On My Way  

by director/co-writer Emmanuelle Bercot

For me, On My Way is not a film with Catherine Deneuve, it’s a film that is for and by Catherine Deneuve.

The film is a double first for me as a filmmaker: to work with a big star, an icon of cinema, and to write a film with one inspiration only, the desire to film an actress, Catherine.

Guided by my perception of her from her films and from my encounters with her in real life, I felt, also for the first time, the necessity to make a sunny film, optimistic, free in its tonal changes, almost a comedy. In France, we are bit suspicious of American “feel good” movies, but I was not against taking this sort of approach.

I was determined to pay homage to Catherine, to her capriciousness, her deep curiosity, to her spectacular joie de vivre and playful sense of fun. I also wanted to film her as closely as possible as she is in real life, with her cascades of laughter, her humor, her interest in others, her intense freedom.

For those who love her, it is like rediscovering her according to their fantasies, giving them the impression of achieving some sort of truth of what she is and who she is. For other people, those who know her less, or remain overwhelmed by a pre-conceived image of her as remote and icy, it’s a pleasure to hear them say, as they exit the theatre, that they “discovered” Catherine Deneuve, as they had never seen or imagined her.

This film is mostly, for me, a declaration of love for Catherine, for the actress but also for the woman that she is. I wanted to share this love with the audience through this road movie, where she takes us on board with her in her car and shares with us her encounters along the way. This indescribable, irrational love for an actress (one who intimately opened up worlds in me without my even knowing her at first) was enough for me to devote three years of my life to make this film. 

That is what cinema is, sometimes, and that is why I hope you will want to go see an actress whom I loved on the screen as a child, whom I’ve grown up with, and whom, by one of those miracles in life (I’m still not sure I’ve realized it), I’ve been able, as a filmmaker (another one of life’s miracles) to capture in the eye of a camera.

Out of consideration for the diamond that she is, I wanted to surround her with a kind of purity by choosing (with just three exceptions) non-professional actors, “real people” as I like to call them, who had never been in front of a camera, never acted in a film, and in one case (the old man who rolls her a cigarette) had no idea who the beautiful blonde was playing opposite him!

A jubilant encounter between cinema and life….

Through Catherine, and what she symbolizes, On My Way is also an ode to femininity, to youth after 60. I hope that in the United States, where Catherine is so revered, women will come out of the theater wanting to age like Bettie in the film (as played by Catherine), and that men will want to hold her in their arms.

(Translated from Bercot’s original text in French.)

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