MARRAKECH, Morocco — On its penultimate night, the 16th Marrakech Film Festival paid tribute to acclaimed French actress Isabelle Adjani, the only person to have ever one five best actress prizes at France’s Cesar Awards. She has also been nominated for an Academy Award on two occasions, for François Truffaut’s “The Story of Adele H.” and Bruno Nuytten’s “Camille Claudel,” and twice won best actress at Cannes – for “Possession” and “Quartet.”
Adjani was visibly moved by the tribute, in particular by a medley of scenes from her most famous films, including “Camille Claudel” and “Queen Margot.”
As she walked up the red carpet to enter the Palais de Congres, she was asked whether she leaves a bit of her soul in each film, to which she replied: “Of course, we give a bit of our soul in each part we play. But we hope to renew it with each new film.”
The tribute was presented by three directors, none of whom have worked directly with her – French director, Christophe Honoré, Romanian director Christian Mungiu and Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako.
Mungiu served as jury member at Marrakech in 2014 and Sissako was president of the festival’s Cinecoles short film competition in the same year.
Honoré said that he is one of the main unfortunate directors who have never made a film with Adjani. “I started my career at exactly the same moment when you said you were less interested in acting.”
He said that he understood that once you have acted the same gestures on hundreds of occasions, it begins to make less sense, adding that some people, through their absence, are more present.
“You have always been watching over our films,” he concluded.
Mungiu explained that while growing up one day he saw a picture of Adjani that for him was the most beautiful image he had ever seen. He glued it in his room and later discovered who it was. “Your beauty is not just a question of a beautiful face,” he said. “You have unbelievable grace, class, talent, energy and subtlety. You are beautiful inside.”
He then explained that when he first had the opportunity to be presented to Adjani he declined the offer because he didn’t know what to say, and that the tribute ceremony was a second chance for him.
Sissako said that after he studied at the VGIK film school in Moscow, Adjani was one of the first people he met when he returned to Paris. He described her as a rare actress who has marked our existence, is charming with hidden aspects to her personality that are never accessible.
“You constantly reinvent yourself. You don’t chase after fame and recognition. You are the opposite of materialism,” Sissako proclaimed.
Adjani then took the stage and began by saying that “festivals, like films, are graceful monuments, poems that are fixed in our memories, built with living stones that we all are, as artists.”
Adjani emphasized her delight in being able to attend Marrakech as a crossroads of culture, “this place nourishes human encounters,” she said. “Many facets and forms of humanity meet here.”
She stated that she believes that in today’s world – with many forces of division and separation and a closing of boundaries, in terms of geography and sensibilities – Marrakech can play a special role because of its location and geography.
“This is a capital of the spirit and the heart, of free encounters and transmission, that can overcome the boundaries between North and South, between man and woman,” Adjani said.
Speaking about the montage of clips from her films she said that the montage moved her deeply, reminding her of the inspiration of working with so many directors and the chance to cross centuries and play culprit and victim, bitter and sweet, innocent and triumphant, “and so many times madly in love.”
“Even if I don’t like looking back, I carry these women inside me, these lives I’ve inside me, a major part of my life,” at which point she seemed on the verge of tears.
“Extreme sensitivity can be dangerous. It can destroy us. But that’s the price we have to pay. A great director is like an astronomer who finds a unique and secret light hidden in an actor’s face. He captures its hidden emotion, revealed in silence, shows intimacy while preserving the unique mystery of the character.”
Her speech was followed by a video testimony by French actress/director Maiwenn, who played alongside Adjani in Jean Becker’s “One Deadly Summer,” and who said that Adjani had inspired her to see the world in a different way and provided a “spiritual oasis” for her.
The tribute ended with a screening of Adjani’s most recent film “Carole Matthieu” by Louis-Julien Petit, which was released theatrically this week in France.