|Deneuve : 53, and
acting her age
NEW YORK -- Catherine Deneuve
is acting her age, and she couldn't be happier. Or busier.
I don't want to grow older than I am, but I don't want
to try to be very resistant to reality either, the 53-year-old Deneuve
said in a recent interview. I want to be in harmony with my image and
what I feel about my age.
No easy feat, considering the film industry's insatiable
hunger for fresh, wrinkle-free actresses. But this is Catherine Deneuve,
and it's hard to imagine that any filmmaker would turn down the woman
who still symbolizes beauty and style to much of the world, and remains
a sexy, glamorous object of men's desires.
For an interview at a Manhattan
hotel bar, Deneuve is dressed in a light gray pantsuit, black flats and
funky, red-rimmed bifocals. She wears a pearl necklace, pearl earrings
and a large gold and diamond ring. It's a decidedly more pulled-together
look than that of her latest character, a frumpy French philosophy professor
involved in a crime-tinged love triangle in Andre Techine's "Les
In a way, it was comfortable, you know ... to have your hair very simple,
to have little makeup, to not have to change clothes every day, Deneuve
said of the character. I did suffer, because I would see the dailies.
Some days, I was really down, Deneuve told a New York audience after a
screening for the film, which opens Dec. 25 in some cities and later across
the country. But I thought I had to be honest to the character.
The character of Marie -- who loves her student, Juliette,
who is in turn sleeping with a police officer -- was a deliberate attempt
to get something different, "more human" out of Deneuve, the
director said. "I wanted to show the unknown aspect, and the lesser-known
parts of Catherine", Techine said in a telephone interview from France.
"The glamour magazine, it's only the surface
of things," said Techine, who has directed Deneuve in four films
over the last 15 years. He said he wanted to "scratch the surface
to get a little more". What he got was an intimate yet motherly portrayal
of a woman in love with another woman. He also got an intriguing show
of weakness and self-destruction when Marie realizes Juliette (Laurence
Cote) has run away, fearing arrest by the police officer (Daniel Auteuil)
for a botched car robbery.
He wanted to give me a part where there is understanding, knowledge, love
and that sort of despair, you know, of someone who is supposed to know
so much about life but finally cannot get to the end, Deneuve said. People
who know me know I'm strong, but I'm vulnerable.
Techine, 52, last directed Deneuve in the 1993 release
"Ma saison preferee" ("My favorite season"), in which
she plays a not very glamorous middle-aged woman trying to decide what
to do with her aging mother.
Deneuve seems to revel in such roles, and she credits their existence
to directors such as Techine, 52, who most often write movies and parts
I'm lucky. I'm getting older with some directors who
are getting older, she joked.
Deneuve also credits the European film industry, which
tends to take more risks than Hollywood when it comes to giving over-30
actresses leading roles. Three years ago, Deneuve won a Cesar award --
the French Academy Award -- for best actress for "Indochine",
the story of a plantation owner in colonial Vietnam. The role netted an
Oscar nomination for Deneuve and the film won best foreign entry. "Les
voleurs", meanwhile, was the centerpiece of this year's New York
Film Festival. Despite these recent successes, it is the early films and
the provocative ones that are still most associated with Deneuve.
In the 1982 release "The hunger", Deneuve played a voracious
and beautiful vampire opposite David Bowie and Susan Sarandon, two of
her many victims left to live in the misery of everlasting life.
In "Belle de jour", Luis Bunuel's 1967 erotic classic, Deneuve
played a repressed housewife who spends her afternoons working in a Paris
This film has been attached to me, as an actress, for
all of my career Deneuve said somewhat incredulously. Even today, some
people cannot not ask me about "Belle de jour".
It didn't help that the movie was re-released in 1995
to great fanfare, or that Deneuve has -- in her public persona -- maintained
the aura of the unattainable, enigmatic beauty of the title roles in both
"The hunger" and "Belle de jour".
Deneuve rarely grants interviews. And her image is rather intimidating:
In addition to being the onetime face of Chanel No. 5 and the longtime
patron-muse of designer Yves Saint Laurent, she also was the model for
the national female symbol of France, "Marianne". But in person,
she is warm and natural. She laughs and shows a mother's pride and excitement
when she talks about the arrival the following day of her daughter, Chiara
Mastroianni, also promoting a film at the festival. Chiara, who plays
opposite her father Marcello Mastroianni in "Three lives and only
one death", is of the generation of actresses that should be pushing
Deneuve out of the industry.
But Deneuve is still one of the busiest actresses in the world, averaging
at least two films a year and showing no signs of slowing down.
The parts today are warmer, deeper, sometimes, she
said. Because when you don't show a woman in a love situation (with a
man), there is something else you have to say about her life.