Faye Dunaway sublimated by the director of The Scarecrow
Former muse of fashion, Lou Andreas Sand isolated herself in a house by the ocean where she tries to live differently, devoting herself to poetry and sculpture. Damaged by depression and excess, she receives a visit from her photographer friend Aaron Reinhardt who is now a filmmaker. He came to record interviews with the former model with a view to making a film about his life. Throughout his story, Lou unearths the memories of his rise, then of his downfall, which are organized into a fragmentary montage of real facts and fantasized events...
Fascinating portrait of a woman in the form of a puzzle, Portrait of a Fallen Child is Jerry Schatzberg's first film and his first masterpiece. The New York director of Panic in Needle Park and The Scarecrow (Palme d'or in 1973) draws inspiration here from the tormented life of supermodel Ann Saint Marie to combine his personal memories as a fashion photographer through a fragmented narrative construction. By filming the making of the images at the same time as he shows their reverse side, Schatzberg captures the turn of the 60s and 70s with all the freshness, excitement and vacuity that the era entails. Faye Dunaway, who was already an icon since the success of Bonnie and Clyde and The Thomas Crown Affair, finds here one of her most outstanding roles: by playing a fallen cover-girl at two ages of her existence, she blends sophistication with overwhelming fragility. Unseen for a long time, Portrait of a Fallen Child is, beyond its artistic audacity, a sublime tragedy of perdition.
“I ALWAYS THOUGHT THERE WAS A STORY TO TELL. » INTERVIEW WITH JERRY SCHATZBERG "While I was a photographer, I decided to become a director first because I had a subject I wanted to talk about. It was about my favorite model and the drama that happened to her. Somehow on the other, I wanted to record what was happening and the only way for me was to make a film.At the same time, at the time, I regularly filmed with a 16mm camera for fun.
Ann Saint Marie was the model who inspired the story of Portrait of a Fallen Child. When I started as a fashion photographer, she was already a very important model and she intimidated me a lot. Over the years, designers, among others, regularly said about her that they wanted to have "younger models", "new faces" for their collections. This affected her greatly because she was still young and not even thirty years old. As she went through these difficulties, I saw her sink into depression. I always thought there was a story to tell. But my first film is really a metaphor for many industries, not just fashion.
At this stage, Faye Dunaway was already involved in the project because I had spoken to her about it and she particularly liked the subject of the film. She had already done Bonnie and Clyde and was then very known. I knew her because I had photographed her for Esquire before she made this film.
I had different ideas about Lou's character. I first thought of taking a mature actress to play the adult character, and a young girl for the child character. Then I said to myself that Faye could totally play both. It would also be more interesting. I was able to introduce her to Ann Saint Marie, so she could see how she was in life and spot important details like her very specific way of expressing herself.
I don't feel like I was consciously part of the movement called New Hollywood. I have always worked alone. Likewise, I became friends with the Stones, Bob Dylan and even Andy Warhol, I spent time with them, but I was never a part of their circle. I was lonely. I wasn't aware of being part of any movement or group: I just wanted to make my first film. What I create obviously reflects my desires and aspirations."
Interview in New York in December 2010.
PORTRAIT OF A FALLEN CHILD (1970 – Colors – 94 mins) SUPPLEMENTS *
. THE FILM REVEALED (13 mins) A pioneering cinephile, pioneer of great authors, Pierre Rissient recounts his discovery of Portrait of a Fallen Child in 1970 at the San Francisco Film Festival.
. ILLUSION AND REALITY(51 mins) In this exclusive interview led by Michel Ciment (director of the magazine Positif), Jerry Schatzberg looks back on his first cinematographic work based on many personal memories.