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Deauville fetes 25 years

Evening's emotional event topped by Caine tribute

DEAUVILLE, FRANCE — Standing ovations, tears and laughter characterized the ceremony in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Festival of American Cinema here Wednesday.

Claude Lelouch, who shot 1966’s “A Man and a Woman” in this quaint resort town on the English Channel, explained that over a quarter century ago, then-mayor Michel D’Ornano confessed to Lelouch that he was having a terrible time drumming up cooperation in America for the still-gestating fest because nary a Yank had the slightest idea where or what Deauville was. “So,” the late D’Ornano said, per Lelouch, “I just tell them that’s where ‘A Man and a Woman’ was shot.” “Now,” Lelouch continued, “when my film is shown on TV in the U.S. people say ‘Oh, yeah, Deauville — that’s where the American film festival is held.’ ”

Mayor Anne D’Ornano was visibly moved as she recounted in both French and perfect English that “If you were here for our 21st birthday, I asked you all to think of (hotelier) Diane (Barriere-Desseigne) who was fighting for her life in the hospital (from a plane crash). She wanted to be here tonight.” As the overflow celebrity crowd sprang to its feet, Barriere-Desseigne was brought onstage in a wheelchair and said in French and English: “I want you to know I love America. I love the people. I love the movies.”

Tony Martin led the crowd in singing “Happy Anniversary to You” before the evening’s tribute to Michael Caine, kicked off by American-born/French-trained helmer Bob Swaim, who directed Caine in “Half Moon Street” with Sigourney Weaver.