Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
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A star is bored

By Injy El-Kashef

Alain DelonAlain Delon, a guest of honour at the Cairo International Film Festival, graced the opening night with his inimitable, Gallic presence, making the requisite speech but also finding time to crack a few jokes. On the morning of that same day, Delon and Hussein Fahmi, the director of the festival, were both guests of the daily morning television show "Sabah Al-Kheir Ya Misr". During their joint interview, Fahmi amiably mentioned to his French guest that he had himself been nicknamed "the Delon of the East" by the cinema going public. It was a small detail, but one that the French star obviously absorbed. To the dismay of some, and the delight of others, he referred to the director of the festival in his opening ceremony speech as Hussein Delon.

The press conference in the Gezira Sheraton's Al-Samar Hall, held the following morning, had its share of similar, light-hearted moments. An extremely punctual man, Delon (Alain, that is) opened the floor for questions at exactly 9am. A large number of journalists, from the foreign as well as the local media, were present in what was probably intended to be one of the highlights of the Cairo Film Festival -- it is not every day, after all, that we journalists find ourselves in the same room as Alain Delon, even if it is something of a scramble to get a glimpse of him.

Maybe it was Delon's own fault, or the fault of his faintly mischievous demeanour, that events took a slightly unserious turn. Rare were the questions the French star answered without first making a joke. But then rarer still were the questions he -- or anyone else in his place, for that matter -- would have felt obliged to answer seriously.

Questions on his looks abounded, culminating in one female journalist's inevitable "Did your good looks affect your career?"

"Did your good looks affect yours?" Delon asked back. Subsequent questions on the same subject thenceforth solicited a curt "we've already covered that one" from Fahmi.

Personal questions ran the good-looks a close second, leaving their subject to comment that the whole experience felt rather more like being interviewed in Paris than in Cairo. At one point an unlucky journalist appeared to have ventured too far, prefacing a question with an "I know this is personal". The question, it turned out, concerned where Delon had decided to spend New Year's Eve.

"Since it is a personal question," replied its subject, "I should not answer you; but I will: I don't know."

Asked to comment on the absence of Israeli participation at the festival Delon made it very clear that he knew so little about the event whose guest he was that he had not even noticed the said absence of participation and therefore had nothing to say.

Older journalists and critics attempted to move the press conference onto more serious ground. Rafiq Al-Sabban quizzed Delon about how he found working with Jean-Luc Godard. He had enjoyed it, answered Delon. He thought Goddard an excellent director.

Asked about his latest film, which saw him collaborating once more with Jean-Paul Belmondo after a long hiatus, Delon explained that although the film was a commercial flop he had greatly enjoyed working with Belmondo again. Belmondo, indeed, had been a friend for decades.

Was he an easy actor to direct?

With good directors he was extremely easy, with bad directors, very difficult.

Delon, accorded star treatment, was answering like a star. It is a pity, perhaps, that an actor who has worked with Luchino Visconti (The Leopard, 1963, and Rocco and His Brothers, 1960), Volker Schlöndorff (Swan in Love, 1983), Jean-Luc Godard (Nouvelle Vague, 1990) and Michelangelo Antonioni (L'Eclisse, 1962) had to answer strictly star questions and none to do with acting. Why he had allowed himself dozens of mediocre films? Why have his mature years seen his career in decline? Does he think of himself as a star rather than an actor, as so many seem to do? Alas, we were not to know.

At 9.30 sharp, however, the press conference came to an end and in a few minutes Delon was on his way to the airport.

Was his light-hearted attitude the result of the questions he was asked, or vice versa? We shall never know. But one thing is certain -- Alain Delon is a star, and the star was probably bored.

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