Little Girl Blue is a 2023 biographical docudrama film written and directed by Mona Achache based on the life of her mother, the writer and set photographer Carole Achache, starring Marion Cotillard as Carole Achache and Mona Achache as herself. The film is a co-production between France and Belgium and had its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in the Special Screenings section on 21 May 2023, where it competed for the Golden Eye and was well received by critics.
The film will be released theatrically in France by Tandem on 15 November 2023.
After the 2016 suicide of writer and set photographer Carole Achache, her daughter Mona Achache, a film director, found thousands of photos, letters and audio recordings that her mother left behind. In order to better understand her mother’s death and who she really was, Mona Achache asked actress Marion Cotillard to portray her mother in a docudrama investigating Carole’s childhood, her relationship with her mother, the writer Monique Lange, and the abuses that Carole suffered at the hands of men such as writer Jean Genet.
- Marion Cotillard as Carole Achache
- Mona Achache as herself
- Marie Bunel as Kathleen Evin
- Marie-Christine Adam as Florence Malraux
- Pierre Aussedat as Nikos Papatakis
- Jacques Boudet as Daniel Cordier
- Didier Flamand as Jorge Semprún
- Brigitte Sy as Monique Lange (voice)
- Àlex Brendemühl as Juan Goytisolo (voice)
- Jeremy Lewin as Jean-Jacques Salomon (voice)
- Jean Achache
- Tella Kpomahou
- Guy Donald Koukissa
On 7 January 2020, it was announced that France’s CNC had granted an advance on earnings to Mona Achache’s documentary project Little Girl Blue, whose production details were yet to be formalized.
On 10 December 2022, it was announced that Achache had recently filmed a docudrama about her mother’s life starring Marion Cotillard as the director’s mother, and that Achache would also star in the film. Achache also wrote the screenplay. The editing process started on 2 January 2023.
The title Little Girl Blue comes from the song of the same name by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, whose version sung by Janis Joplin is featured in the film.
The film is a co-production between France’s Les Films du Poisson with France 2 and Belgium’s Wrong Men and RTBF. The total budget for the film was €910.043, with €32.000 from Belgium’s Tax Shelter. The film also received investment from Chanel, of which Cotillard is a brand ambassador.
Achache said of the film:
All my life, I have looked for my mother, in female figures around me. Mine was very flawed. And then she hung herself. I packed her belongings. I came across pictures of her. I see a sublime woman there that I don’t recognize. So, for the first time in my life, I go in search of my own mother. Through it, I will also explore an era, an environment, a movement: the literary Paris of the 60s and 70s. The sexual, homosexual revolution. The liberation of women. The return of morality and conformism in the 80s. The lost illusions of the post-sixty-eighters.
Achache said she cast Cotillard to play her mother due to the resemblance between Cotillard and her mother when she was young, and also because she wanted an iconic actress for the role, as a counterbalance to her mother’s death and all the darkness she had inside her. “There is a kind of incredible resemblance to my young mother, this kind of insolent beauty, freedom, charisma. And then the story is so dark that I wanted to bring her a woman who would come to completely contradict her with her light,” Achache said. Achache had met Cotillard through mutual friends, and although they did not know each other well, Achache felt that they shared “a similar sensibility and, perhaps, similar experiences”, and she also felt that Cotillard had the capacity to embody her mother. Cotillard said the story portrayed in the film felt close to her, as her mother and her grandmother have also suffered abuse in their relationships with men.
Director of photography Noé Bach said that Mathieu Amalric’s Barbara (2017) and Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere (2009), were some of the reference films for Little Girl Blue that he and set designer Héléna Cisterne watched together with director Mona Achache.
Filming took place in Mulhouse in the Grand Est region of France between 20 November and 10 December 2022.
The film was shot in chronological order. Marion Cotillard filmed all of her scenes in only eight days. She had only two months to prepare for the film.
As Carole Achache’s apartment no longer exists, both the scenes set in her apartment and all the sets in the film were shot in the offices of an abandoned factory in Mulhouse.
Due to several issues such as blockage, cars, passers-by, and Cotillard’s availability, it was complicated to organize a day of filming in Paris for Cotillard’s wanderings, so Mona Achache suggested using a rear projection process to give the illusion of this exterior. Achache and director of photography Noé Bach shot with a Steadicam in the empty streets of Paris during the early morning, at dawn and at night. These shots were then projected onto a wall on the set where Cotillard walked facing the camera on a treadmill with the projection behind her.
Cotillard had to wear prosthetic makeup to achieve a similarity with Carole Achache and also for her progressive aging. The makeup was done by Daniel Weimer and Accurate Dreams studio along with makeup artist Pamela Goldammer. The team spent between two and four hours each morning applying the makeup on Cotillard’s face.
The film had its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in the Special Screenings section on 21 May 2023, where it competed for the Golden Eye and earned a standing ovation at the end of its screening.
The film made its North American premiere at the 50th Telluride Film Festival on 1 September 2023. It will be screened at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival in the section Dare on 12 October 2023.
The film was originally set to be released theatrically in France by Tandem on 1 November 2023, but the release was pushed back to 15 November 2023. International sales are handled by the Paris-based company Charades.
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