The film, which is Demy’s directorial debut, tells the story of a 30-year old French man, played by Demy, struggling to commit to his girlfriend while dealing with the death of his mother in the United States, a continent away. The film is set to open in New York on June 15.
“The subject is really about family relationships and the vertical love between parents and children,” Demy said. “In a way it's the story of me growing up.”
As a young boy, Demy and his mother, Agnes Varda, followed his father, French New Wave veteran Jacques Demy, to Hollywood for his work.
The family lived in L.A. for three years until his parents separated. Demy’s father returned to his native France, while Demy remained in California with his mother, who became a filmmaker in her own right. She made the semi-autobiographical “Documenteur,” about a woman suffering from a break-up who is left to raise her child alone. Still a child, Demy played Martin, the woman’s son, in the cinema verite-styled piece.
Demy reclaims the semi-fictional character of Martin in "Americano." In the film, which also stars Salma Hayek, Geraldine Chaplin and Chiara Mastroianni, a grown-up Martin travels from France to his childhood home in Los Angeles to claim his inheritance and sort out his late mother’s affairs. Eventually, the journey leads Martin to Tijuana, Mexico to seek out Lola (Hayek), a mysterious friend and companion of his late mother.
“It’s a road movie to a mysterious adventure,” Demy explained. “It shifts from being in the style of French New Wave art-house to French cinema to something else, changing in tone to match how the character is changing.”
The film not only pays homage to his French cinematic background but also is a tribute to his filmmaker parents. He even includes excerpts from his mother’s 1981 film.
“The process of incorporating the historical footage came after the first draft of the script at the precise moment when I decided to make this project more personal,” Demy explained. “I re-wrote thinking of those images of my childhood, thinking it was pretty cool to have real flashbacks from 38 years ago. I haven’t really seen this before.”
He also incorporated the original score from his mother’s “Documenteur” and used the 16 mm format and texture from the 1981 film in “Americano” in some memory scenes.
Demy, whose acting credits include 2011’s “Tomboy” and 2009’s “La Fille Du Rer,” says the experience of making the film drew upon what he learned growing up watching films of his father, known for creating lush self-contained fantasy worlds. Jacques Demy directed 1964’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” which starred Catherine Deneuve.
For Demy, the storyline and the journey of making the film have been life changing.
“It was so intense, and I didn’t know where it was really going but it was totally part of the project to have this confusion,” Demy said. “I had the impression at one point that I was the same person on both sides of the camera.”