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"My life is not very glamorous"

Cool, mysterious, elegant: Catherine Deneuve is also called "the ice-queen". After a successful year France's Superstar looks back in an interview.

Right from the beginning of her career she had this absent, mysterious aura, this proud glance roaming to the distance, while the mouth formed itself for a sulking and the loose blond hair fell onto her shoulders. For decades Catherine Deneuve, 59, has been regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world.

In her life there have been some exciting but unpredictable men: Roger Vadim, with whom she has a son, Christian, 40; Marcello Mastroianni, the father of her daughter Chiara-Charlotte, 30, who stands at the beginning of her career as an actress; and the photographer David Bailey whom she met first working on a photo coverage within the days before the feminist movement. She and David were the dream couple of the 60s - he, the boy from the poor area of London, she as the personification of Parisian elegance. Only a few weeks after their first encounter she married him at the registry office of St. Pancras, London. Three years later, after their separation, Bailey was quoted with the following words: "Life with Catherine was as if you suddenly wanted to drive a Maserati, after having been used to a Ford for years. We only saw each other seldom… She has always been very busy".

Catherine Deneuve has developed her talent in the European film, her roles have put challenges to her as one could hardly find them in Hollywood. Recently she worked together with Lars von Trier ("Dancer in the dark") and with the cult-director François Ozon ("8 femmes"). For her performance in "Indochine" in 1992 where she played an autocratic ruler on a rubber plantation in the Saigon of the 1930's who smokes opium an has great sex with a young marine officer (Vincent Perez), she was nominated for the Oscars. For this film she had had her hair cut which caused a big astonishment in France. Since then she kept a shorter hair cut.

Please allow us to pose a routine question. How do you deal with getting older?
I notice the fact of getting older in the decline of role offers more than in the fact that I look less youthful. It must be horrible to fear something against that you are not able do anything. Getting older is directly connected to life. Of course there are some moments in which it is not quite pleasing. But it seems to me very strange to oppose the process of getting old.

How do you feel in the role of a grandmother?
I love children and I love my grandchildren. But I do not really know the meaning of being a grandmother. For me it is only a word.

When you look back onto your career, what had been the breakthrough for you?
My breakthrough was being given the main part in "The umbrellas Of Cherbourg" in 1963 by Jacques Demy. I played a girl whose boyfriend is sent to Algeria as a soldier and leaves her pregnant. Out of the need for security she marries a man who is able to care for her. All the dialogues were sung. Jacques gave me self-consciousness. I was so young and shy and my life was very complicated. He woke a feeling for acting in me and afterwards I earned recognition everywhere at once. My salary was multiplied by 30 and the "New York Times" described me as "the most valuable treasure since the Mona Lisa". In the following year Roman Polanski employed me for "Repulsion", because he thought me to have the angel-like face of a schizophrenic girl who could kill a man with a razor blade. Looking back today I would also say: during a period of three or four years one can only make one big film - if one is lucky. And sometimes success does not have anything to do with the quality of the film.

You are regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world. Would you tell us the secrets of your looks?
I do not deal with my looks very much. But it is part of my contracts with Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel to be styled during any public appearances, but that is only normal. I do not use a lot of face lotion, only water and a face spray. In former times I had been smoking three packets of cigarettes a day but I have given up smoking that much by attending a hypnotic therapy... Now I drink a lot of coffee. Getting older in a dignified way is much easier in Europe than in the USA where there is permanently a high pressure to keep one's youthful appearance with artificial means.

What comes up to your head when you stand in front of your wardrobe in the morning?
I need a certain degree of elegance, because it pleases myself. That does not have to be effortful. Looking back I think that the fashion of the 1960's had been very ugly and not very flattering for women. I dress myself in a way that pleases myself although I have to admit that it has become my second nature to mind my clothing after all those years as an actress. Even when I'm in the country I do not put on the next-best.

Your image is cool and distant. Do you have anything ordinary like hobbies?
I have a distinctive passion for working in the garden and for animals. I love gardens. The contact to nature and to countryside has always been part of my life. Besides, one dog and one cat always belong to the family.

That does not sound like a life full of glamour.
In fact my life is quite simple. I do not go out very often, sometimes I meet some friends for dinner. In my house in the country which is one hour away from Paris, I like to cook for some friends who visit me there. Furthermore I spend a lot of time on the interior of my two domiciles. The flat in Paris is rather functional while the house in the countryside is rather connected to my heart, my feelings and my family.

Which is your favourite season?
Definitely, the summer. I love the lots of light, the long days and I am happy that everything around me looks so beautiful then.

Do you like to be on your own?
Yes, I like it very much. I am a night owl. I walk around, clear my flat or read and enjoy the silence when the phone does not ring. Then I also have the leisure to have my thoughts ramble. As a child I never had enough room for myself because we lived in a small flat and I had three sisters who were all very vivacious and talking all the time.

What kind of books do you like most?
Mostly English books about horticulture.

Which is your favourite room?
I especially like the sleeping room. I like reading in bed, and it is the room in which I can totally be on my own. I love to hear the rain or the wind or the storm and the rustling of the trees before falling asleep. I like to feel the nature around me. That is very calming. In the morning, before I get up, I lead a lot of telephone conversations. Breakfast in bed is impossible because I am so clumsy and would only spill everything.

How do you react on being called the ice-queen again and again?
In former times it had hurt me because I had taken it personal. People who consider me cool only know me from my films. I feel attracted to people who do not show everything and about whom I would like to experience what is behind the expression of their face and behind what they say. When a person completely opens up to me I have the impression that there isn't anything left to discover. As if there isn't anything else about the person than the things I see.

Par : Richard Mowe

Magazine allemand traduit en anglais

Films associés : Les parapluies de Cherbourg, Répulsion






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