A star-studded French film making its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival met an icy reception Monday that left actors Alain Delon and Lauren Bacall shaken at an acrimonious news conference.
The film "Le Jour et la Nuit" (Day and Night) with French heartthrob Delon and the legendary Bacall was thrashed by critics and journalists, many of whom cheered in derision during the premiere screening when the film's hero is killed.
Hundreds simply left before the end of the film.
"I get the impression that some of you didn't like the film," Delon said, a remark that triggered loud applause from hundreds of journalists at a news conference after the screening.
"That is up to you," he added. "I as an actor think it is one of the best films I was able to play in in my entire career."
Bacall, asked whether the film ranked among her most or least favorite, replied: "That is an amusing question."
Laughter broke out when director Bernard-Henri Levy was asked to explain what the film was about.
At one point in the conference the film's blond, blue-eyed starlet Arielle Dombasle lashed out at a female journalist who asked why there were so many naked bodies and so little plot in the film. Dombasle said: "Are you not satisfied with the way your rear ends look?"
Delon, acting in his first film in three years, plays an aging boxer and burned-out author. Bacall, in her first continental European film, plays an American expatriate in whom he confides.
Dombasle plays a French starlet eager to snare a role in the film adaptation of his next book.
"I wanted to produce cinema, not literature," said director Levy, who was booed when he was introduced. "It is an ambitious film, an international film with all of Europe in it. It is a lyric, romantic cinema that we had in the 1950s."
Levy was asked if he cared about the devastating critiques his film received.
"Do they tell us about our film or the state of mind of the people who write them?" Levy said. "I think [the critiques] tell us more about the state of the mind of the people who are writing them than about the quality of the film."
Delon, growing weary at the questioning, said he sometimes reads and takes note of what critics have to say. "I care sometimes and sometimes not."
Delon said he had not done a film in the last three years because he was busy "making children" rather than films.
"I have never done a film for any other reason than I very much wanted to make it," he said. "I have never regretted making any film in my career."
Bacall said she was delighted to make the film in Europe.
"It was the first role I was offered [in continental Europe]," she said.
"Levy convinced me I could do it. It is not an easy thing to do, to do a film in a foreign language. I hope I succeeded in some degree. I hope to be in more films here."