While still little-known outside France, the inimitable Marceline Loridan-Ivens was a formidable force of nature. A Holocaust survivor, her awe-inspiring resilience is deeply felt in her works as a writer and director. Finishing shooting mere weeks before her death in 2018 at the age of 90, Cordelia Dvorák’s intimate documentary is as vibrant as the signature auburn shade of Loridan-Ivens’ short, unruly hair.
Loridan-Ivens’ harrowing experience as a teenager at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she befriended Simone Veil, undoubtedly informed the ceaseless energy with which Loridan-Ivens embraced life and arts. In her brief period as an actor in Jean Rouch’s 1960s cinéma vérité films, she sparkles with a lively curiosity and an irresistible charm. Equally arresting is her romantic and creative partnership with her husband, leftist documentary film-maker Joris Ivens. At the height of the Vietnam war, at the invitation of Ho Chi Minh, the pair travelled to Vietnam and made the resolutely anti-imperialist 17th Parallel: Vietnam in War, which documented the devastating effects of American bombing.
What makes this film so fully realised is a refusal to turn Loridan-Ivens into simply a feminist icon. Her vivacious and unusual personality shines brightly, and the camera even lingers on her appointment at a hair salon where she has her hair dyed. When asked by the stylist whether she would like to go blond for a change, Loridan-Ivens sticks with her signature red with the determination of a woman who has lived and understands herself well. It is this assured self-confidence that makes Loridan-Ivens such a fascinating subject to behold.
Marceline is released on 17 September on True Story.