Archive for the ‘Catherine Deneuve’ Category

The Last Metro

29 Jul

The Last Metro –­– directed by Francois Truffaut. Backstage WW II Drama. A Paris theatre company holds together during the German occupation. 131 minutes Color 1980.


The presence of Catherine Deneuve in any film whatever guarantees attention to it, just as her presence in it guarantees attention to herself. She is a woman with no sex appeal save that she seems to have none; males are captivated by the challenge of their own bafflement, apparently.  And, even with persons she is making out with, she evinces no sexual interest or energy towards anyone else. She is neither attractive nor attracted. So it is no wonder that Gérard Depardieu has no eyes for her.

She is thought of as beautiful, a claim discounted by that chin. And perhaps it is her consistently soigné manner and her consistently marvelous yellow hair and that she is consistently photographed as though she were beautiful that leads to the general belief that she is so.

But, of course, I do not find her so, and that is because, as a dramatic actress she lacks fire, she lacks temperament; she gives so little to her craft it creates a detriment, a hollow, which also adds to her so-called attraction, I suppose, but it doesn’t interest me, and I have no respect for it. She seems inert, a sphinx without a secret.

That is, until I saw her in Hôtel des Amériques, which she made with the great actor Patrick Dewaere, and in which she plays broad comedy and is screamingly funny. She is, in fact, a brilliant light comedienne miscast in a career of dramatic roles, such as this one. Sad.

The movie itself is quite entertaining, because of its photography, general production, crispness in the telling, and Truffaut’s eye for subordinate characters, which, given that this is a theatre company, means we are confronted with some unusual types.

But, while the story is well told, it is not well written, for such reasons as that a romance between Depardieu and Deneuve is tagged on at the end and arises out of nothing we have witnessed. And also because neither she nor Depardieu have real passion either for the theatre as a calling or as a business. As with her relations to her Jewish husband, she is doing her duty.

The film also is in lush color, which certainly suits Deneuve’s makeup and complexion, just as it suited Betty Grable’s, but it defies the gritty black-and-white truth of World War II in starving, domineered, occupied Paris. Both she and Depardieu play characters that seem to have no personal necessity save to play the parts in the movie in which we are seeing them. The film holds one almost to the end, which is a tribute to its power to entertain, if not to explore. In France it received all the major awards. Which is natural, since it congratulates the faith, fidelity, and fortitude of the French during trying times. And who can gainsay it. Will they survive? That is the tension. The answer? They will.


Belle de Jour

11 Oct

Belle de Jour — directed by Luis Bunuel — a good looking young newly wed declines to have sex with her handsome husband but loves to do so as a whore with every slob who drops by — 100 minutes color — 1967.

* * * *

I seems Bunuel does not know anything about sex. The idea that this movie is really supposed to be about something else — society, the church, the price of vegetables in Paris — is silly. It seems he made the film with no sense of its subject matter, which has to do with the effect on a young woman of having been molested as a girl. In fact, all we are supposed to believe is that she would not have sex with her hubby but really and only wants to have it with the crumbs who turn up in a house whose madame hires her for afternoon tricks. Deneuve plays the lady with her chilling upper-eyelids in their usual position, and the problem with that is the problem of her entire career, built on playing just such manikins when, in fact, she was a light comedienne of great ability. We are supposed to believe she does not care about sex, but her hair is arranged to a fair-thee-well and her eyelashes precede her into a room by three weeks. Deneuve may be one or two things, but, unlike, as with Grace Kelly whom she so resembles, none of them is “fun”. The film is not mysterious, it is not ambiguous, it is not even a masterpiece of prevarication, and who cares if it were any of these things. The style is flat, routine, uninflected. The dialogue is pulp. The erotic scenes are puerile. But the actors in it are so good they lend the piece a quality of seriousness and craft that almost makes one take it seriously. These include Jean Sorel as a husband so sexy, young, good looking, and kind it defies probability that she should decline his advances. Michael Piccoli plays the friend who has her number. And Genevieve Page is superb as the smart lesbian madam who teaches Deneuve the ropes. Sometimes Bunuel actually makes a picture; at other times he makes a picture about a picture. This may be one of the second sort — aloof, political, biased, and prim.


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