroianni was born in Paris in 1972 to Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni. She inherited her parents’ stunning looks and penchant for performing, but she has managed to forge her own voice and identity. She has often shared the screen with her parents and such was the case with the role that launched her prolific acting career.

In André Téchiné’s 1993 “Ma saison preferee” (My Favorite Season), Mastroianni is a typical teenager named Anne. As her mother, played by Deneuve, deals with the responsibilities of taking care of an aging parent whose health is rapidly deteriorating, Anne tries to make sense of the chaos around her by forming a bond with her mother’s office assistant. Mastroianni embraced the nuances and intricacies of her character, earning a nomination for a César Award, the French version of an Oscar. 


The following year, she played Sophie Choiset in Robert Altman’s ensemble film, “Prêt-à-Porter” (Ready to Wear), headed by her father along with his Golden Age leading ladies, Sophia Loren and Anouk Aimée. Although the two Mastroianni’s didn’t interact in any scenes, they were framed together in one shot near the beginning of the film. Sophie Choiset is part of a news crew covering fashion week headed by correspondent Kitty Potter (Kim Bassinger) and takes over the mic when shallow Kitty is at a loss for words to describe the message of the week’s closing show.

Father and daughter presenting
"Three Lives and Only One Death"
at the 49th Cannes Film Festival
In 1996, she shared the screen with her father in Raoul Ruiz's "Trois vies et une seule mort" (Three Lives and Only One Death). The two played father and daughter. However, her character, Cécile, only found out at the end of the film when her father, a schizophrenic, was beyond the point of no return. There are several tender moments between the two, in particular, when she reaches over and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Watching them together, one cannot help but notice the striking physical resemblance. 

Mastroianni’s collaboration with director Christophe Honoré has had a huge impact on her career. Together, they have given voice to the plight of Generation X through their films, displaying a chemistry not unlike what her father shared with Federico Fellini.

Mastroianni absolutely shines in the title role of Honoré’s 2010 film “Non ma fille, tu n’iras pas danser” (Making Plans for Léna). Driven by profound unhappiness and inner turmoil, Léna leaves her husband, escaping with her children to the family’s country home. The weekend goes sideways when her husband shows up, setting in motion a gripping family drama. All the performances are outstanding: intense yet subtle. It’s a thought-provoking portrait of the toll stress can take on one’s mental health. Honoré manages to show the point-of-view of each generation of the family. It’s a thought-provoking portrait of life. The performances are outstanding­– intense yet subtle.

Deneuve and Mastroianni play mother and daughter in Honoré’s devastating 2011 “Les bien-aimés” (Beloved), which takes place over the course of three decades. The pair converge at the start of the film in a tender encounter during which they sing about the travails of love and then walk across a Paris bridge into the night. What begins as a rom-com-style musical turns into a deeply moving drama that celebrates life after loss. Mastroianni gives a heartfelt, intense performance as Véra, a woman struggling through an impossible love affair with an expat musician from New York. There is a storyline about the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, which was done delicately and tastefully and takes us back to the strangeness and surreal atmosphere of that day. The film is two hours long and by the end of it, you really feel like you just spent three decades with these people. This is a film that will stay with you long after it ends. 

Honoré and Mastroianni’s latest collaboration premiered in May on Lincoln Center’s virtual platform.  “Chambre 212" (On a Magical Night) is a fantastical tale of the consequences of infidelity. Mastroianni is brilliant; funny yet reflective as her character, Maria, a law professor, moves into the hotel across the street after revealing to her husband that she’s been having an affair with one of her students. She talked about her character during a live Q&A hosted by Lincoln Center. “It was wonderful to play such a character because she’s so free. I don’t feel like that at all. Not for conventional reasons, but just the idea of freedom, of doing something you want to do and I think that’s what makes her really cool because she could have been a character that is unbearable. So for me, it was wonderful to have the energy of that character,” she explained.

During the Q&A, she was asked if she ever rewatches her father’s films and if she has a favorite. “Yes, I do re-watch movies and I watch many interviews because movies are movies but interviews, he is being himself.” 
Regarding a favorite, she said, “It would be difficult for me to pick one performance because I think he’s always been so strong. I think of “8 ½” or “A Special Day,” the Ettore Scola movie with Sophia Loren, or “Drama of Jealousy” (The Pizza Triangle), an Ettore Scola movie again with Monica Vitti, or “Bell’Antonio.” It’s a big menu.” 

Watch the clip..

Many of Mastroianni's films are available on Amazon. “My Favorite Season” and 
"Three Lives and Only One Death" are available on YouTube.


- Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the November 2020 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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