French acting icon starts Flinders residency

Rare insights into the artistry of French cinema and theatre will be offered at Flinders University with a special visit by acclaimed French actor and director Zabou Breitman.

She arrives in Adelaide this month to become Artist in Residence at Flinders’ Bedford Park for the next three weeks.

To kickstart the residency, she will host the screening of a landmark French movie, and start work with drama students on an original performance.

The free public screening of Eyes Without a Face will be hosted by Mme Zabou (Isabelle) Breitman in the Flinders Plaza on Thursday evening (February 28).

Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage), is a 1960 horror film adaptation of a Jean Redon novel, directed by Georges Franju, which stars Pierre Brasseur and Alida Valli.

Brasseur plays a plastic surgeon who is determined to perform a face transplant on his daughter, who was disfigured in an auto crash. It will be screened with subtitles.

As part of her residency at Flinders, Mme Breitman will also direct an original performance, Foolz: Imperturbable Logic of the Fool, featuring Flinders drama students, on March 18.

The production is a montage of texts based on the topic of ‘madness’, including irrationality, surrealism and poetry, and incorporates elements from Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare and Chekhov.

“What interests me is to succeed in tying in actions to words, in order to produce hyper-realistic situations which ultimately become completely surreal,” Mme Breitman says.

Mme Breitman, the daughter of author and comedian Jean-Claude Deret and actress Céline Léger, landed her first role as a four-year-old in Thierry La Fronde, a French TV series written by her father that aired from 1963-66.

She remains active in French cinema and theatre, and is noted particularly for her appearances in An Almost Peaceful World by Michel Deville, Rémi Bezançon’s The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, Narco and The Exercise of the State by Peter Schoeller.

Mme Breitman’s interest in irrationality, insanity or digression from a healthy state of mind has inspired her throughout her career.

“I often approach this theme in a hyper-realistic, surreal or fantasy like manner,” she says.

“What draws me to it, is the unbelievably human dimension … A great deal of people deemed mentally unwell are suffering from anguish and disorders that others also have, but are simply able to cope with.

“When I re-read my childhood poems, I realise this theme has been inside of me from a very young age.

“For me, it is connected to the notion of what is absolute, to mortality, it is at the heart of being, of doing the improbable, and it’s the fragile magic of humanity.”

The residency, organised by Flinders University together with the Ambassade de France, will further strengthen Flinders’ relationship with France, which provides a raft of education and innovation opportunities for staff, students and the general public.

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