Congratulations to our randomly-chosen winner of a pair of tickets to tonight's 39th Chaplin Award Gala honoring Catherine Deneuve, Tomris Laffly! Here is the memory Tomris shared with us about the iconic actress:
No Deneuve memory could measure up to seeing her in a film for the first time... and that film for me was Tristana. However, my favorite Deneuve memory was just last year, in 2011 during the opening night of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (screening of Ozon's Potiche). There was a small red carpet in the lobby of the Paris Theater here in NYC, and I still don't remember (or comprehend) how it happened, but I managed to somehow catch her eye in the cramped crowd of photographers and fans. And smiled. And she smiled back. It probably was a smile only coinciding with me catching her eye, yet to me, it was a split second of heaven.
We received an overwhelming number of responses to our request for your personal Deneuve stories. The memories shared ran the gamut from hilarious to heartbreaking. Here are some of our favorites:
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Catherine Deneuve in Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which remains one of my favorite movies of all time. I was an awkward teenager then and she seemed to me the epitome of innocent loveliness as young Genevieve. So many scenes from that film have left indelible impressions on me because of her—Guy pricking his finger on the pins of Genevieve’s dress as they are watching the opera Carmen, Genevieve following him to the train station swearing that she’ll wait for him, Her admitting to her mother weeping that her memory of Guy is slowly fading, and finally Genevieve and Guy standing in the snow, as two strangers. I’ve watched these scenes again and again since—the beauty of this film and my admiration for Ms. Deneuve do not fade.
About 10 years ago, I was having lunch upstairs at the Mercer Hotel in Soho. Over the course of 20 minutes or so, several cell phones rang, prompting the maitre d' to ask twice for there to be no cell phone use. This was also during the early days of smoking being forbidden in restaurants. In a gust of wind, the door from the street opened, and a woman entered talking on a cell phone and smoking. Everyone looked up and glared at her... but not for long—it was Catherine Deneuve. One makes allowances.
Back in the 70s when Catherine was the face of Chanel No. 5, the local drugstore had one of the promotional display ads in the window of the store. I was completely entranced by her beauty every time I passed the store and mentioned it to my Mom who worked in town as a legal secretary. She happened to know the druggist and asked him if she could have the display when he changed the window. Well, sure enough, a few weeks later Mom came home toting the display and presented it to me. It was quite large and I was amazed that she went to the trouble to carry it home to surprise me. Although my bedroom was rather small, I found room for it and enjoyed Catherine's lovely visage when I awoke each morning.
On a French exchange trip, I made my host family take me to several stores so I could purchase my favorite Catherine Deneuve movies, not realizing that they would not play on my DVD player at home. I obtained an international DVD player soon after.
I still remember one scene in Indochine where she's dressed all in white and starts lifting the white sheets off the covered furniture. Every gesture she makes is so poetic and full of grace.
Seeing her in Tristana in '70 when I was 15 blew my mind. it was playing at the art house in Bismarck, ND. I'd never seen a portrayal so unvarnished as that.
Hedy Sloane Stempler:
In the late 1990's I was recovering from a serious accident, in which a metal panel dislodged from a building across the street from Lincoln Center and landed on my head. I was in great pain and home bound for almost a year. My father who was taking care of me after my accident thought it would be good for me to try to do something. It was the month of March and my father suggested seeing some French films at Rendez-vous for French Cinema. My father suggested we should see anything that Catherine Deneuve is in and got the last 2 tickets for Le Vent de la Nuit. My father and I (and everyone in the audience) were surprised and thrilled that Ms. Deneuve was there to present the film. At the Q&A I asked a question about the film, which Ms. Deneuve answered in great detail, addressing me the entire time. Not only did my father and I get to see how beautiful she was in person, but more importantly what a beautiful person she is. It was the first time I ever asked a question at a Q&A. Since that time I have often asked questions at Q&A's, especially at Rendez-vous for French Cinema, and by doing so it greatly contributed to my recovery. I know Catherine Deneuve also helped.
One cloudy morning around 1989, as many New Yorkers did back then, I headed off on the Sunday morning ritual of wandering through the outdoor flea market on Sixth Avenue near 26th St. with coffee in hand and a dazed look on my face. Amid the rubble of broken memories, taxidermy and battered furnishings, just as the sun broke through the clouds, a vision appeared.
Catherine Deneuve was floating through the sleepy crowd, her casual elegance glimmering in the sunlight, angels singing in the distance.
I thought this glorious moment must be shared but not abused. I ran to the nearest phone and called one friend, my sometimes flea market partner Christine, to tell her of this Lady of Fatima vision just a half block away. Christine's reaction was like a defibrulator jolt, pulling me away from the tunnel of light and slamming me to the pavement.
"That's so sad. Was Deneuve selling anything good? She must need the cash."
Deneuve is an exceptional beauty. In our current 'celebrity' saturated world she is a true icon. The camera loves her. Designers love her. She is the perfect example of French chic and whether it was coming undone in Repulsion or playing a beautiful housewife with an interesting life in the afternoon (Belle Du Jour). Her talent overcomes her beauty and she manages to show us so much more in her characters. It is easy to see why directors loved her. Decades later images of her still haunt the collective consciousness. Her beauty and talent are inspirational.
I was working the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. My job was to run around the Croisette, going from hotel to hotel with the publicist I was working for and assist with press junkets. After a couple of days she trusted me to do some tasks on my own. The first hotel I went into on my own to deliver some one sheets, had one those heavy revolving doors and I was right behind a well fashioned blonde woman. As she stepped in the revolving door first and turned slightly, I realized it was Catherine Deneuve. I was in the next door frame right behind her. I couldn't move. I was frozen which caused the door to stall. She and I were paused for a couple of seconds in this revolving door because I became an idiot. She glanced at me and smiled as to say "hello?" The glance snapped me out of it. I felt silly and hustled through the lobby.
I deal with actresses, actors and directors all the time and never have become officially star struck, but Catherine Deneuve did it to me.
I got to see Deneuve in person at BAM a couple of years ago when she introduced Repulsion. She had the biggest blondest head I have ever seen. She was so small and she wearing a black dress and it was as if this golden orb had floated into the room. It made me feel like an inadequate blob.
When I first saw her in such films as Scorsese's Repulsion and Bunuel's Belle de Jour, I felt I was seeing for the first time the true potentiality of beauty in its most subtle and complex forms. Physical beauty alone can be easily labelled and objectified (I'm reminded of how Godard parodied this fact in the opening shot of Bridgitte Bardot's naked body in Contempt). But beauty supported by such confidence, composure, talent and intelligence as Catherine Deneuve's must be more than simply admired. She transcends the socially-prescribed expectations of beauty that she exemplifies, which is why she only grew more beautiful with age. And it is no doubt why she was given such challenging and memorable female roles to fill.
I once stood next to Ms. Deneuve at the little marble counter in Dean and Deluca in SoHo during lunchtime. I hoped that a photographer would recognize her and snap a photo of us eating lunch "together" through the giant glass window. Alas, she was left alone.
A fascinating combination of beauty, sensuality, brilliance, and fierce independence is the talented Catherine Deneuve. How compelling is her role as Séverine Serizy in Belle du Jour in which she blurs fantasy with reality. As the film ends, her unforgettable gaze through the window into the past allows for a myriad of possibilities.
In Beloved: To see Catherine and Chiara together on screen is a cinematic pleasure beyond compare. They are charming, cool, passionate, and relaxed. Their characters work their worlds to their liking, and it repays them for it. If they lose someone they love, mother and daughter have each other, and always another love.
Her coming completely undone in Repulsion. What a great performance.
In Potiche (Ozon's film) Catherine goes through one of those cinematic transformations we love her for! Cut to my twenty-something scenes of watching HER in Umbrellas... my ex-husband and friend next to me howling into my Kleenex, while Catherine's love's saga in song and dance predicts the demise of her "couplehood's" undoing...! It took me years to deconstruct the scene as it was obscured in melody and the aura of youth and innocence—and years removed from my own march of time. CUT to the more recent Potiche in which Catherine in her royal facade of THE WIFE AND QUEEN IN THE KITCHEN begins our (mine as well as hers...) transformation IN the kitchen! She moves effortlessly (you simply forget the camera who IS the instrument for recording change!) to tell her 'powerful' hubby that yes, though she has been QUEEN IN THE KITCHEN FOR 30 YEARS, she has just about HAD it in that role... and you just know where Catherine is taking us, (her faithful female viewers) NEXT!
My most intense Deneuve memory is of watching Repulsion; I saw it as a transfer student in London, alone, and riding the night bus home in the rain I simply felt the movie, and her performance, inside me. To me, it is her most powerful and gifted work; and Belle de Jour her most fun.
When she undoes her hair and it cascades down her shoulders with all the blond angelic abundance... in Belle de Jour... that's authentic beauty de Deneuve.
Love her in Mississippi Mermaid where she's the original bad girl, long before Angelina Jolie! I also like that she had a relationship with my favorite actor Marcello Mastroianni, which produced a beautiful daughter Chiara Mastroianni who looks just like her father!"
Repulsion, The Diary of a Chambermaid, Indochine—playing a colonial who has been both a native and an ex-pat all of her life.
I remember I was on the standby line for the Changing Times opening night screening at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater in 2005. I didn't think I'd get in, but thought it might be worth a try. Someone next to me spotted Catherine Deneuve on her way to the theater. I wasn't expecting an personal appearance, but there she was! Fortunately, a ticket came my way and I got to sit nearby while Catherine Deneuve introduced her new film.