In the 2000s, Catherine Verret Vimont was as familiar a fixture of French cinema and the New York film scene itself as the famous people she regularly hosted. Officially, she held the title of executive director of the French Film Office, Unifrance, which promoted her country’s film industry in the U.S., but her title did not encapsulate the tour de force she served.
At a party she hosted at France’s sumptuous cultural services building on 5th Avenue opposite Central Park in honor of the annual French film series, “Rendez Vous with French Cinema” held in spring, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Richard Peña said during a short speech that he had been asked how to promote foreign cinema in the U.S. “Do it the way the French do it,” he said. And Verret was central to her country’s film promotion. Even after leaving her post at toward the end of the decade, Verret would still get on the phone calling press and industry talking up her country’s work.
As an ambassord for France’s film industry in New York, she regularly hosted the likes of Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Jean Reno, Danièle Thompson, Costa-Gavras, Barbet Schroeder, Bulle Ogier, Benoît Jacquot, Bruno Dumont, Olivier Assayas, Claire Denis, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Claude Lelouch, Patrice Chereau, Arnaud Desplechin, Xavier Beauvois, Lambert Wilson, Jeanne Moreau and many more, and she at times captured casual moments with her famous guests on camera.
Titled “New York Mon Amour: A View of French Cinema by Catherine Verret Vimont,” the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Furman Gallery is currently hosting a collection of 95 of Verrret’s photographs depicting France’s own glitterati in moments seldom seen.
“Catherine Verret has been for years the ambassador of French cinema in the US, she has also been the photographic eye of Paris in New York,” noted photographer/filmmaker/artist William Klein. “I wasn’t aware of her second career. Seeing her photographs, I’m knocked out and a bit jealous. She has not only captured the most delicious and peaceful invasion of great French actors and directors but created an essential family album with everyone we admired and loved.”
“So let us remain a bit vague about dates and places. These were happy times with great artists whom I love and whose talent I admire,” said Verret to iW. “It all began in New York, my base, my motor, my source of strength…and with my friends.”
The show at the Furman Gallery runs through October 4.