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Ice queen melts with a Sapphic kiss

There are those who claim that Catherine Deneuve is not quite human. Some say she is a creature of ice, others that Deneuve's of steel. So, it is a relief to find her engaging in the sheer frivolity of Francois Ozon's "8 femmes", along with a number of celebrated French actresses, including Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant and Danielle Darrieux. With more than 100 films to her credit, plus a face that as become part of the French landscape, so often has it appeared on billboards, magazine covers, screens large and small, Deneuve, 58, is more than just a celebrated actress. She is an institution. Is this just a little bit burdensome ?

"After so many years you are part of the furniture", she agrees. "It is a burden, yes. Especially for writers and directors, because you have to challenge the baggage. It started with a handbag, now it's a big lorry. It can be a burden. I think you need the challenge of doing different things. Because I started young I didn't have to make the choice between life and work. They were the same thing. I continue to act out of curiosity".

It takes an actress of nerve to move from the sinister incest of "Pola X" to the costumed finery of "Le temps retrouvé" and thence into Lars von Trier's musical "Dancer in the dark" (opposite Björk) and survive to tell the tale.

"When I think of "Dancer in the dark" I think it is more like a trailer than a film", she says with a small frown. "I rehearsed with Bjork for weeks and there were a lot of cameras out there was not as much on the screen as we had done".

Naturally, the prospect of a film containing eight actresses of several generations invites the notion of backstage bitchery.

Deneuve laughs out loud. "There was none", she says, anticipating the question before I've finished articulating it. "The French press was very disappointed. There was no bitching. We were like a little army. Four women would have been more dangerous but with eight it was more like a troupe being in a play".

In "8 femmes", Deneuve even gets to grapple on the floor with Fanny Ardant. Their graphic Sapphic clinch might be enough to induce a coronary in men of a certain age.

What was it like kissing Ardant ? (I really need to know this).
"She was very apprehensive", says Deneuve with a smile. "And so was I. But it was nice. Very soft". She looks momentarily wistful before fixing me with a stiletto gaze "though it was not a scene we did too many times".

Par : Neil Norman

Film associé : Huit femmes


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