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Director of Programming Dennis Lim talks about “Jane and Charlotte Forever” series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

On the occasion of the “Jane and Charlotte Forever” series (Jan 29–Feb 7, 2016), the Cinema Department of the French Embassy asked a Dennis Lim, Director of Programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, a few questions. The series pairs mother-daughter duo Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg, with the actresses present in person at some screenings. Occurring simultaneously with the film screenings is an accompanying photo exhibition by Birkin’s late daughter Kate Barry: “Actresses by Kate Barry”.

How did you get the idea to put together this dual retrospective?

My colleague Dan Sullivan, who organized the series with me, had been talking for a while about a Jane Birkin retrospective, and as we put the list of films together, we thought it would be fun -- and logical -- to make it more of a family affair. We wanted to showcase Jane and Charlotte’s crucial collaborations with Serge Gainsbourg, and when you think about it, they’ve both had acting careers that are very much defined by fearlessness and a taste for risk, so it made sense to put their work side by side.

We were also pleased to hear that there was a traveling exhibition of Kate Barry’s photographs, and are happy to be presenting her work in our Furman Gallery in conjunction with the retrospective. I talked to Charlotte about it when she was here last year for a screening of Benoit Jacquot’s 3 Hearts (the opening night of Rendez-Vous With French Cinema) and she loved the idea -- I think she texted Jane right away. 

How are Jane and Charlotte perceived in the United States?

For the general public, Jane is obviously one of the great fashion icons of the last 50 years. Charlotte is as much of a present-day style icon, and quite well-known for her music career too. With this retrospective, we wanted to celebrate them as actors and return the focus to the amazing work they've done on screen. 

Can you speak a bit about their career choices?

They clearly have very good taste in collaborators. Jane has worked with some of the greats -- Varda, Rivette, Antonioni, Doillon, Tavernier, the list speaks for itself -- and Charlotte is always seeking out the most venturesome auteurs of today, from Alejandro Inarritu and Michel Gondry to Joseph Cedar and Lars von Trier.

They’ve both made adventurous choices over the years, and I think they understand how provocation can go beyond sensationalism, and how controversies can raise questions that are interesting and revealing. They’re often described as muses -- Jane especially -- but they’ve also shown that the muse is not a merely passive role, that there is a certain power in being looked at. 

Film retrospective organized by Dennis Lim and Dan Sullivan; “Actresses by Kate Barry” exhibition organized by Florence Almozini, Rufus de Rham and Aline Arlettaz.

> For more information on “Jane and Charlotte Forever” series, click here. For the full program, click here.