It was a jolly afternoon that we all spent at the Institut de France, to celebrate Frédéric Mitterrand‘s “installation” in Jeanne Moreau’s armchair at the Académie des Beaux Arts. His career was very diverse with a start as a history teacher at Ecole Bilingue Jeannine Manuel, followed by the management of two cinemas, l’Olympic, salle Marilyn and salle Pigozzi in 1971, then two more, l’Artistic and l’Entrepôt. Adrien Goetz, one of his young colleagues, started forcefully by reminding the audience that Frédéric had celebrated the tenth anniversary of l’Olympic at Le Palace in 1981, dressed as Lana Turner, and swinging across the theatre. The Academicians and the audience were immediately thrown into the pace of his extraordinary life so far, which included many books and even more films.
Then came, his love for his mother who only married four times while Lana Turner had married seven times, and his love for his grandmother Henriette, who said while she was dying at 98, “I had so many more things to do”. This is the sentence that he chose to have engraved on his Academician’s sword. His three children were mentioned of course and his love for his two brothers Olivier and Jean-Gabriel who were always there for him. Mazarine Pingeot, his cousin and the former President Mitterand’s daughter, was also there, listening on the third row.
Adrien Goetz is a brilliant writer and art historian, and a few of his sentences will remain: “You are an artist, not an acrobat” a propos his performance as Lana Turner, “you have a special liking for disasters and catastrophes”, which happened throughout his life and while he was shooting “Madame Butterfly” in China and then in Tunisia.
He mentioned of course his talent on television for “le direct” (live broadcasts) saving a show where his two star guests had forgotten to come and he had improvised questions and answers for them with great agility! His short stay as the head of the French Academy in Rome was interrupted by his nomination as minister of Culture by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009. And remaining a little boy at heart, he made himself immediately famous for using his scooter to travel around Paris. This resulted in an accident on his way to the ministry and the dashing Frédéric having to appear in the press with a broken arm for weeks…
Goetz was grateful for the then minister to have taken the time to read his novels, and to have received him at the ministry. And he mentioned with admiration the ceremony where he had honored Arnold Schwarzenegger with a medal on his large breast!
Mitterrand’s homosexuality was often mentioned with a smile and the audience, composed of many of his old flames and current friends, was very responsive. There were quite a number of ministers and ambassadors as well as former Empress of Iran, Farah Pahlavi, who is a member of the Academy since 1974, and was in charge of handing him his sword. The grand Duchess of Luxemburg and Prince Emmanuel-Philibert de Savoie with his pretty wife Clotilde Courau were also there with Princess Chantal de France and Prince and Princess Michel de Grèce.
Stéphane Bern and Adélaïde de Clermont Tonnerre, two journalist colleagues, joined Daniel Marchesseau and Christopher Leribault, the delightful art curators, and Mathieu Gallet, but I did not spot any actors? What a relief!
Prince Karim Aga Khan, Leonard Gianadda, Erik Desmazières, Xavier Darcos, Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, Pierre Rosenberg, Roman Polanski, Alix de La Forêt and the newly elected young Catherine Meurisse represented the Académie while many high civil servants or former ministers like Jean Paul Cluzel, Philippe Bélaval, Jacques Toubon, Roselyne Bachelot, gave the ceremony even more dignity.
There were also enough Rothschilds to give the afternoon a touch of old chic but we all missed the regretted Philippine, a close friend of Frédéric’s. And Frédéric rushed to thank Maryvonne Pinault for being present as soon as he spotted her! Alas we missed very much Hugues Gall (who was sick), one of his most ardent sponsors to enter the Académie.
Of course, unfortunately, there were also some pushy “demi monde” ladies who could not stop dropping names in a very vulgar way, but such is life in Paris…
Frédéric Mitterrand’s éloge of Jeanne Moreau whose seat he was taking, was very detailed including thanking her for having inaugurated one of his cinemas with François Truffaut, her lifelong friend. Pierre Cardin, also a member of the Académie, was associated to her… as was Jean Guéguinou, Ambassadeur de France, the new President of the association “Friends of Jeanne Moreau”. French film writer and director Josée Dayan was present on the first row with the family: she had given a part to the actress towards the end of her career in 2002. Roman Polanski was sitting with his peers Academicians.
“Wherever you are today, Dear Jeanne, please call me tonight” was the new Academician’s sweet ending sentence… Everyone felt like joining when a video of the actress singing “J’ai la mémoire qui flanche” was shown on the screens. The atmosphere was nostalgic but happy. As Adrien Goetz had said in a very pretty way, Frédéric Mitterrand’s life is like a film of which he is the director, the cameraman and the accessoiriste, where he plays every part including the darkest “for no-one equals him in the darkness of his self portraits”.
And this is why so many of his close friends had been fighting to get a seat under the “Coupole” on February 5. Thank you Frédéric for being so much fun and such a faithful friend. The meetings of the Académie will never be the same now that you have joined!
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