Note: The next few entries will be devoted to the recent London Film Festival. Normal service will follow afterwards!
Like many people, I really don’t know an awful lot about Jean Seberg beyond her scintillating performance in A Bout De Souffle (Breathless). That was a film I first discovered when I won a VHS copy of it from a Time Out competition. Coincidentally, Time Out sponsors the “Debate” strand of the London Film Festival that Seberg falls into. My copy of the film came with a T-shirt that featured Seberg as the Parisian International Herald Tribune seller she plays in the film.
I was very annoyed the day I lost that shirt, although I recently had a go at making my own.
Seberg really doesn’t feature that period of the American actress’ life. Instead it covers a period from 1968 to 1971 when Seberg (Kristen Stewart) was returning to the US from France to make films, leaving behind her husband and young son in Paris.
We quickly learn that Seberg is politically active. In her first-class seat on the plane home, she sees Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) be refused a paid upgrade by the cabin crew. She offers up her own seats. When the plane lands in New York, Seberg joins Jamal and his friends in making the black power sign. Jamal, a cousin of Malcolm X, is involved with the Black Power movement.
Because anyone related to the Black Power movement is under FBI surveillance, Seberg puts herself immediately onto the radar of the LA FBI, with Agent Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell) being tasked to bug and keep tabs on Seberg. So, when Seberg drives down from her Hollywood Hills home to Jamal’s home in Compton, they’re bugging his home, and record the pair of them having sex.
The rest of the film details what happens next as Seberg begins to realise that she’s being watched and listened to, and what that does to her.
Stewart is fantastic as Seberg, capturing the difference between her private life as she begins to realise that she’s constantly being surveiled and the pressure it’s bringing to bear on her.
The film tells a fascinating story, but it’s a little by the books. And it certainly could have done with more humour. And at times, the lowish budget that film had shows on screen – we certainly don’t get the lavish sets of the recent Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.