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Woman's hour

[Introduction by the host]

Which was most difficult for Catherine ?
It was fun to do very often but sometimes the fact that we were eight actresses and we had to do the scenes, you know, each one, and repeat the scenes, sometimes that was a little fastidious to have to repeat some scenes for so many times. Maybe the fact that we were always in the same costume, on the same stage, for such a long time, maybe that was the difficult part of it.

The costumes are fabulous !
One costume, you know, just one costume for two months and a half, you know, so certain days it was a little difficult [laughs].

But how much control did each of you have over what you were wearing, I mean, they are very carefully designed for the period, for the colour…
Absolutely, that was François Ozon, and the designer, who was a very gifted person who did the costumes, someone he had worked with before, a very young person, and he really wanted… he really knew what he wanted to do, he showed me some pictures, he knew the references to the films, you know, the fifties, the Technicolor, the Douglas Sirk like period of time, and… it's the first time I see a director coming at the first fitting of the clothing.

There's been a number of descriptions of the film. I think Daily Variety called it "a bitch fest with costumes". How would you describe it ?
Well, I think they are bitches on the surface of the character that you can see, but I think what's very clever, you know, what he's done in the film, that when we all have a moment where we sing in the film - I'm playing the mother, you know, and sometimes I play like being, trying to be the mother - and when we sing we say much more about ourselves, really who we are.


There have been some criticisms of it, that the women are all defined by a man, and appear to be quite money-grabbing harlots… you wouldn't dismiss them in that way.
Well I don't think, actually… I know François Ozon was not too happy, but I remember who said that in the French papers… I think that he likes very much actresses… I'm not sure he likes that much women.

Why do you think that ?
Because of the film ! [laughs] Because what he said, you know, about the characters in the film, and the fact he wanted to show those women like that, I don't know, it's… but I mean, I think a lot of people don't like women, you know, and they don't even know it. I've even seen men married, you know, not really liking women. They think they love their wives, of course, but I'm not sure they really like them like women.

One of the things that he said, also, is that the film was a homage to the great Hollywood women's pictures' directors, like Douglas Sirk… Now, when you look at those movies, they aren't very sympathetic to women. Do you think he didn't quite get it ?
I think he got it but he wanted to do something else with it, he wanted to play with it, you know. He wanted that for the image, for the look, for the style, but he wanted to say a little more, because I don't think you can do a film in a period like now and do exactly the same kind of characters of a woman today like that, he wanted just to use the look and the style more than the character itself.

One another thing that's striking, too, to us in this country, is that suddenly, a French film is being widely talked about, I mean we can that it's a film that…
But it was a surprise !

… because of all the fabulous actresses that are in it….
But that's not enough.

Is it surprising to you ?
Yes, it is. It is, because even in Europe, I mean, in France, in Italy, in Germany, in America, the film is taken like an object, you know, it's a film, but it's a sort of strange… object that you don't really know which category to put in. And it's a surprise to me that the film was taken so well in countries so different as Germany, France and America, you know.

But the other thing that's interesting… in the early days, when we would have been watching your films that made you famous, obviously, "Les parapluies" or whatever, it was common for us to just go to the cinema and see European films, whereas that doesn't seem to appear so much now. Is it because the French cinema is in trouble, or just that we don't look to Europe as we did ?
I think Europe has changed a lot, because we have the same situation with Italy, you know. Before, you would do a French film, it would go immediately to Italy, get released and… Now people are very used to saying "oh well, I missed it, I will buy the DVD, or it will go on television in 6 months". It's very, very different. Still, people are going to the movies, but there are more and more younger people going to the movies, and it's true there is that facility to watch films on a big screen, with a very good sound, now, with a very good quality of image which you don't always have on the screen when you go to the cinema.

We always used to think of you as the beautiful classic ice maiden, and yet it seems in recent years you've almost subverted that image.
I don't agree with that because, as far as I remember, I did "Repulsion" with Polanski, I was very young, I did "Tristana", I was not that old, you know, and "Belle de jour", and those were films to me that were not really very classical ice maiden… It is "Belle de jour" which made me very much… even for people who haven't seen the film, it is the sort of image that might have been true when the film was released, but that was not really true if you look at the films I've done for the last thirty years, you know, frankly. But there's always a film that comes over the others, and I'm more associated… but maybe less today, but I was very associated with the image of the double personality, you know, blonde and cool, and cold and hot, and all those things… That related to the story of the film, of the character. I was very identified with the character of the woman in "Belle de jour".

And how much is that cold and hot personality your own ?
Because I think we are always double, men and women, we all are double and for some people it shows more than for some others, you know. I think I show more of my masculine personality, sometimes, than my feminine side. And that's why maybe sometimes I am a litle more cold.

You've also commented that if you were American, you probably wouldn't be working now. Why do you think the French have parts for older actresses and Hollywood maybe doesn't ?
I just think it's normal what happens in Europe and I think that Americans are completely mad with the scare of getting old, I mean, not for films only : in life. I mean, they are desperate. And it's true : I don't think I would be working, or not that much, not like I'm working in France, certainly not.

One of the other things that you're well-known for is that you smoke…
Yeah… that's very brave ! It's very brave to… [laughs]

It's very brave in the society in which we live… Smoke, drink, and barely exercise.
I do exercise ! That's not true : I exercise ! I do exercise ! I do exercise because I am a very active person anyway… Even if I don't exercise when I'm doing a film, I am moving a lot, I'm a very active person. I don't like that much sports, you know, that's a different thing, but I do exercise.

How do you keep that stunning skin ?
I drink a lot of water, and not always water, because I like wine, but… I think it's genetic : it's my mother, to tell you the truth. Also I spend a lot of time outside, you know, I'm a sort of a… I'm more of a country… I'm more English than French for that, you know. I like very much to be outside, to be in the open air.

Are you a grandmother ?
Yes, twice !

How's that ?
Wonderful ! I love it ! I love young, baby children, you know. I love it. It's all the fun and less responsibility to be a grandmother. All the pleasure to be with the little baby, with the little boy, you know in my case it's a little boy. I really love it, I spend quite a lot of time with him.

BBC Radio 4

27 novembre 2002

Par : Jenni Murray

Ecoutez l'interview sur le site de la BBC

Films associés : Huit femmes, Belle de jour

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