Big, mysterious and rich: China according to Deneuve

French icon wonders what China thinks of her nation as she attends premiere in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 6:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 5:27pm

France has a fascination with China, says French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve, who hopes people from China share the same fascination with France.

"We are very open to foreign cultures ... China is a big, mysterious and rich country. But we don't know what China finds French people," the actress said yesterday at a press conference in Hong Kong.

"We know a lot about Asian cinema. Lots of films ... from Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea ... are released in France," she said, adding that the mainland's Jia Jiangke was one of her favourite directors.

"It is important for French films to be invited to be shown in Asia," she said, believing it was important to be exposed to different things.

The 70-year-old star is in town for the premiere of her new film On My Way at the Hong Kong International Film Festival as part of an initiative celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sino-French diplomatic relations. Last week, actress Isabelle Huppert and designer-turned-filmmaker Agnes b. were in Hong Kong to present their latest film projects.

Yesterday, Deneuve presented her film to a full house before a dinner with Hong Kong directors Wong Kar-wai, Johnnie To Kei-fung and Peter Chan Ho-sun.

Deneuve said it was vital for her to get to know a director before deciding whether to take on a film project. "If I didn't know the director, I must meet him first. Then I follow by instinct," the actress said. "The script and the story are very important ... I must make sure I like the story."

Born in Paris in 1943, Deneuve has appeared in more than 100 films. She rose to stardom with Jacques Demy's classic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964).

The 1992 film Indochine brought her to Asia. "We were in Vietnam for over two months," said Deneuve, adding that it was one of her most emotional filming experiences. Set at the time of the Vietnamese nationalist movement, the film won Deneuve her second Cesar Award - France's answer to the Oscars - and a best actress nomination at the Academy Awards.

The actress was the muse of late designer Yves St Laurent and recently appeared in a photoshoot with model Kate Moss as part of an all-star cast of designer Marc Jacobs' inspirations.

In On My Way, directed by Emmanuelle Bercot, Deneuve plays former beauty queen Bettie who runs away from her controlling mother and a failing restaurant business after her longtime partner dumps her.

She hoped it would bring a taste of life in France to the Hong Kong audience and bring home the importance of breaking one's routine. "It is important to break [away from] your habits, even just for a short time."

She added: "We did the filming in two months. It was an interesting experience to shoot a road movie." The film festival ends on April 7.