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Robert De Niro,
Monsieur Cinema, a hundred years old, lives alone in a large villa. His memories fade away, so he engages a young woman to tell him stories about all the movies ever made. Also a line of movie stars comes to visit him giving him back the pleasure of life - but amongst them there are also some young students only striving after his money for the realization of their film projects. The two stories - Monsieur Cinema's and the young people's life - are told in parallel until they come together in the end when the old man plays a role in the film made by the students. Written by
Agnes Varda, one of the best film directors from France, takes us on a nostalgic trip through the world of cinema. Ms. Varda pays homage to the Lumiere brothers, the inventors that revolutionized the art of making movies, as they keep appearing whenever Simon Cinema, the old character at the center of the film calls for them. The two men show up enveloped in lights, perhaps a tribute and a reference to their surname.
The film concentrates on Simon Cinema and his memories. After all, he has been around for quite a while and has survived many movements and styles during his time as a creator. Simon lives in splendor in a château in the country, attended by his male servant, Firmin, and two maids. Simon decides to employ an assistant to help him sort out his memories. When he engages the lovely Camille, he gets an eager young woman who is in love with a young would be director.
There are great moments in the film as when Simon is visited by Marcello Mastroianni. Both actors, now of a certain age, compare notes from their pictures. Simon Cinema accuses Fellini of copying his bathroom scene in Godadard's "Contempt", in his own "8-1/2". Hanna Schygula and Jeanne Moreau arrive together to see the great man. Alain Delon comes in a helicopter, only to be turned away by Firmin, the servant, who only wants to tell the actor how much he admired him and have him sign his autograph album.
There are other poignant vignettes, like the one involving Sandrine Bonnaire, who arrives at the estate dressed as the vagabond she played in Ms. Varda's own film. Then she changes into a noble woman and finally she transforms herself into Joan of Arc. Catherine Deneuve and Robert DeNiro have a good time together in a small vessel in the pond.
Michel Picolli is excellent as the older man who is recalling the movies. Julie Gayet makes a luminous contribution as Camille. Henri Garcin, is the servant Firmin, a crazy combination of servant and personal assistant. Mathieu Demy, the director's son appears as the aspiring director, Mica.
Ms. Varda created a light film about making movies. The material covers many years of film making, not only in France, but in America, and other places as well. It is indeed a sentimental journey that no cinema fan should miss.
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