Thanks to Unifrance, I head for the festival by plane. After a stopover in Zurich, a tiny aircraft takes me to Lugano airport, near Locarno. Through my window, I can see the propeller blades spinning above the Swiss mountains and feel as though I am in Only Angels Have Wings by Howard Hawks.
I wait for my actress Ariane Labed, who is shooting a new film and is due to arrive in the evening. On the Piazza Grande, I see the posters for Love Island, the other film featured on Locarno's program in which Ariane stars, and her face is everywhere on the cover of the festival's magazine PardoLive!
UniFrance's cocktail and buffet allows us to idle in pleasant surroundings and company... and to cross paths with pals – in particular, the Fort Buchanan crew.
Today the official screening of Fidelio, Alice's Journey takes place. For me, the day will be forever marked in my mind by the deluge at 9am, before the first press screening, which I attended so as to check the sound. Fortunately, despite the downpour worthy of the The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, folk have come to the screening in the Kursaal and the sound is as it should be.
Afterwards, everything unfolds as if in a dream: Ariane and I arrive for the photocall, accompanied by the youmg Romanian actor Bogdan Zamfir and the film's producer Marine Arrighi de Casanova. It's no longer raining. Hairdressing and makeup staff make us look like princesses. We pose for photographers in front of the festival's mythical leopard.
Ariane is magnificent, fresh; she's come straight from another film shoot but responds to questions with vivaciousness and intelligence. The press conference looms. Great news: journalists seem to like the film! I give my first ever interview after an Italian accented lunch and quickly arrive on time for the official screening at the Fevi... The theater has 3000 seats and I've been forewarned that it won't be full. But the previous film is late getting out and a long queue for my film is waiting in front of the venue!
I'm so nervous I think I'm going to die. I feel sick. Thomas Scimeca, who has a small part in the film, gives me a massage – he happens to be in Locarno for Totems, a short film in which his girlfriend, Julie Lesgages, has a part. A stroke of good luck…
It's not going on stage that scares me, because I already know what I'm going to say: I thank Carlo Chatrian, the festival director, for having programed my film on the Saint Amour "name day" (August 9). It's the screening itself that has me in a panic and my heart beating fast. After ten minutes, hand in hand with Ariane, I burst into tears. It's happened, the Fidelio has set sail... to a full house of 3000 spectators!
After a warm-hearted discussion with the audience, we can at last relax and enjoy a prosecco. In Locarno, all fine evenings end at the Paravento, a splendid bar where everyone gets together after midnight. Even Jean-Paul Salomé, UniFrance's president, is there. What's more, he has seen and liked Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice.
Today a bit of a rest. I can at last go and see a film!
I do my first interview in English. I think the journalist will correct my mistakes! I see a film in the Piazza Grande for the first time; I tell myself that should one of my films ever be screened there, I could die of nerves all over again. 5000 people and a giant screen under the stars.
I stay a day longer to do an interview for France Inter radio station. UniFrance has changed my plane ticket. I meet Americans Alex Ross Perry and Jason Schwartzman. We chat about directing actors and shooting with film...
At Zurich airport, on the way back to Paris, I buy a watch and some chocolate.
I learn that Fidélio is going to receive the Europa Cinemas Award! I am tempted to return to Locarno to collect it…
I learn that Ariane is going to receive the Leopard for Best Actress. That seals it: I'm going back to Locarno!
In the car that comes to pick us up at Milan airport, I meet Céline Sallette, who gives a marvelous performance in the eponymous role of Geronimo by Tony Gatlif, screening this evening at the Piazza Grande.
It's a truly enjoyable day, Fidélio receives so many honors! It is particularly emotional for me when Ariane receives her Leopard for Best Actress: our muse, the real sailor, the friend who inspired Alice's character, is among the crowd in the Piazza Grande.
Get up early after very little sleep. I can at last do what I've had no time to do since the beginning of the week: go for a swim in the lake! It brings to mind the terrific film by Alain Guiraudie. Carlo Chatrian, Locarno's director, tells us where there's a good swimming spot.
Locarno helped us find a distributor for the film, and since then, international film festival invitations for the film are pouring in... But what was most important about the festival for me is that it allowed the film to be shown as a world premiere to a wide and receptive public, one that included industry professionals, film critics, and also film lovers, whose reactions are so many buoyant waves for the crossing ahead.