Twenty-one years after Kids, the first film she ever acted in, traveled to Cannes, Chloë Sevigny is on the Riviera with directorial debut, Kitty. The short is one of three movies that will close the Critics’ Week section tomorrow. We spoke before the festival for our Ones To Watch coverage; and we sat down this week in person at the beachside Deadline Studio (see video above).
Sevigny had just arrived on the Croisette the day before our chat, noting she did so on her own dime. “I came as a director, flying coach. I was like, no wonder people remain actors, everybody pays for everything! When you’re a director you pay for yourself.” (Once on the ground, however, she received the kitschy diamond-encrusted Chanel handbag she’s sporting with aplomb in our video — a gift to filmmakers this year.)
Based on a story by Paul Bowles, Kitty centers on a young girl who finds herself transforming into a kitten as she grows up and slips away from her family. Sevigny told me before the fest that it’s “sweet, tender, haunting and despondent” with similar qualities to The Little Matchstick Girl, another thing she “always dreamt of filming.”
During our chat on the beach above, Sevigny added that the story is about a girl “recognizing herself for the first time and deciding maybe she wants to be something she isn’t.” It’s also about the relationship between a mother and daughter.
After a career that has spanned film and television, and seen Sevigny as an Oscar nominee, Golden Globe winner, indie darling and style icon, she chose to make the leap to directing. “It’s something I’d been thinking about for a really long time,” she’d told me. “People had been asking me to do it over the years in video or for a fashion brand. But for my first foray, I wanted to do a pure gesture.”
Part of the decision was also borne out of turning 40 — “a depressing milestone” — but it was “more about finding the confidence rather than being at a point in my career.” However, she allowed, “Maybe the point was being frustrated with aging on screen or finding the parts. Don’t get me wrong, I love my career. I have worked with so many great directors; especially of late. But there could always be more options. I like being busy… I love the creative process.” It was also a learning experience as she notes above, teaching her fast problem-solving techniques.
As for future directing efforts, Sevigny enthused, “I can’t wait to do it, to use this as a calling card to move into features.” She’s got some 35mm film sitting in a friend’s garage in LA and is eyeing shooting a project this summer that is “not as formal and more verité style.” She’s also been pursuing book rights.
Is she concerned how people will accept her as a director?, I asked her a few weeks ago. “I really think people respond to material. If it’s good, they want to be a part of it. Maybe I’m known for certain aesthetics, for style that people assume I have a visual point of view. I’m not a household name movie star, but I’ve been steadily working, so maybe that also colors it to a certain extent.”
The Cannes veteran admitted she was a bit nervous this time — “I haven’t been there since the whole social media thing” — but has incredibly fond memories. Although she explained that she didn’t come to Cannes with Kids in 1995, she did make it here the next year for the first time, with Trees Lounge, and attended a party with co-star Steve Buscemi. There, she chatted with Robert Altman which she called, “My dream come true.”