NarrativePresented in competition at Cannes, “Les Amandiers” is, for its director, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, a return to her youth, when she discovered the theater in Nanterre. An ephemeral training imagined by Patrice Chéreau who saw the birth of a generation of young actors.
The last time they met was at the time of their triumph, in 1987. All together, reunited, radiant and exhausted, giving Platonov, by Anton Chekhov, in Avignon. Hit. Ovation. Curtain. That summer, the nineteen young people who made up the second and final promotion of the Nanterre theater school, founded and directed by Patrice Chéreau and Pierre Romans, parted ways to become absorbed in life. It is this slice of their existence, these eighteen months of intense work, at full speed, where nothing else counted but love, the theater and friendship, that one of them, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, chose to tell the cinema, thirty-five years later.
In the long-awaited Almond trees, presented in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, now these actors have become film characters in turn, embodied by young actors of the age they were during those founding years. Years that changed the course of their lives – this promotion alone brought out, in addition to Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Agnès Jaoui, Vincent Perez, Bruno Todeschini, Marianne Denicourt, Thibault de Montalembert – but also that of contemporary French theater, marked by the Nanterre of the Chéreau years.
The Amandiers are today synonymous with a blessed era for the theatre. But already, at the time, throughout Europe, the school of Nanterre was known as a place of effervescence and creativity where people flocked. No one has forgotten that evening when Catherine Deneuve went to see the end-of-year work of the students. “In one scene, a young waitress from the theater bar says to a student, ‘Do you know who’s sitting over there? Catherine Deneuve ! She is eating a steak and fries!” This scene was not kept during editing and it’s not serious, but it tells what this theater had of mythology, says Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. The character played by Suzanne Lindon said at one point: “This theater is the center of Europe!” It’s something important that we weren’t aware of but that I wanted to tell. »
A work of memory
The director has already “fictionalised” her life in the cinema in her feature films (It’s easier for a camel, 2003; actresses, 2007; A castle in Italy, 2013; summer visitors, 2020) her motherhood, her love affair with a younger man, the death of her brother, but this is the first time she has gone back so far and so long in her life. Thirty-five years back. It was his friend Thierry de Peretti, a theater and film actor who went on to direct, who came back to the charge three or four years ago: “You really should make a film about the Almond Trees. » This time, it seemed obvious to him. Around her, she gathers her team, the same since her beginnings as a director, and she proceeds as she did for the previous feature films of her “imaginary autobiography”. “She starts from reality, she kneads it and she reinvents it”, in the words of Alexandra Henochsberg, co-producer of the film with Patrick Sobelman.
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