August 3, 2021

portrait of a gifted screen


She will receive an honorary Palme d’Or at the next Cannes Film Festival, a distinction echoing her first appearance, forty-five years ago, in 1976, on the Croisette, as a 13-year-old prostitute in Taxi Driver, of Martin Scorsese, who would inherit the Palme d’Or.

At the time, Jodie Foster was no longer a beginner. With ten years of work behind her, first in commercials, in television series, then in the cinema, with six feature films, she is already a veteran. Just like the precocious children in Hollywood, from Shirley Temple to Natalie Wood, where a life in full light is accompanied by the difficult management of this celebrity.

Read the TV column (March 5): The small screen dissects the legacy of “Silence of the Lambs” thirty years after its release

Except that in Cannes, in 1976, Jodie Foster, who was a Disney icon, made the choice to join one of the directors of New Hollywood, in a film where she became the cornerstone of a New York envisioned as an annex to Hell. A perfect counter-employment. The message sent by the young actress was crystal clear: she would never be like the others again.

As the impeccable documentary by Camille Juza and Yal Sadat relates, Jodie Foster. Hollywood in the skin, both a model of analysis and the perfectly conducted account of the extraordinary trajectory of this actress, she remains a child of the seraglio. She grew up just up Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, her mother took her to castings from an early age, first to accompany her older brother, then to pursue her career on the same level.

Off-center position in Hollywood

In the capital of images, Jodie Foster nevertheless occupies an eccentric position. Her mother frequented former victims of McCarthyism, listed “black” by Hollywood, and unable to find a job until the early 1960s. A mother who transmits to her daughter this disdain for a city whose superficiality she abhors, a Skepticism expressed from an early age by the actress, in impressive period interviews rediscovered by this documentary, where Foster already looks with irony on his career.

Jodie Foster’s enrollment in the French LycĂ©e in Los Angeles recounts both the emphasis placed by her mother on her studies, forever engraving the image of a cerebral actress, considering the question of her image secondary. Yet she cultivates the image of an actress with an overdeveloped intellect, either gifted on the screen, in Contact (1997), by Robert Zemeckis, for example, or, by going for the first time to directing, with The Little Man (1991), to portray a gifted child.

Read the portrait (2016): Jodie Foster, the price of fame

The issue of feminism is another aspect of this documentary. When Jodie Foster manages to negotiate the delicate transition from childhood to adulthood, at the end of the 1980s, after a long crossing of the desert, it is to impose strong characters on the screen, the young woman raped Accused (1988), by Jonathan Kaplan, seeking to complete the legal process and, more importantly, the FBI agent in Thesilenceofthelambs (1991), by Jonathan Demme, two roles for which she won the Oscar for best actress.

There is the sexual orientation of the actress, who does not reveal her homosexuality until 2013 after long rumors, hesitation which reflects the belonging of this actress to two worlds: that of old Hollywood, where the Alcove Secrets, and the Hollywood of the 2000s, marked by the empowerment of women.

Jodie Foster. Hollywood in the skin, documentary by Camille Juza and Yal Sadat (54 min), available from June 6 to August 11 on