Chiara Mastroianni’s career is defined by a discerning, though perhaps blasé, taste for auteur cinema; not an unlikely proposition given her roots. Some might argue that she does not have anything to prove. But she picks her projects based on the unobvious and sometimes the daring. Family relations have played a hand, too (and why should it not?) In Chiara Mastroianni’s life, the line between the professional and personal is a blurry, sometimes intermittent, one. She belongs to a family of actors: cinema is like her extended family.
Chiara’s mom is Catherine Deneuve (see our interview with Catherine Deneuve) and her father is Marcelo Mastroianni. Her half-brother Christian Vadim is often seen in made-for-TV movies. In her first film, shot by André Téchiné (Ma Saison Préférée; 1993) Mastroianni was cast as Catherine Deneuve’s daughter. They recently appeared together again in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, last year’s Caméra D’Or winner at Cannes. Persepolis was likely a highlight of Mastroianni’s career of recent years, and she’s kept her Gallic amour-propre, as seen in the interview below. Because although they are not an unusual occurrence in French cinema, sequels are seen as unFrench–read on:
Screen Comment: A Christmas Tale, the Arnaud Desplechin movie which you finished shooting last year sounds like every family’s worst nightmare, doesn’t it? Shouting and strife around the family table during end-of-year holidays? It’s everyone’s worst fear but it also happens so often.
Chiara Mastroianni: Yes, it does. Conte de Noël is the story of a family who gathers during Christmas Eve and it’s a jungle. Three days of battle in the family house in the north of France Very cruel, and funny at the same time, like in all of his movies. And there are a lot of characters, ten to be exact. It was really funny because there was a lot of interaction between everyone.
This was not your first time working with Arnaud Desplechin, right?
Yes, I worked with Arnaud a long time ago–it’s been twelve years.. I had been waiting for this and I was so thrilled to find out I was going to work with him again. He’s a magician. He takes a lot but he also gives a lot. He’s really good.
And Catherine Deneuve, your mother, plays in it as well.
Yes, she plays my husband’s mother. So that’s very funny. And she hates me in the movie. How strange, but funny! Yes. We work well together.
This past May you were Cannes with Catherine Deneuve to support Persepolis. Will there be a sequel?
There will never be a sequel, I don’t think. But if they don’t take me again, I will kill them (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud) (laughs). It would be interesting to see how the character grows, however, and how faithful she is to what the grandmother has taught her.
You have fond memories from that film, I heard. How did it all start?
We met a little with Marjane and Vincent, hung out together, everything went really fast. In the beginning what was strange is that Marjane picked the voices before doing the animation. When I arrived in the studio, I thought, this is so surreal, we had no images, just the memory of the book, but it’s not the same. So Marjane would describe what would take place in the scene. Now that I have seen the film I realized what freedom she gave to us by doing it this way; the freedom was the same as in a regular film. I heard the animation was a huge job because they wanted to keep the lines as fluid and organic as possible.Yea, I would stay afterwards at the studio where they were doing the animation. Because it was so interesting. Eighty people in a studio working like crazy, night and day, and to see such patience, because it takes such a long time to be able to put together.