Friday, November 7, 2008

Deneuve on location

A book of film diaries written by Catherine Deneuve, the celebrated French actress, has just been re-published - with a very long title, longer indeed than the previous edition, which itself was much longer than the original! One of the earlier editions - viewable on Googlebooks - was dubbed by The Observer as ‘marvellously opaque’, but an Amazon reviewer said it was ‘very short and rather boring’. My Inner French Girl, though, thinks Deneuve’s writing is ‘stark, beautiful, metaphoric’.

According to and, Pegasus is publishing - today in the UK, tomorrow in the US - a book of diaries written by Catherine Deneuve, each one written while she was on location filming. The new publication has a long, name-dropping title: The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve: My Life Behind the Camera with Luis Bunuel, Francois Truffaut, Roman Polanski, and Lars von Trier. Amazon says it is a ‘fascinating collection of seven previously upublished diaries’.

But, in fact, the book seems to be a re-publishing of Close Up And Personal issued by Orion in 2006 (the first English version), as well as of The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve: Close Up and Personal, by Pegasus Books in 2007. (Intriguingly, the titles are getting longer and longer every time it’s published!) While there IS a trace of the 2006 version on Orion’s website, there is NO trace of the 2007 book, or the new one, on the Pegasus website. All very bizarre.

Deneuve, born in 1943, became famous through her portrayal of beautiful ice maidens for directors such as Roman Polanski (Repulsion, 1965) and Luis Buñuel (Belle de Jour, 1967). After more than 40 years in the business, and 100 films, she’s still working (see IMDB). A Cesar award winner twice, she has also been nominated for both an Oscar and an Academy award. She has two children - a son (born in 1963) from her relationship with Roger Vadim, and a daughter (born in 1972) from her relationship with Marcello Mastroianni. A marriage to the photographer David Bailey lasted from 1965 to 1972.

In the book, Deneuve charts the shooting of films such The April Fools (1968), co-starring Jack Lemmon; Tristana (1969), directed by Bunuel; Indochine (1991); and Lars von Trier’s acclaimed Dancer in the Dark (1999), co-starring Bjork. There is also the text of an interview with the director Pascal Bonitzer.

Few reviews of the earlier editions appear to be available online. A short quote from The Observer is widely quoted: ‘Marvelously opaque diaries of the great French cineaste’ (but I can’t find the original). Freelance journalist, Marjorie R Asturias, who writes a blog called My Inner French Girl, loved the book. She says: ‘Not to knock Deneuve, but who would have guessed that aside from her ethereal beauty and formidable acting talent, she also possesses a sharp, poetic writing ability? Her prose is stark, beautiful, metaphoric, but not florid.’ A couple of reviewers on Amazon, however, found the book boring. One said ‘even her entries about filming with Buñuel are dry and rather boring’; and the other called the book ‘short and rather boring’.

Judge for yourself. Much of the book is available to read on Googlebooks, including the interview with Bonitzer, with whom she talks a little about the diaries themselves: ‘[They] are a thing apart. To start with, they’re very disjointed, in that I wrote some of them a long time ago, and, apart from one, all on foreign shoots, on films where I wasn’t overly busy, or surrounded by too many people. I wrote them mostly in the evenings, unless we had to film early the next morning, or during lunch breaks. . . I have to say it [writing diaries] began with a lonely, rather difficult time. Going to film abroad, so far from home, and knowing I was so eagerly awaited, because according to the papers, the Americans saw me as the most beautiful actress around . . . I tried not to think about it, but it was a lot of pressure.’

And here is one short diary extract from that early time in her career (while filming Tristana in 1969).

Monday 8 November
‘Difficult start today. . . I’m so aware of Buñuel’s irritation and impatience with the slightest setback that I become completely paralysed. Even though this shot shouldn’t be difficult, I can’t seem to break it down. He settles for three takes. Grim lunch at La Venta de los Aires, I feel like crying. When a shot goes badly, I feel like a useless subject. Totally useless, because my dialogue is of no interest to him, he’s not even listening. This will be a proper Spanish film, I’ll be dubbed, which I sometimes find hard to accept. One shot this afternoon, a bit better. My first really bad day.’

1 comment:

Adelaide Dupont said...

That they package previous books (the 2006/07 editions) is a disappointment, but I like the idea of this book on GoogleBooks.

From the extract you gave here, it could be worth reading!