There is a scene right at the end of Alice Rohrwacher’s sweet and funny film for Miu Miu’s ninth instalment of their Women’s Tales project that will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever, half-heartedly, faced a wall of cameras or even a single culprit. I won’t give it away but, “it’s the dream!” according to Rohrwacher. The power of a good dress!
The Italian director and writer, whose second feature film, The Wonders, was awarded the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, told me over cappuccinos in New York how the collaboration with the brand came to be. She asked Miu Miu – 'the right choice because of the irony, this offbeat elegance they have' - to dress her for Cannes, 'I knew I wanted to go to like a circus ringmaster or the person that trains lions! It’s a very fragile moment, no? And they imagined something for me that made me feel strong in that moment. That was the beginning.' In Venice, they asked her to make this film and while already in the Excelsior hotel that’s almost a supporting character in De Djess, she looked around and decided to make a fairy tale using what was in front of her; the paparazzi, the army of housekeepers, the dress. 'It’s completely autobiographical - I’m the dress!' she says and laughs. 'I didn’t want to tell a story and then hide the dresses inside it. I wanted to do a story with the dress and about the dress. Nothing too intellectual - we sometimes need a fairy tale in our lives.' And so the dress comes to life, like a newborn baby, and we see and, most importantly, hear everything from its perspective. 'When you’re born you don’t understand language, everything is just sound so we made up a language that’s all about sound, but it’s familiar enough like English.'
So, what does one of the most exciting filmmakers in European cinema at the moment, make of the scarce attention being given to female directors and writers? This is Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales, after all. She is as direct and unswerving as you would hope. 'I would like it if somebody would do a series of films about male directors. People should start saying 'male' director: 'Let’s go see the last movie from this male director.' 'What do you think of this movie from this male director?' 'Do you know there is a new male director?' Words and names are important. We need to start concentrating on what’s being done instead of who’s doing it.' Well, this director, busy writing her next feature – 'ideas are like plants, you can’t completely abandon them but you can’t overwater them because they won’t grow either.' – has decided that for the screening party later that day she might just leave the circus whips behind, the lion having been tamed after all. 'Tonight', she says rather excitedly, 'I think I’ll wear a skirt!'