Thursday, September 22, 2005

Filtered reportage: Catherine Deneuve at the NFT

As part of the season dedicated to the great French film icon, Catherine Deneuve took the stage of the NFT for another instalment of the Guardian interviews. Deneuve was interviewed after a screening of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (more on the film later) by Geoff Andrew, the NFT programmer, who conducted an informal, warm and sort of gossipy chat with the muse. Deneuve came across as a very sane and grounded actress, avoiding erudite comments about cinema and making it all sound really simple and easy. No chance she could ever end up like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

She wouldn't, anyway, because she still works constantly, appearing in arthouse films with the same grace as she illuminates the screens in bigger productions. Deneuve regaled the audience with remembrances of her work with Bunuel, Truffaut and her encounter with Hitchcock, who had planned to make a film with her (come to think of it, she really would have made the ultimate Hitchcock blonde), but due to an accident with Hitchcock the project never materialized. When asked the classical NFT question, ‘Any regrets for dedicating your life to cinema’, Deneuve hastened to correct Andrew that she never dedicated her life to cinema; it’s always been just a job and she appeared really sincere when she said that. Deneuve was also plugging a book containing her diary entries over decades called Close Up and Personal, so there you go, she got a plug here too.

Front window: Deneuve in The Umbrellas of

As to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Le Parapluies de Cherbourg in French), this film is a unique cinematic experience. Made in 1964 with glorious candy-coloured art-direction and directed by one of the Novelle Vague luminaries, Jacques Lemy, The Umbrellas… is a hybrid beast. A mixture of musical, operetta and drama, it is perhaps best described as a deconstructivist musical since the genre conventions are laid bare in the service of reality. It’s a very simple story of an unsuccessful love story, which automatically disqualifies it for ‘happy-ever-after’ Broadway fare. It’s an ecstatic exaltation of the minutiae of life with a strong French flavour, of course, but universal in its humanism and sensitivity. If you like the work of super-kitsch and colourful French photo-duo Pierre and Giles, see this and revel in its magic. On now and until next week only.

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