Caine, Fonda on ageing gracefully at Cannes

20th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

Hollywood legends Michael Caine and Jane Fonda traded jokes and wisdom about ageing gracefully Wednesday as their new drama "Youth" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

The pair play show-business veterans grappling with the ravages of time in the surreal drama by Oscar-winning Italian director Paolo Sorrentino.

After a press preview that drew both cheers and boos, they exchanged secrets to their remarkable longevity in an industry notorious for discarding the old.

In the film, Caine plays Fred, a retired composer who meets up on holiday with his old friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), a Hollywood filmmaker struggling to come up with the death scene finale to a new movie called "Life's Last Day".

Mick's career-long muse Brenda (Fonda), who was meant to star in the film, finally backs out of the project telling him he's washed up and citing a better opportunity in a television series.

"Like everyone else, you're getting worse with age," she says.

Caine, 82, regaled reporters after the screening with tales from his six-decade-long career and admitted he hadn't been back to Cannes since starring as the womaniser Alfie in 1966.

"'Alfie' won a prize and I didn't so I never came back," he joked.

The British actor raved about working with the all-star ensemble, comparing the process to heading into battle with a close-knit troupe.

"You've got to go into this extremely dangerous situation where unless you watch out for each other, you're going to get wounded or killed," he said.

"You do your best to stay alive yourself and keep everyone else alive along with you."

Caine laughed off a question about whether he was sad to play an aged character, noting that he had won two Oscars after he was too old to play romantic leads.

"The only alternative to playing elderly people is playing dead people," he deadpanned. "So I picked elderly people."

- 'Age question of attitude' -

Fellow two-time Oscar winner Fonda, 77, is currently starring in the Netflix comedy series "Grace and Frankie" with Lily Tomlin.

She said she took the role of the ageing diva still driven by career ambition because she was drawn to Sorrentino's upbeat message.

"Age is very much a question of attitude," she said.

"You remain young and vital in your mind, which is your spirit, when you have passion in your life. And I do, and the film does."

Fonda, who is filmed by Sorrentino looking her age, said it took courage for older women in particular to expose themselves on camera.

"There's something very vulnerable about an old woman who puts on the mask of makeup and everything... when that's stripped away," she said.

Caine, however, said little about his body made him bashful these days.

"It didn't matter to me because it's the only body I've got -- an ageing body. To people who are not old: this is what's going to happen to you so don't get too smug about it," he teased.

Sorrentino, 44, picked up an Oscar last year for his drama of Italian decline "The Great Beauty".

He said he saw "Youth" as a "very optimistic film" focused on the life force that propels human beings even after their bodies start to falter.

"The passage of time is the only subject that interests us -- how much time we have left," he said.

Keitel said there was little difference between working with European and American filmmakers, quipping: "Making movies is the same anywhere -- just in Hollywood the pay's better."

Reviews of "Youth" were wildly mixed.

French newspaper Journal du Dimanche said it was well-placed to win the Palme d'Or top prize on Sunday.

Los Angeles Times critic Steven Zeitchik called it "a total winner -- funny, philosophical and moving, with some terrific shotmaking to boot".

But Agnes Poirier of French magazine Marianne blasted it as "the most conceited, inane, egocentric piece of... cinema I have seen in years". And Peter Bradshaw of Britain's The Guardian dismissed it as a "diverting, minor work".

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© 2015 AFP

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