How French women do things

  • 2006-05-17
  • By Joel Alas

ADAM'S RIB: Brigitte Bardot, pictured above in 'And God Created Woman...' (1956), defined beauty for a generation.

TALLINN - "The elegance is lost," sighs Triin Teramae. "Women today are very different...Unfortunately I think ladies have changed." Film stars used to have a style and grace, Teramae is saying. But all that is absent in today's generation of celebrities. Teramae, the head of Femme Fatale, a film festival that celebrates French stars of the 1960s and 70s, is determined to remind the world of a time when a different class of women ruled the silver screen.

This week the festival takes over Kino Soprus, an art house cinema in Tallinn's Old Town, with nightly screenings of films that capture the style of the era.
"The films exemplify the golden age of France in the 60s and 70s, when [the country] was an example of fashion and music and intellectual thought," Teramae says.

"We don't have any classical art house films available here. We only see contemporary films. It's very important for Estonian people to see classic films also, and in a cinema, of course. It's very different watching something on DVD than in a cinema."
Most of the original 35mm prints of the films were sent from cultural centers in Paris, but a few of the prints are no longer available and must be shown from a DVD.

Teramae's personal favorite film in the festival is Brigitte Bardot's 1963 classic "Contempt," which begins with Bardot in bed with her husband. The film then goes on to examine the slow breakdown of their relationship. "It's a very attractive and very visual film," Teramae says.
Bardot also stars in another festival favorite, "And God Created Woman..." (1956), about a nymphomaniac who carries on affairs with two brothers. Upon its release it was advertised with the tagline "... but the Devil Created Brigitte Bardot."
French star Jeanne Moreau stars in "Le journal d'une femme de Chambre" ("The Maid's Journal" 1964), which follows the exploits of a chambermaid. Her performance was arguably responsible for creating the icon of the French maid as a symbol of sexual fantasy.

Catherine Deneuve's "Tristana," (1970) about a girl's affair with her older guardian, will close the festival.
According to Teramae, each of the actresses represented a lost era of elegance and beauty.
But have the women of today changed, or has the world changed around them? Would Bardot and her contemporaries retain their grace in the face of today's vicious tabloid media culture, where paparazzi capture stars during their most inelegant moments, and glossy magazines take pleasure in revealing their flaws?

Such issues will be debated ahead of each film screening. Experts in popular culture have been invited to give brief lectures before the screenings to discuss the films, the stars, their background and their impact.
The festival began last weekend with a fashion parade featuring Estonian models and actresses.
Monday saw the launch of an exhibition by local photographer Laura Kallasvee, who captured prominent Estonian stars, businesswomen and politicians dressed in a style to match the elegance of a foregone period.
Teramae is somewhat of a female icon herself. A bright young university student of culture studies, she teamed with a friend to form an event promotion group dedicated to increasing cultural awareness.

The Culture Makers, or Kultuuritegijad in Estonian, have presented jazz nights, poetry readings and fashion shows, but it is their work promoting film festivals that has proven most successful.
In February this year the group presented a festival of US cult films, including "Apocalypse Now," "Shaft," "Mean Streets," and the Andy Warhol films "Heat" and "Flesh." It was a resounding success.
"We sold out all the screenings before the event, and we brought in extra seats which were also sold out," Teramae said.
She is hoping for similar success with Femme Fatale, and is also working on plans for future film festivals that canvas equally provocative topics.

Manifesto Film Festival:
Femme Fatale
Until May 21 at Cinema Soprus, Vana-Posti 8, Vannalinn
90 kroons (5.75 euros)
films screen at 8 p.m.
+372 644 1919