There is this special scene in Philippe Falardeau‘s “My Salinger Year”, which opened the 70th Berlinale last night, where literary agent Margaret (played by the hilariously witty Sigourney Weaver) shows her level-headed, almost tender side instead of her otherwise cold and rigorous manner. It’s where she tells aspiring writer Joanna (Margaret Qualley in her next big role after “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood) about how she started in the business and how she sometimes panicked before meeting an author whose writings she adored but was so anxious to learn how he or she was like in person.
It reminded me of similar instances when I was interviewing artists whose work I admired for so long and who I finally was about to meet for an interview. Out of the hundreds of interviews I was lucky enough to conduct over the years, there was just one with an artist who has a famous name that I had to stop because that particular person was so ignorant and smart-ass that I couldn’t imagine keeping up a proper conversation with her (I tell you about that in another post). But most others went down incredibly well, some with unexpected surprises, like going out on an extended stroll through Central Park with Susannah McCorkle after meeting her in her high-rise uptown apartment, or the interview with Leon Ware in Montreux which was supposed to last only 20 minutes but where he mentioned his cancer diagnosis and went on a philosophical journey which seemed like a sermon to me. Or meeting Terry Callier, again in Montreux, where he got so emotional about the recent death of his mother and me dealing with personal problems myself at the time where we finally ended up together comforting each other.
It’s moments like these where you’re drawn into your own biography which make movies so intense and credible. The fact that one of the clients who Margaret represents is J.D. Salinger and the way his influence has impacted and touched so many lives, especially with his “The Catcher In The Rye”, is subtly shown here, really make this a rewarding opening movie for the new team of Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek who have taken over the leadership after almost 20 years of Dieter Kosslick. And we get to see a really magnificent Sigourney Weaver.