"The Truth," Reviewed: Catherine Deneuve Is a Full-Time Diva of Quiet Ferocity

6 min read
Richard Brody reviews "The Truth," the new film from the director Hirokazu Kore-eda, starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke.
In "The Truth," an actress played by Catherine Deneuve (second from right) prepares for the publication of her own self-serving memoir. Photograph Courtesy IFC Films

There's a special energy unleashed when filmmakers depict versions of the milieu in which they work and the practice of their art form. The inherent element of self-revelation in films about filmmaking is a severe test of artistry, which is why the truth of this new film, written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, is found less in the characters' many repetitions of the ponderous title word than it is in the movie's central subject—the turbulent life and work of a great actress. "The Truth" (which will be released Friday on Amazon, iTunes, and other services) is the first drama that Kore-eda has made outside Japan, and the geographical and cultural distance that he has bridged to consider the milieu of moviemaking also gives rise to a gimlet-eyed emotional distance that, when the movie is at its intermittent best, yields startling insights about the art.

It stars three of the most famous actors of our time—Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke—and its drama feels developed on the basis of their personalities and mythologies. Deneuve plays a long-celebrated French actress of about seventy, Fabienne Dangeville, whose memoir—ominously titled "The Truth"—is about to be published. For the occasion, Fabienne's daughter, Lumir (Binoche), a screenwriter who lives in New York, travels to Paris with her husband, Hank (Hawke), a struggling actor, and their daughter, Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier), who's about seven, in tow. Lumir has come to town ostensibly to celebrate the publication of her mother's book, but actually to scrutinize it. Moments after their arrival at Fabienne's lavish house (in the Fourteenth Arrondissement), Lumir protests that Fabienne had promised to let her read and comment on the manuscript before the book was printed.

Upon arriving at Fabienne's house, Lumir locks…
Richard Brody
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