Photo: Film at Lincoln Center
by Steven Warner Featured Film Spotlight

The Truth | Hirokazu Kore-eda

July 28, 2020

Hirokazu Kore-eda feels distinctly uninterested in his own material here, a sentiment sure to be echoed by audiences.

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda has consistently shown an affinity for highlighting the often fractured dynamics that exist within families both real and manufactured, from 1995’s Maborosi to 2018’s Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters. The filmmaker’s latest is no different, even if it’s both the first he’s made outside his native country, and not in the Japanese language. A French-English co-production, The Truth tells the story of an aging actress, Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve), who, on the eve of the publication of her autobiography, must contend with the return of her daughter, Lumir (Juliette Binoche), with whom she has a relationship that’s tenuous at best. Long-simmering resentments bubble to the surface over the course of one week, as Fabienne prepares for a role in a sci-fi film whose plot mirrors that of her own familial woes. As if that metaphor wasn’t heavy-handed enough, we also get lots of monologues about the selfish vanity of an actor, and the sacrifices that one must make for the sake of their art. It’s all rather dry and more than a little boring, with Kore-eda bafflingly opting to mimic the style of late-period Olivier Assayas (he even goes so far as to port over both Binoche and the whole sci-fi angle from Assayas’s very own 2014 film Cloud of Sils Maria). It’s almost inevitable that every serious filmmaker will, at some point, make a movie about making movies. The inherent problem is that those films tend to automatically distance the majority of audiences who are not in the business of creating mass popular art — and who view such efforts as essentially narcissistic navel-gazing. Kore-eda, unfortunately, is either unwilling, or unable, to overcome this problem. The filmmaker himself seems disinterested with his material; in fact, he seems so disengaged in the film that, when his name appears during the end credits, it comes as something of a shock.