Catherine Deneuve

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Catherine Deneuve Pencil Portrait
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The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


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Last update: 15/10/16

Catherine Deneuve is the foremost French actress of her time, and still actively working more than fifty years after her first screen appearance.

In the thriller Repulsion (1965), directed by Roman Polanski, she portrayed a troubled virgin who becomes a killer, before appearing as a frigid housewife turned prostitute in 1967’s Belle du Jour,’ directed by Luis Buñuel. Success gave her the opportunity to star in comedies, a fairy-tale adaptation as well as in darker roles. Though Deneuve mainly focused on French productions and co-productions, she has appeared in several American films, including the cult vampire film The Hunger (1983), opposite David Bowie.

I first recall seeing her in only her second english language movie The April Fools (1969) opposite Jack Lemmon, a sweet and rather sentimental movie, largely out of circulation for over forty years until a recent DVD release.

Outside of movies, Deneuve became the face of Chanel perfume during the 1970s, and in the following decade, she was the real-life model for Marianne — the national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. This led to her image being used nationally on her country’s coins and stamps.

In 2015, the actress attacked social media for demystifying celebrities. Asked to clarify remarks in an interview in which the star of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,’ Belle de Jour and Repulsion had lamented “there are no longer any stars,” Deneuve, 71, said: “It’s the social networks that prevent people from dreaming any more about stars. Their private life is displayed constantly on social networks; and some even post private pictures of themselves. I find it a pity. Being a star entails glamour and secrecy; it’s hard to keep any degree of mystery nowadays.”

Recommended viewing

The umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Repulsion (1965)

The April Fools (1969)

Paramount/CBS would rescue this long lost movie with a 2014 DVD release.

Stuart Rosenberg’s “The April Fools” is an irresistible confection from 1969 that offers Jack Lemmon in one of his last great comedic screen performances and, as a bonus, casts him opposite no less than Catherine Deneuve, the international “It” girl of the moment.

Miss Deneuve never looked lovelier, further fueling this blissfully blatant male fantasy in which the star plays his quintessential Lemmon character, in this case an Everyman who falls in love with a beautiful French blonde who – somewhat improbably – returns his affection. Unlikely? Well, he hasn’t kissed a woman in years without saying “Hello,” “Goodbye” or “Happy Birthday,” and she’s never kissed a man first.

The two meet at a party hosted by Deneuve’s husband (Peter Lawford who appeared with Jack in Lemmon’s debut film, 1954’s It Should Happen to You), spend the night clubbing (in the company of eccentric night couple Myrna Loy and Charles Boyer) and then fly off to Paris together the next morning, with Lemmon leaving behind his wildly acquisitive wife, Sally Kellerman (who is nothing less than outstanding here as a vain, selfish woman who talks exclusively in psychobabble).

It’s a soufflé, nothing more, and adding to the mix are the invaluable Jack Weston and Harvey Korman as Lemmon’s attorney and a sex-addicted businessman, respectively – two buttoned-down, acoholic Mad Men – and Melinda Dillon and Kenneth Mars as a (then) New Age couple. (“Fools” was also the first film scored completely by Marvin Hamlisch, although precious little of his excellent mood music ended up on the movie’s soundtrack album – I should know as I had the vinyl release in my collection for years – opting instead to showcase the songs utilized in the film instead.

I caught the film recently, and time had not dimmed my fondness for it. Maturity – something I obviously lacked when I first saw it at the age of twelve – now compels me to consider Lemmon’s non-communicative son – but nevertheless I still preyed he would make the flight in time.

The Hunger (1983)

The last Metro (1980)

Recommended reading

Close Up and Personal (Catherine Deneuve) 2006

Don’t build your hopes up – despite the title, this tome is Deneuve’s musings on her career, providing her admirers with an exclusive look behind the scenes of her life and career in this fascinating collection of seven previously unpublished diaries that she kept while filming abroad. Deneuve charts the shooting of films such as The April Fools co-starring Jack Lemmon; Tristana directed by the great Luis Bunuel; Indochine,’ shot in Vietnam, and Lars von Trier’s acclaimed Dancer in the Dark,’ co-starring Bjork.