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For years, Catherine Deneuve has cultivated a reputation as cinema's most professional interviewee, freezing out attempts to search behind the surface for the turbulence and contradictions below. That peculiarly Deneuve "fire-and-ice" combination of external restraint and wilful destructive passion was patented in Buñuel's "Belle de Jour", and has been part of her image ever since.

Does she really need to be so guarded and uptight ?

Oh, you've got me wrong. People think I'm in control because in my meetings with journalists, I seem to be very protective of my private life. But I'm actually very open in reality and when I'm working with directors I trust.

Playing along with this idea of her "openness", I ask her whether she is ever going to complete the memoirs she once considered writing.

I'm not sure. I was almost ready to do them, because I am fed up with what is being written about me, without my co-operation. It's not that there's anything wrong with these books, but they are all so weak - just images from films and words lifted from interviews. And friends have told me that unless I do something myself, these superficial books will be all that's left in the end.

Sounds like good reasoning, I observe. But, of course, there's a hitch.

Then I think, if I open the door to do a book or to write about myself, I know I will say very personal things, and the problem is that I will start something which I won't be able to control.

She gurgles with laughter but continues :

It will mean that people will be able to take the book and write what they want about it. Ugh !

Roger Vadim was probably right when he once famously remarked that Deneuve has an essentially bourgeois attitude to life. She may have been unconventional once, having glamorous affairs galore and children outside marriage, but she has now reverted to type. Or has she ?

This provokes another laugh.

No, that's all wrong. I look very bourgeois, all dressed up in Yves Saint Laurent, but that's just for my protection. It's a sort of disguise.

She refused, she points out, to marry Vadim.

And that's not really what I think of as bourgeois.

I remind her that Brigitte Bardot - another Vadim conquest - took the autobiographical plunge 18 months ago. The name makes Deneuve shudder.

I saw extracts of her book: they were the most horrible things you can possibly read. Imagine writing that you wanted to get rid of your baby son, as she did. Not being a good mother is her problem, but making it public like that... It could have been a very human piece of writing, but in her case it was just harsh and inhuman. I know her a little and she's a strange human being. She's very childish. She loves animals, because loving animals is very easy, but emotionally, I think she has a big problem. She's like someone who never grew up. I don't consider myself to be a grown-up person but I'm more interested in people than in animals. And I think that if you are involved as much as she is with animals, then there is something strange about your dealings with the human race. She's like a sauce which has curdled. There is nothing you can do. There is no hope.

Deneuve herself has already dipped a toe in the waters of personal revelation: last year, she made a television film on the tragically short life of her beloved older sister, the brilliant actress Françoise Dorléac. The venture was remarkable because it showed Deneuve's vulnerability after decades of bottled up emotion. And this time, she wasn't just acting.

For a long time, maybe 15 or 20 years, I didn't know if I would ever be able to talk about that loss, she said on television.

The day after Dorléac died in a car crash in 1967, Deneuve had gone right back to work as if nothing had happened, binding her loss into a straightjacket so tight that she couldn't even speak of it to her parents.

I'm glad I finally spoke about Françoise, she says now, quietly. I wish I'd expressed my grief before. But it's strange - that desire not to hurt anyone, to stay silent, is not always the best way. I know that now. I miss her more than ever since I've been able to talk of her. While I was silent, there was no way I could ever get over my grief. Really.

We speak briefly of feminism: she insists she's a feminist but :

I certainly didn't burn my bra. The idea !

And then of business.

Frankly, I'm very bad with money.

And finally, we talk of men. She is, she insists, sorry for them.

If something goes wrong in their work, they are lost. Women are much stronger because they have more to their lives.

Young men, she adds, are particularly good news.

Oh, I've not been out with that many younger ones, but I don't consider that a taboo. Older women feel better with younger men. My daughter Chiara Mastroianni lives with a young man whom I like very much indeed, and I go out with him sometimes. Dancing, salsa, you know.

Wicked Deneuve. She is not giving anything away about her current romantic status, but she is certainly having fun.

Inside me, sometimes, I feel I'm just 20 or maybe 25.

It is rather young to be a cultural monument, but that is part of the game.

I'm not ready to be Dame Catherine Deneuve, you know. Ugh. And I don't want the Légion d'honneur, though it's been offered.

There's only one medal I'd accept, she adds, smiling broadly. Not for me but for my plants - The Order of Merit for Agriculture.

Par : Susannah Herbert

Films associés : Aucun

Documents associés

Chiara Mastroianni
Roger Vadim

Hommes et femmes