Marceline. A Woman. A Century review – vibrant portrait of a fascinating film-maker

While still little-known outside France, the inimitable Marceline Loridan-Ivens was a formidable force of nature. UN Olocausto 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 all'età di 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.

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