French screen legend Catherine Deneuve Saturday drew the curtain on the 64th Cannes festival with the closing film, "Beloved," a musical melodrama co-starring her daughter that drew cheers and tears.
Starring Deneuve as a self-described "loose woman" who meets her first love, a Czech living in Paris, while dabbling in prostitution in the 1960s, the movie screened out of competition ahead of a gala awards ceremony Sunday.
The film, by France’s Christophe Honoré, covers 45 years in the life of a freewheeling family, in which Deneuve’s character Madeleine ping-pongs between the Czech, with whom she has a daughter Vera, and her second husband, a gendarme.
Oscar-winning director Milos Forman ("Amadeus") appears as the Czech lover in later life.
Vera is played by Chiara Mastroianni, Deneuve’s daughter by Marcello Mastroianni, and observes her mother’s bed-hopping with more bemusement than scorn.
Vera’s own romantic adventures with her French boyfriend and an American man she meets in London contribute the title and one of the themes of the film: whether it is better to love or be loved.
Mastroianni, who bears a striking resemblance to her mother, said Deneuve could be an intimidating presence for any actress.
"I had an advantage because had we not known each other — I’m quite anxious myself — I would have been petrified to be in a film with Catherine Deneuve," said Mastroianni, 38.
Deneuve, 67, said she was careful to draw a line between the on-screen drama and her off-screen relationship with her daughter.
"There are personal things that will appear in the film, some things will escape me and just come out but I really tried to do otherwise," she said.
"I don’t want to be in the film the mother I am in life. The mother I am in the film is very different to who I am in real life."
Mastroianni said that although they had co-starred in two other films, the Iranian animated feature "Persepolis" which they voiced and French drama "A Christmas Tale," she and her mother had never shared a scene before.
The film is punctuated by 12 original pop songs sung by the actors, which Honore said he used to create transitions between the comedy and tragedy of the plot, which drew tears and warm applause from the Cannes audience.
"We sang together and that was lots of fun," Mastroianni said. "When I was young, my mother used to sing in the street and I used to say, ‘Be quiet, be quiet’."
"I sing a lot and when the children were really young, they were bothered by that," Deneuve acknowledged with a smile.
Honoré said taking the story from the 1960s to the present day and back again was a way of comparing how two different generations experienced love.
"I wanted to imagine what my parents’ love life was like in the 1960s and 1970s and see it through the eyes of a child. It was sort of a golden age for love stories," he said.
"Then I wanted to see the difficulties that people in my generation experience with love and sex. What I tried to do was to create a film where the generations are intertwined. I wanted to portray these love stories with a different sense of time."