DEAUVILLE, France — The 26th Deauville fest got under way Friday with the French preem of “Hollow Man,” with helmer Paul Verhoeven and star Kevin Bacon in attendance. Though this quaint town in Normandy is two hours northwest of Paris, the cheers and applause may have reached the French capital on Saturday when Clint Eastwood took the stage to accept his trophy at the Festival of American Cinema.
Ever the provocateur, Verhoeven compared Bacon’s role as a brilliant but self-righteous scientist to the U.S. presidential candidates and their running mates “who constantly evoke God’s plan for the American people. Anyone who presumes to know what God wants would do well to pay more attention to what Satan wants, for Satan’s work is far more evident in today’s world.”
Although Eastwood’s acting is certainly revered in France, it’s his work as a director that has been examined and hailed for nearly 30 years with a level of respect usually reserved for the contributions of Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur. The award for all-around living legend-ness was presented — in fluent and self-deprecating French — by Eastwood’s friend Morgan Freeman.
(Just last week, Eastwood received the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion for career achievement.)
At the invitation of the venerated film magazine Cahiers du Cinema, four prominent French directors, trembling with emotion, explained how Eastwood has entertained and inspired them in front of but especially behind the camera.
From the very first reel
“Francois Truffaut believed that you could judge what sort of director a man might become from watching just the first reel of his first film,” filmmaker-writer Philippe Labro said. “The Americans may have been slow to notice the artist in their midst, but most of the promise and talent of Clint Eastwood is evident in the first reel of ‘Play Misty for Me.’ ”
Eastwood’s fellow “Space Cowboys” stars James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones joined in the lovefest.
Eastwood and his fellow mock astronauts weren’t the only high fliers in the room — real life space pioneer Buzz Aldrin was also in town and waved to the crowd.
A gracious and outspoken Susan Sarandon, the subject of Monday night’s tribute, found that European reporters couldn’t get enough of her views on the death penalty, a practice that baffles the French.
The Deauville competition kicked off Sept. 4. Winners will be announced Sept. 10.