‘Marcello Mio’ Review: Chiara Mastroianni & Catherine Deneuve Play Themselves In An Amusing Family Affair Like No Other – Cannes Film Festival

Talk about an identity crisis!

In a wonderfully funny and completely original comedy, French star Chiara Mastroianni in a bit of an existential crisis mode decides one day to morph into her very famous father, the late great Marcello Mastroianni. In a search for her own identity she discovers more about herself, her father, even her equally famous mother Catherine Deneuve who surprisingly consented to play herself and discover truths about her relationship with her ex-finacé (he died in 1996) that had never been made public.

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Playing tonight in the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival, where the entire family has appeared many times as fictional characters, this time it hits close to home, but always with a light touch as Chiara drops her own persona and hits the town as if it were Marcello Mastroianni back in Fellini’s 8 1/2. Black suit, hat, moustache, large glasses — she’s all in. It all seems just as surreal as a Fellini film as Chiara looks into the mirror and soon sees the image of her father looking back. It is a summer of change and discovery but she is dead serious as she drops her own identity.

Cannes regular Christophe Honoré (Beloved, Love Songs), who has now worked with Chiara seven times, is the writer-director of this fable that blends reality with Chiara’s reality, and a cast of real-life friends and colleagues must try to take her seriously as well. Has she gone completely cuckoo? There are different levels of acceptance as she interacts with family, past lovers and friends convinced she is now her father. On top of the laughs inherent in such a premise, meta comedy Marcello Mio has much to say about who our parents are and how we relate to them, but in this case it is truly unique as her parents are both beyond stars, they are true cinema icons, one from Italy, one from France.

Honoré, who seems to enjoy patching together magical realism and real lives in creating this BonBon of a film, wastes no time in setting the tone by re-creating that famous Trevi fountain scene from La Dolce Vita, which starred Mastroianni and featured the voluptuous Anita Ekberg taking a dip into the water there. But this is not a movie content to re-create scenes from his famous films, but rather to tip its hat to them in some instances, and more importantly focus on his daughter’s need to become her parent in order to spiritually connect.

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Into this scenario comes Deneuve, who understandably thinks it is all a joke when confronted with what she thinks is her daughter’s impression of her former amour. It actually is very funny to see her try to comprehend and resist sending Chiara off to an institution. Soon she succumbs to the reality of something not real, but is it? Honoré calls it all a “fake movie about real people.” Others must adapt too including actor-musician Fabrice Luchini or director Nicole Garcia, both playing fictional versions of themselves. There is also Benjamin Biolay, ex-husband of Chiara and father of her child, who is perhaps the most perturbed and confused by this turn of events. And then there is also another former partner, Melvin Poupaud, perhaps the most accepting in his charming way. A fictional character also enters the fray when Chiara/Marcello comes upon a seemingly desperate man ready to end it all on a bridge, a nod to the same situation when Marcello befriended a crying woman played by Maria Schell in 1957’s White Nights. Here it is Colin (Hugh Skinner), a British soldier who could become a love interest or maybe not for Chiara/Marcello/Marcel.

The father also had a dog, and there is a charming one who latches on to the action here as well, and plenty of other references to catch along the way including the final scene on the beach at the end of La Dolce Vita. The whole conceit is oddly spiritual, not sad or depressing to watch someone you think might have gone over the edge. It is much lighter on its feet than that. Chiara is searching, and it has made her reconnect with her own father, and mother, and others in her life as well. What is remarkable is that they all agreed to be part of Honoré’s game, where the daughter has walked into a movie and planted her feet there for a while.

One scene is very powerful where she finds herself competing on an Italian reality show which does not take Chiara’s new identity seriously but rather makes it the butt of a guessing game, causing her to run out of the studio as far away as she can. Honoré manages to keep the tone in place but juggles the dramatic moment as well. Also featured in this sequence is Stefania Sandrelli, who co-starred with Marcello Mastroianni in 1961’s Divorce Italian Style.

Title: Marcello Mio
Festival: Cannes (Competition)
Director-screenwriter: Christophe Honoré
Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Fabrice Luchini, Nicole Garcia, Benjamin Biolay, Melvin Poupaud, Hugh Skinner, Stefania Sandrelli
Sales agent: MK2 Films
Running time: 2 hr 1 min

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