A day to rejoice on Turner Classic Movies: Catherine Deneuve, one of the few true Living Film Legends, is TCM's "Summer Under the Stars" star today, August 12, 2013. Catherine Deneuve is not only one of the most beautiful film actresses ever, she's also one of the very best. In fact, the more mature her looks, the more fascinating she has become. Though, admittedly, Deneuve has always been great to look at, and she has been a mesmerizing screen presence since at least the early '80s.
'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg': One of the greatest movie musicals ever
Right now, TCM is showing one of the greatest movie musicals ever made, Jacques Demy's Palme d'Or winner The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), in which a very blonde, very young, very pretty, and very dubbed Catherine Deneuve (singing voice by Danielle Licari) plays the girlfriend of the very handsome Nino Castelnuovo (dubbed by José Bartel). All goes well for the singing couple – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg's dialogue is all sung – until the French government decides that democracy and freedom are for Europeans, not Africans or Arabs. Hence, the Franco-Algerian War. Castelnuovo must leave his small town to protect Flag, Country, God, and Colonialism; Deneuve stays behind. Will she remain faithful to him? Well, let's just say that the final scene in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of the most moving in film history.
Summing up: in vibrant color (Jean Rabier), featuring haunting music (Michel Legrand), and deftly directed and acted, Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a masterpiece that makes the overwhelming majority of Hollywood musicals look like Amateur Hour – or, at best, technically proficient but soulless, heartless efforts.
Catherine Deneuve and Luis Buñuel
Another reason to rejoice: no less than two Luis Buñuel movies on Catherine Deneuve Day. The word "genius" is thrown about to describe nearly everyone who makes popular mainstream movies, from Steven Spielberg and James Cameron to Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Although there's nothing intrinsically wrong with crowd-pleasing fare, in my view the definition "film genius" should be applied to someone like Luis Buñuel – a thoughtful, challenging, courageous, subversive filmmaker who was never a public favorite. (Most of today's debased film critics have probably never even heard of him.)
So, do not miss Tristana (1970), in which Fernando Rey plays a respectable nobleman who becomes sexually obsessed with his charge (Deneuve), and which offers something to offend just about everyone, especially prudes and the politically correct crowd. I find it amazing that this complex, unusual film somehow managed to receive a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nomination, considering the sort of goo that usually makes the Academy's shortlist.
Later on, Buñuel and Catherine Deneuve are back with Belle de Jour (1967), an arthouse box office hit both at the time of its release and upon its U.S. rerelease in 1995. No, not because of Buñuel's masterful attack on bourgeois mores and morals, or Sacha Vierny's dreamlike cinematography – but because Belle de Jour features kinky sex: Deneuve is a cool housewife by day and a hot sex worker by night. Another one not to be missed.
Catherine Deneuve: From family issues to vampire heartbreak
Sandwiched between Tristana and Belle de Jour is André Téchiné's Ma Saison Préferée (1993). I'm not a big fan of Téchiné's work, which I tend to find somewhat sterile and uninvolving. But Ma Saison Préferée, a family drama featuring Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil as sister and brother, is one of Téchiné's more appealing works. Deneuve is fine, though her Ma Saison Préferée role is less compelling (and less poignant) than her lovestruck lesbian in Téchiné's Thieves / Les Voleurs.
Wrapping up Catherine Deneuve Day (or Night) is Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983), a box office and critical disappointment co-starring Susan Sarandon and David Bowie, that is perhaps the coolest vampire movie ever made. Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) started out directing television commercials, and The Hunger does look like a highly stylized big-screen ad for bloodlust, agelessness, and lesbian sex (Deneuve and Sarandon).
Now, forget Bela Lugosi, George Hamilton, Gloria Holden, Frank Langella, Christopher Lee, Robert Pattinson, and the whole Cullen Clan: The Hunger's Catherine Deneuve remains the sexiest, sultriest, most stylish, and deadliest vampire of them all, falling for Susan Sarandon, who, as usual, delivers a top-notch performance as, in Twilight parlance, a "newborn." And make sure to keep an eye out for silent film veteran Bessie Love (of the Oscar-winning talkie The Broadway Melody) in a bit part as Lillybelle – her last movie role.
Catherine Deneuve movies: TCM schedule (PT) on August 12, 2013
3:00 AM LE PETIT POUCET (2001). Director: Olivier Dahan. Cast: Romane Bohringer, Elodie Bouchez, Pierre Berriau, Catherine Deneuve. Black and white. 88 min.
4:45 AM REPULSION (1965). Director: Roman Polanski. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser. Black and white. 105 min.
9:00 AM UN FLIC (1972). Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Cast: Alain Delon, Catherine Deneuve, Richard Crenna, Riccardo Cucciolla, Michael Conrad, Paul Crauchet, Simone Valère. Color. 100 mins. Letterbox Format.
11:00 AM LE SAUVAGE (1975). Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau. Cast: Yves Montand, Catherine Deneuve, Luigi Vanucchi. Color. 106 mins. Letterbox Format.
1:00 PM THE LAST METRO (1980). Director: François Truffaut. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Jean Poiret. Color. 132 mins. Letterbox Format.
5:00 PM THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964). Director: Jacques Demy. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon. Color. 91 mins. Letterbox Format.
7:00 PM TRISTANA (1970). Director: Luis Buñuel. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Fernando Rey, Franco Nero. Color. 98 mins. Letterbox Format.
9:00 PM MA SAISON PREFÉRÉE (1993). Director: André Téchiné. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil, Marthe Villalonga. Color. 127 mins. Letterbox Format.
11:15 PM BELLE DE JOUR (1968). Director: Luis Buñuel. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Geneviève Page. Color. 100 mins. Letterbox Format.
1:15 AM THE HUNGER (1983). Director: Tony Scott. Cast: David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Catherine Deneuve, Bessie Love. Color. 96 mins. Letterbox Format.
Catherine Deneuve movie schedule via the TCM website.