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Why Catherine Deneuve gets depressed

She is one of the world's most beautiful women, yet she is painfully shy and insecure. She has two children by two legendary men she never married. "My real fear", she confesses, "is that one day I'll be a forty-year-old cynical woman going from affair to affair".

I had a midnight rendezvous arranged with Catherine Deneuve in the Place de la Concorde, but it was canceled at the last moment. When I called her the following day, she had disappeared from her apartment. No one knew how to get in touch with her. Her agent told me she was probably incommunicado in the French countryside.

What had caused this precipitous flight was the abrupt suspension of the movie she had just started, "Love at First Sight" ["Coup de foudre"]. The night we were supposed to meet, she had been scheduled for scenes in the Place de la Concorde from midnight to dawn. I phoned her a couple of times after that but was told that she would be out of town "indefinitely".

About five weeks later I received a call to the effect that, if I were still interested, Miss Deneuve would like to see me. Yes, she was back in Paris and, yes, the film was to recommence shooting.

Since 1959, Catherine Deneuve has made over 40 films, some with such bankable fellows as Jack Lemmon in "The April Fools", Omar Sharif in "Mayerling", Burt Reynolds in "Hustle". But she never became really well-known in America until two TV commercials for a legendary perfume and a luxury car made her a household face and an international sex symbol.
I rernembered reading that she had a son by Roger Vadim and a daughter by Marcello Mastroianni. Her only marriage was to photographer David Bailey in 1965, with whom she had no children.

I decided I was still interested.

We met in her apartment on a high floor with a stunning view of the St. Germain des Prés section of Paris. I waited in the living room : comfortable, expensive furniture, a mix of modern and Art Deco. Several large/exotic lily-plants on tabletops.

Catherine enters the room quietly. She is wearing plum-color willowy slacks and a classic blouse byYves Saint Laurent. There is a subdued, shy quality about her. She wears no makeup and her incredibly thick, blond hair falls haphazardly about her face. I remark on the view. She looks out on it with pleasure. "It fascinates and distracts me", she says, "I've just moved here and it takes so long to get things done. I think it has to do with a woman's mind, which is cluttered with more inconsequentials than a man's, because she has to operate on so many levels : mother, house manager, career, social life, time for solitude". She has the accent of the Chanel commercials, but her command of English is effortless. She smokes a lot.

Why did you call off our first meeting ?
Disappointment is my worst enemy. When my movie was canceled after a week's shooting, just like that, that was a terrible bitterness. It cast me so low. I was numbed by it. I ran to the country and hid from myself. Thank God I have two women friends who understand the importance of being next to me but not talking. Men, don't understand that there are things that can only be shared with a woman. Disappointment shuts off my life flow. It is a physical thing. I feel it in my body. I can hurt people badly when I'm down, like a wounded animal. So I must be alone. Oh, not compIetely alone, that would be too frightening, but with a woman friend who will sit there in the silent room with me.

But you have so much else to fill your life besides film-making.
Oh, yes, my days are too cluttered, as is my mind, but when I am hit by the down times Iife has no meaning. What the hell, there are ups and downs for all of us - but perhaps my up is higher and my down is lower than the average person's.

What's the farthest down that you've been ?

She looks away from me. A barely perceptible quiver goes through her.

When my sister died. She was a lovely actress, Françoise Dorléac - it was a horrible accident…

She looks out the window down on the square below where workmen are assembling a mosaic of stone pavements around the fountain. Finally :

I am still, in a way, down from that. Ten years ago. We are not prepared for death. I was raised a Catholic but they cheat you. They tell you morbid preachments about death but nothing that you can deal with when it happens. Other religions do it better ; the Chinese, the Indians. All that dear departed stuff, the heavy scene in church on the day of interment. My sister was a beautiful woman, my closest friend, my true love. Instead of sex education in the schools, they should give a course in death education. In living you find out about sex - but dying, how do you find out about that ?

My bête noire is guilt. I try to be so careful not to hurt people's feelings. Can you imagine that it makes me feel guilty because I am enjoying my life and they aren't ? I am basically so shy, although I'm getting better socially. I am a very insecure woman.

But in your up times ...?
Yes, yes, still very shy but also very aggressive. I am a contradiction. I am impetuous. I go for what I want. I cannot wait to test the waters, I throw myself in. That's how, I became a mother. I wanted those two children from those two men. Marriage, fatherhood, all that was a secondary consideration. I was only seventeen when I was with Roger Vadim. I was so in love with hirn. He was the first man I had loved. I wanted a child from that love. I needed to have that child. Roger didn't want to marry me, not when I was pregnant. But it never even crossed my mind not to have that child. It was natural and beautiful and important to me to have that baby. Then, after he was born , Roger wanted to marry but I rejected him. It was too late. Something important had gone out of it.

From the hallway we hear voices, and Catherine excuses herself.

My mother and father are leaving. I must say good-bye to them.

When she returns, I ask her about her father Maurice Dorleac, who was an actor.

He's seventy-six but brimful of life. I really admire my father.

But she parries my questions about him.

I don't want to go into things. There was an interview not so long ago where my father called me a hypocrite. We both became terribly upset about it. When I was growing up, well... we could not give to each other, my father and I. I was remote. I suppose I still am. I wish it had been different.

Your mother was also an actress. So you have acting in your blood.

She runs her hand through her hair.

The whole cathedral of my being was made for film-making. I love the whole rhythm of it. Even the business talk. Contract talk. I love to hear grosses and below-the-line costs. I love the exaggerated quality of making a movie. It is physically exhausting to get the body up to that moment before the camera starts, then to sustain it - it is the high jump, the pole vault, the high dive - psyching yourself up for as big an effort as you can give.

I have a terrible fear of disappointing. I want to please, I desperately want to please, but if I gave everything to a film or to a person, I'd retain nothing for myself - the mystery of who I am and what l want would be lost and something would have flown out of me. As long as I retain this margin of being, there is a sense of promise that there is more to come. That's intriguing. There's a certain excitement to that.

Do you ask too much of the people you've become involved with ?
No, I am realistic. I don't demand perfection. I only demand my own response and when it is there, I don't hold it back. I give all there is to give. I don't think of consequences. If you try to measure the future you will never risk the present. Playing it safe. A ghastly game.

Her children come into the room and she introduces them : Christian, age, 14, the son of Vadim, and Chiara, age five, daughter of Marcello Mastroianni, whom she refuses to discuss with anyone. The children stay only for a moment.

It is difficult for my son, because I have to be both mother and father to him, rough and gentle, and he doesn't know at any particular moment which I'll be. We are too passionate with each other. He is terribly shy but getting better.

Does he see his father ?
No, virtually not at all. Oh, a holiday or two, but he has had ho father in his life. Little Chiara, isn't she divine ? How much easier a girl is than a boy. Outgoing. Not a bit shy. I'm concerned, though, about Christian. Perhaps I'm too tense. If only I could relax and roll with the punches, take things as they come, not force anything, not be so organized. But I can't. I give a lot and I expect a lot.

She walks me to the door. We shake hands. She smiles.

Will you be there on Friday when I pose for the picture for this article you're going to write ? I think you should come. The photographer will be David Bailey, the only man I married and the only one with whom I didn't have a child.

Clic-Clac is the improbable name of a photographic studio on the rue Daguerre. David Bailey sits on a table drinking steaming coffee out of a mug while a young Chinese assistant adjusts a white umbrella that is crookedly perched over a hot-lighted chair in the center of the room. Bailey smokes incessantly. His face is the face of a man who is using up his life as fast as he can and enjoying it.

We go to a bar in the corner to wait for Catherine, who is already a half-hour late. Bailey's speech is pure Cockney, a joy to hear : "I come from the East End o' London", he tells me, "a genuwine Cockney, not like Michael Caine who's trying to pass. Everyone on the East End's a tailor. Me pa was a tailor, and I was an apprentice tailor. Only three options in life for a East End kid - be a tailor, a car thief or play in a rock band. I didn't know I wasn't Jewish till I was fourteen. Anyways, from when I was four years old, I started messin' around with cameras - a little purloined stuff that happened to fall in me hands. At fourteen, I announced I was gonna be a photographer, and me mates on the street said, 'Oh, oh, maybe Bailey's going a little queer'. I was also interested in birds - the ones that fly - and when I was twelve and a half I announced I was gonna be a ornithologist, and they all said, 'That does it. Bailey is queer'. I now have sixty parrots in my house in London. I'm a parrot fancier, that's what I am".

What Bailey actually is is the world's foremost photographer of beautiful women. His contribution to the '60s, as a personality, was considerable ; he was the prototype for the lead character in Antonioni's exquisite film, "Blow-Up".

How did you meet Deneuve ?
I was assigned to do her for a Playboy center spread. She didn't want to. Had to be coaxed. None of 'em wants to. None that I know.

Have you remarried ?
Want to see my wife ?

He hands me a large, tabloid-shape magazine called Ritz, which has a black-and-white head shot of Deneuve on the cover.

First wife on the cover, second wife inside.

He turns to an inside page where there is a full-length photo of a Japanese beauty in a bikini poised on a diving board.

Why did you and Deneuve get married ? I mean, instead of just living together ?
Why not get married ? What's the difference between getting married and not getting married ? Divorce. So what the hell's that ? Another kind of goodbye, that's all. You know what they all miss about Cat'rin ? Her great sense of humor. She's a very funny lady. She's laughs. First-rate comedienne, but' they always ask her heavy questions, and you know the French, they love to talk heavy so that's all you ever read about Cat'rin : Miss Deneuve, what would you say is the meaning of life and all that.

She says she's too organized, too driven to work. Is making money important to her ?
Nah, hell, Cat'rin doesnt care any more about money than I do. If she gets a hundred thou she's likely to go across the street and buy a trinket with it. Same's me. She's generous where it counts. Might turn off all the lights to save on the electric bill ; I mean, she's bourgeois in the best sense of the word. Probably what attracted her to me. Probably never in her life saw a specimen like me.

Deneuve arrived two hours late, but Bailey didn't seem to mind. They hugged and greeted each other with honest fondness. Bailey fluffs her hair. "You been primpin', ainchu ?"

Three hours under the blast furnace, Deneuve says.

Bailey takes off his jacket to go to work and Deneuve admires his sports shirt. She is obviously at the top of one of her "up" periods, much more animated than she was at our previous meeting. Her movie is set to start shooting again ten days hence, and her spirit is rejuvenated.

She seats herself under the hot white lights. but Bailey doesn't like the reflection from the white umbrella over her head ; he asks his assistant to put up a silver one. Bailey studies her under the silver light and she smiles at him, an oId and knowing smile.

I did a commercial, Cat, only this time I was in it. Sat up till three A. M. learning my eight lines but they wouldn't stick. Nervous as hell, didn't sleep all night.When I got to the studio in the morning I discovered they'd changed all the lines.

Now you know how it is, David, Deneuve says, and laughs at him.

I look at her in the viewfinder of Bailey's camera and her beauty intensifies. Bailey is working all around her, adjusting every little detail. They have enormous affection for one another. "You want some mood music, love ?" he asks. "Let's have some mood music", he says to his assistant. "What'll it be, Cat ? How about red roses ?"

Oh, yes, she says, responding to some past sacrament. Red roses for a blu-u-ue lady.

"No got", the assistant says. "All right for Paul Simon doing 'Kodachrome' ? We got that".

"Now, that's fitting, ain't it ?" Bailey says, and the music starts to play. Bailey is just about ready but there's a phone call from London. "You want to do Lux, love ?" he calls out to Deneuve, his hand over the mouthpiece.

Deneuve's eyes flash. There is an edge to her voice.
No, I already said no.

Bailey listens on the phone. "For no amount of money ?"

For no amount of money.

Bailey listens some more. "Really no amount of money, love ? They're talkin' money".

For all the money there is. I already told them. Calling you won't help. I made a mistake with Mercury. It's a product and it is wrong to do a product, an automobile, a bar of soap. Chanel is all right, that is a mystery. A scent. That's all right, but Mercury was a mistake and one mistake is enough.

Bailey is suddenly ready to work. The Iights flick off, leaving Deneuve isolated in the white spot under the silver umbrella. She leans toward the camera, thrusting her beauty at it. Bailey slides himself into and around the tripod of his camera, his body literally fusing with camera and tripod. Deneuve and he are only a few feet apart. The hot circle of light binds them in its brilliant cocoon as the camera begins to trip at a rhythmic pace, ka-tung, ka-tung, ka-tung. Bailey making urgent sounds, ka-tung, ka-tung, as Deneuve responds to him, the camera's rhythm a sensuous metronome, ka-tung, ka-tung, an insistent force demanding their response, leading them on, ka-tung, ka-tung, until suddenly the roll of film is finished and the camera goes silent with the passion of that moment safe inside it.

Catherine and I are having lunch at Lasserre, considered by many connoisseurs the finest restaurant in the world, not only for its food but also for its physical beauty, a feature of which is the frescoed ceiling that periodically opens, revealing baskets of hanging geraniums framing the open sky. I invited Catherine here to try to cheer her up a little, for her movie has been permanently canceled, and she is very down.

We start with a Kir champagne and a perfect fresh salmon, which seems to cheer her up a bit.

My daughter, Chiara, wanted to come to lunch with us. I take her everywhere - she thinks she's my age and that my friends are her friends. She is so dear, like a flower just opened.

You should have brought her.
Next time - not to Lasserre, which is for serious eating. The thing about me as a mother - I like to be with a child but not play with a child. I'm no good at that. I like to have her as part of my world, but I can't be part of hers.

Monsieur Pierre, the director of Lasserre, recommends a combination of mousse of eel and mousse, of crab, and Catherine is delighted with the suggestion.

You enjoy food, don't you ?
Oh, yes. And I care very much about how food looks. Here they present it so beautifully - it is art. I also like the country look of food, heaped on a platter, surrounded by mounds of vegetables. When I'm at my country place I like to cook for my children and my boyfriend - oh, that terrible word, 'boyfriend' - it sounds so bad in English - in French we have it better - 'fiancé'. We don't use it in the formal sense, but in English it's a very serious word.

Would you like to live in the country ?
Full time ? Maybe. I love to garden, especially to raise a sea of yellow petunias ; the prettiest sight for me is white butterflies darting through the yellow petunias. But… well, here it is summer and I'm not in the country, because I can't enjoy any of these lovely things when I'm depressed like this. But why am I so destroyed by a thing like this movie ? A part of me gets up every day and goes to do that film. Yes, puts on makeup and acts for the camera while the rest of me watches in disappointment.

[end missing]

Par : A. E. Hotchner

Film associé : Aucun

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Une carrière construite sur la diversité 1975-79