Although she has only made a handful of English-language films, Catherine Deneuve is one of cinema's most instantly recognisable faces. Sixty-three years after she made her screen debut, she continues to give compelling performances. Allow Cinema Paradiso to help you get to know her better.
For many, Catherine Deneuve is the face of France. Indeed, between 1985-89, she was literally that, as she followed Brigitte Bardot in being the model for Marianne, the spirit of liberty whose likeness adorns coins and stamps. Busts and portraits of Deneuve were sent to 30,000 town halls nationwide, while she featured in countless glossy magazines as the epitome of Gallic chic.
But judging Deneuve on appearances is a fatal error. The 14-time César nominee is one of the finest performers in the history of French cinema. In discussing her unique acting style, François Truffaut wrote: 'Catherine isn't a flower. A woman, a flower, those are silly. Even less a bouquet. Catherine is a vase, in which the audience places the bouquet.'
She considers herself a blank page on which a director etches a character. In this regard, she shares Greta Garbo's air of inscrutability and Grace Kelly's coolness. Yet, while one critic could eulogise that 'she remains apparently remote, calm, moving to a private rhythm, occupied with thoughts uniquely her own', the great Manny Farber was so frustrated by her detached impassivity that he dubbed her 'Catherine Deadnerve'.
The Film Dubbers' Daughter
Cathérine Fabienne Dorléac was born in Paris on 22 October 1943. Both her parents were actors and had met at a dubbing studio. Maurice Dorléac had taken small roles in films like Sacha Guitry's Let's Go Up the Champs-Elysees (1938), while voicing Hollywood stars like Franchot Tone in Frank Lloyd's Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and Humphrey Bogart in Michael Curtiz's Angels With Dirty Faces (1938). Having started acting at the age of seven, Renee Deneuve was already a stage star under the name Renée Simonot by the time talkies arrived in France in 1929. She was one of the first theatrical actresses to dub American films and counted Sylvia Sidney, Judy Garland, Esther Williams and Olivia De Havilland, among her regulars. Amazingly, Renée (108) is still with us and long may she remain so.
By the time they met, Dorléac was divorced from Marcelle Faure, while Deneuve had a daughter, Danielle, from her relationship with actor Aimé Clariond. She would have three more girls with her husband: Françoise, Catherine and Sylvie. Paris was under Occupation during this period and Dorléac had broadcast frequently on Radio-Paris under the auspices of the Propaganda Abteilung in Frankreich. He also narrated Georges Rouquier's propaganda short, Wheelwright, as well as appearing in such classic features as Christian-Jacques's La Symphonie fantastique (both 1942).
Bertrand Tavernier gives an excellent insight into how the Nazis used Continental Films to control French screen output in Laissez-Passer (2001). Despite being among those to be cited under the 'Indignité nationale' law after the Liberation, Dorléac was able to resume his stage career. Moreover, he went on regularly to dub Alan Ladd and Cary Grant.
Back in postwar Paris, however, the Dorléac girls rarely got to go to the cinema. Yet, while Catherine was completing her schooling at the Catholic École Lamazou and Lycée La Fontaine, both Françoise and Sylvie started following in their parents' footsteps. Indeed, when Sylvie heard director André Hunebelle mention that he needed a certain type to fill a minor role in his school drama, The Twilight Girls, she immediately suggested Catherine. As she had nothing better to do during the summer holidays, the 13 year-old took the part under her own name and later appeared as Catherine Deneuve alongside Françoise in Michel Fermaud and Jacques Poitrenaud's The Door Slams (1960).
'I wasn't sure I would really be an actress,' Deneuve later confessed. 'It all happened by accident.' Indeed, her interest in cinema owed more to the fact that her boyfriend was a film buff, who took her to see pictures like Sergei Eisenstein's two-part Ivan the Terrible (1944-46) and Byron Haskin's The Naked Jungle (1954). The man in question was Roger Vadim, who had made a star of Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman (1956). Deneuve dyed her hair blonde 'as an act of love' and he repaid the gesture by finding her prominent roles in Vice and Virtue and Grisha Dabat's And Satan Calls the Turns (both 1962), which Vadim wrote and produced.
Around this period, however, Deneuve embarked upon what would prove to be a lifelong liaison with rock star Johnny Hallyday, after they were teamed in 'Sophie', the Marc Allégret-directed segment of the portmanteau picture, Tales of Paris (1962). The nouvelle vague was in full swing by this time and Deneuve made Portuguese Vacation (1963) with Pierre Kast, who had worked at Cahiers du Cinéma alongside such auteurs as François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, who directed Deneuve while she was pregnant with Christian Vadim in 'The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower', an episode in The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers (1964), which also contained contributions by Jean-Luc Godard and Roman Polanski.
The Sixties Sphinx
It was Maurice Dorléac who compared his middle daughter to the Sphinx. 'Even when she was little, she kept her secrets,' he said in 1966 in suggesting that it was often difficult to know what was going on in her mind. The showbiz paper, Variety, claimed her face was made out of inexpressive alabaster. Yet Jacques Demy saw something in Deneuve while watching Jacques-Gérard Cornu's The Ladies Man (1960) that convinced him she was perfect for his all-singing drama, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964). Indeed, he was so certain that Deneuve had star potential that he postponed filming when she announced she was pregnant and resumed production two months after she had given birth.
Scored by Michel Legrand, the story centres on 16 year old Normandy shopgirl, Geneviève Emery (Deneuve), whose mother (Anne Vernon) persuades her to marry jeweller Roland Cassard (Marc Michel) after mechanic Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo) is drafted for the Algerian War without knowing that Geneviève is carrying his child. Thanks to production designer Bernard Evein and costumier Jacqueline Moreau, the picture looked immaculate and Deneuve was so spellbinding that nobody cared she was lip-synching to Danielle Licari's vocals.
Having won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards and Deneuve became an overnight sensation. 'Everything changed when I met Jacques Demy,' she has since revealed. 'Acting was not just doing a film, but being involved in another world. Instead of just dreaming about what it might like to be someone else, it was being able to really fly away and into another character, and experiencing emotions you might not be able to.' She was realistic enough to know, however, 'if the film hadn't done well, I think it would have been a different story'. But The Umbrellas of Cherbourg 'confirmed that the most important thing was to do the things you want to do with people you trust and whose ideas don't seem too conventional to you. For me, something truly shifted when I worked with Jacques. Something profound happened around the relationship you can have with a film.'
As if to prove that she was going to be guided by the quality of the script and the reputation of her director, Deneuve followed a pairing with her sister Françoise in Édouard Molinaro's Man Hunt (1964) by accepting the role of Belgian manicurist Carol Ledoux in Roman Polanski's English-language chiller, Repulsion (1965). Arriving in London to stay with her sister, Helen (Yvonne Furneaux), the introverted Carol fights shy of would-be suitor, Colin (John Fraser). But the persistent leering of Helen's boyfriend, Michael (Ian Hendry), tips the visitor over the edge.
Rather crassly, Polanski had declared that Deneuve looked like a sexy professional virgin and he similarly pushed Françoise Dorléac in the direction of madness alongside Donald Pleasence in a Northumberland castle in Cul-de-Sac (1966). Deneuve enjoyed Polanski's perfectionism and his meticulous direction. But they have not worked together since, while Jean-Paul Rappeneau has been a regular collaborator since he cast her as furtive war hero Philippe Noiret's disapproving wife in A Matter of Resistance (1966).
Deneuve hooked up with seven-time co-star Michel Piccoli for the first time in Agnès Varda's difficult to see 1966 drama, Les Créatures, in which she plays a wife who loses the power of speech after being involved in a car crash. Varda offered some intriguing insights into the project in The Beaches of Agnès (2008). But, under the tutelage of her husband, Deneuve was in more animated form alongside Françoise Dorléac in Jacques Demy's The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). Intended as a tribute to the golden age of the MGM musical, the film featured a guest turn from Gene Kelly as Andy Miller, an American concert pianist who fetches up in the seaside café owned by Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux), whose twin daughters, Délphine (Deneuve) and Solonge (Dorléac), give dance and music lessons.
This time, Anne Germain provided Deneuve's singing voice and the sheer elation of her dance sequences with her sibling is infectious. Tragically, however, it proved to be their final collaboration, as the 25 year-old Dorléac was killed in a car crash on 26 June. Among her other films available from Cinema Paradiso are François Truffaut's La Peau douce (1964), Henry Levin's Genghis Khan (1965) and Ken Russell's Billion Dollar Brain (1967).
The shocking incident occurred just a few weeks after the release of Deneuve's most daring outing to date. Novelist Joseph Kessel had insisted that she was cast as Séverine Serizy in Luis Buñuel's adaptation of his 1928 tome, Belle de Jour (1967). As the wife of Dr Pierre Serizy (Jean Sorel), Séverine seems to have it all. But she craves the excitement of working at the Parisian bordello run by Madame Anaïs (Geneviève Page) and her cosy existence comes under dual threat when she becomes obsessed with gangster Marcel (Pierre Clémenti) and family friend Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) discovers her afternoon secret.
Dressed by Yves St Laurent to deport herself around Robert Clavel's stylishly oppressive sets, Deneuve initially struggled with the fact that Buñuel gave his actors such little direction. But she relied on her patented brand of sensual aloofness to create a character whose emotions were seething beneath her placid exterior. She received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress, only to lose out to Katharine Hepburn for her work in both Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) and Anthony Harvey's The Lion in Winter (1968).
Having directed her sister in Tonight or Never (1961) and Adorable Liar (1962), Michel Deville cast Deneuve as an 18th-century virgin in Benjamin, a bawdy romp in which she seeks to seduce Pierre Clémenti when he comes to visit aunt and uncle Michèle Morgan and Michel Piccoli. There was more sexual scheming in Jean Aurel's Manon 70, an updating of Abbé Prévost's celebrated novel, Manon Lescaut, which sees Deneuve's amoral free spirit trying to resist the efforts of brother Jean-Claude Brialy to live off her dalliances with journalist Sami Frey and wealthy American, Robert Webber. The romantic dalliance was doomed from the outset, as Deneuve and Omar Sharif were paired as Maria Vetsera and Crown Prince Rudolf in Terence Young's Mayerling, while Michel Piccoli's patience is rewarded in his pursuit of Deneuve's wayward waif in Alain Cavalier's take on Françoise Sagan's La Chamade (all 1968), for which her wardrobe was again supplied by YSL.
Hollywood had been monitoring Deneuve for half a decade, but she had enough on her plate raising a son with new husband, photographer David Bailey, whose romance with supermodel Jean Shrimpton is the subject of John McKay's biopic, We'll Take Manhattan (2012). The inspiration for Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966), Bailey was a major figure in Swinging London. Deneuve was seemingly content to hop across the Channel whenever an assignment came up, as she resisted accepting unworthy projects for the sake of making it to the world's film capital. It's odd, therefore, that she eventually plumped for such an underwhelming item as Stuart Rosenberg's The April Fools (1969), which sees her abandon horrid husband Peter Lawford for the equally unhappily married, but much nicer Jack Lemmon.
Deneuve's final feature of her breakthrough decade was more rewarding, however, as Mississippi Mermaid (1969) gave her the chance to work with two icons of the nouvelle vague, François Truffaut and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Adapted from Waltz into Darkness, which Cornell Woolrich wrote under the name William Irish, the story centres on Marion Vergano, who arrives on Louis Mahé's Réunion Island tobacco plantation in the guise of Julie Roussel, the Parisian with whom he has been conducting a romantic correspondence.
Truffaut and Dorléac had been lovers while making La Peau douce and Deneuve became very close to him during the location shoot of this dark fairytale, when he used to write dialogue at night and slip the pages under the cast's hotel doors. You don't need to have seen Kent Jones's Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015) to deduce that the Frenchman was a devoted admirer of his British counterpart, especially if you've seen Jeanne Moreau in The Bride Wore Black (1967), which, like Hitch's Rear Window (1954), was derived from a Woolrich novel. Intriguingly, shortly before he died in 1980, Hitchcock had lunched with Deneuve over the prospect of her headlining The Short Night, an adaptation of the spy thriller that Ronald Kirkbride had been based on the life of a double agent, George Blake. Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen were being considered for her co-star, although Hitch also had Liv Ullmann in mind for the female lead.
The Reluctant Ice Queen
Deneuve had no hesitation in reuniting with Luis Buñuel and has since stated that she prefers Tristana (1970) to Belle de Jour. Adapted from a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós, the action takes place in 1920s Toledo and centres on the relationships between Tristana (Deneuve), her guardian, Don Lope (Fernando Rey) and artist Horacio (Franco Nero). During filming, Deneuve suggested that she played the anti-heroine like the Wicked Queen in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), as she shifts from innocence and joy to despair and bitterness.
The balcony scene reinforced Deneuve's reputation as an 'ice queen'. Indeed, Hitchcock wrote a fan letter to Buñuel to congratulate him on the shot. But she has never liked the tag: 'I am shocked when people talk about me and sum me up as: blonde, cold, and solemn. People will cling on to whatever reinforces their own assumptions about a person.' Perhaps that's why she chose Jacques Demy's Donkey Skin (1970), as her next assignment. Based on the Charles Perrault fairytale, the story required her to play both mother and daughter, as king Jean Marais promises his dying wife that he will only marry a woman who matches her beauty. Despite boasting another Michel Legrand song score and featuring Delphine Seyrig as the Lilac Fairy, the film didn't quite live up to expectations. And the same is true of Deneuve's final collaboration with Demy, A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973), in which she played the hairdresser fiancée of driving instructor Marcello Mastroianni, who blames becoming pregnant on the hormones fed to the chicken served up by his landlady.
Deneuve had met Mastroianni while making her first film with a woman director, Nadine Trintignant's It Only Happens to Others (1971), in which they had played parents mourning the loss of an unborn child. In fact, the couple welcomed Chiara Mastroianni into the world on 28 May 1972, by which time they had also co-starred in Liza (1972), a Corsican island love story that was directed by Italian Marco Ferreri, who also teamed them (alongside Michel Piccoli) in Don't Touch the White Woman! (1974), which cast Deneuve as Marie-Hélène de Boismonfrais in an absurdist re-staging of Custer's Land Stand in modern Paris.
In between times, Deneuve had been given the femme fatale role in Un Flic (1972), the third of Alain Delon's outings for Jean-Pierre Melville. Torn between Delon's Parisian police commissioner and his gangster buddy, Richard Crenna, Deneuve exudes elegant immorality, as she plays the men off against each other. This would be Melville's final feature, while The Woman With Red Boots (1974) would be the third directed by Luis Buñuel's son, Juan Luis. Unfortunately, like a lot of Deneuve's films from this period - including Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Lovers Like Us (1975), for which she earned a César nomination opposite Yves Montand - it is not currently available in the UK.
Cinema Paradiso users can enjoy, however, two of Deneuve's rare excursions to Hollywood. In Robert Aldrich's Hustle (1975), she plays Nicole, the call girl lover of Los Angeles cop Phil Gaines (Burt Reynolds), who informs him and partner Louis Belgrave (Paul Winfield) that a girl whose body has been found on a beach did not commit suicide. Despite being superficially mismatched, Reynolds and Deneuve have an unforced chemistry, as they dream of starting afresh in a Mediterranean hideaway. However, she was essentially consigned to a supporting role in Dick Richards's March or Die (1977), which was set in the last days of the Great War and saw Deneuve forge an attachment with Terence Hill, a member of Gene Hackman's Foreign Legion unit that has been detailed to protect archaeologist Max von Sydow's desert expedition from Ian Holm's Rif rebels.
Disillusioned with the American way of doing things, Deneuve opted to shuttle between France and Italy, as she continued her policy of working with film-makers who intrigued her. Between the Claude Lelouch pictures, If I Had to Do It All Over Again (1976) and Us Two (1979), for example, she made Dino Risi's The Forbidden Room and Sergio Citti's Beach House (both 1977), the latter of which featured a young Jodie Foster. She also teamed twice with Jean-Louis Trintignant on Act of Aggression (1975) and Other People's Money (1978). But her hopes of reuniting with Philippe Noiret on Robert Enrico's Coup de foudre, which was announced as the most expensive French film of all time, were dashed when the money ran out. Consequently, Deneuve ended a decade with as many misses as hits with Yves Robert's Courage fuyons and Hugo Santiago's Écoute voir (both 1979), which many observers rank among her most curious credits, as she respectively played a second-rate chanteuse and a bisexual shamus.
At the Prolific Peak of Her Powers
In 1980, Deneuve won the César for Best Actress for playing Marion Steiner in François Truffaut's The Last Metro. The film converted 10 of its 12 nominations, while Deneuve also received Italy's prestigious David di Donatello Award for a performance of solemn sensitivity as the wife of a Jewish stage director who tries to keep the Théâtre Montmartre running in Nazi-occupied Paris, while hiding husband Lucas (Heinz Bennet) in the basement and striving to prevent anyone from discovering that new actor Bernard Granger (Gérard Depardieu) is a member of the Resistance. Somewhat frustratingly, an outpouring of Glasnost optimism swept Vladimir Menshkov's Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in a field that also included Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha and István Szabó's Confidence.
The award nominations kept coming at regular intervals during the 1980s, with Deneuve landing César nods for Jean-Pierre Mock's Agent Trouble (1987) either side of the André Téchiné dramas, Hotel America (1981) and A Strange Place to Meet (1988). Also responsible for Scene of the Crime (1988), he would become one of Deneuve's favourite film-makers, along with Alain Corenau, who directed her in Choice of Arms (1981) and Fort Saganne (1984), which each co-starred Gérard Depardieu, who had also figured A Strange Place to Meet, which had marked Deneuve's bow as a producer. Despite the stellar pairing, however, none of these films is available on disc in the UK and, annoyingly for Cinema Paradiso users, neither are Claude Berri's Je vois aime (1980), Philippe de Broca's L'Africain (1983) and Mario Monicelli's Let's Hope It's a Girl (1986), which teamed Deneuve with Philippe Noiret and Liv Ullmann.
Such is the extensive nature of the Cinema Paradiso collection, however, that it is possible to see Deneuve in Adrian Marben's 1988 documentary, Helmut Newton: Frames From the Edge, and watch her perform a duet on 'Dieu fumeur de havanes' with the mercurial subject of the 1989 musical anthology, Serge Gainsbourg: D'autres Nouvelles Des E'toiles. More importantly, users can relish Deneuve's performance alongside another musical icon, David Bowie, in Tony Scott's erotic classic, The Hunger (1983). Susan Sarandon co-stars as Sarah Roberts, the doctor to whom cellist John Blaylock turns when he realises that the promise made back in the 18th century by his vampire partner Miriam meant eternal life rather than unending youth. Sarandon discusses her love scenes with the impossibly elegant Deneuve in Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein's pioneering study of LGBTQ+ themes on screen, The Celluloid Closet (1995).
Unsurprisingly after such a cult hit, offers tumbled in for Deneuve to make more films in English. But, as she told one interviewer: 'The truth is, no one in Hollywood has offered me films or American scripts that have seemed particularly thrilling or interesting to me. Some have perhaps been important roles on paper, in terms of screen time or the cast, but neither the film nor the director has interested me much. I'm not going to do films in English that I wouldn't do in French just because they'd be for Hollywood.' Instead, she remained in France and became something of an actor auteur, as she very much shaped her own artistic destiny by only selecting pictures that and directors who piqued her interest.
Among the latter was Régis Wargnier, who provided Deneuve with roles that bookended the 1990s. In addition to earning her a second César, Indochine (1992) also brought Deneuve her sole Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance as Éliane Devries, the plantation owner in 1930s French Indochina who vows to prevent adopted daughter Camille (Linh Ðan Pham) from marrying her discarded naval lieutenant lover, Jean-Baptiste Le Guen (Vincent Pérez). Six years after winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Wargnier would cast Deneuve in East/West (1999), as Gabrielle Develay, the French actress performing in Kiev who offers to help compatriot Marie (Sandrine Bonnaire) and her doctor husband, Alexei Golovin (Oleg Menshikov), escape from the Soviet Union after they are duped into returning during a postwar Stalinist amnesty.
Deneuve scaled back her commitments during the decade and the capricious nature of British distribution prevents Cinema Paradiso from offering such excellent films as Agnès Varda's One Hundred and One Nights, Manoel de Oliveira's The Convent (both 1995) and Raúl Ruiz's Genealogies of a Crime 1997), and André Téchiné's Les Voleurs (1996) is also missing. But it's possible to see the same director's compelling drama, My Favourite Season (1993), which brought Deneuve another César nomination for partnering Daniel Auteuil as estranged siblings who spend Christmas together with their ailing mother. But what made this project all the more special is that it earned Chiara Mastroianni a Best Supporting César nomination on debut. The following year, she also had the pleasure of acting with her father and Sophia Loren in Robert Altman's Prêt-à-Porter (1994).
As for Deneuve, she received another César citation for her intense display as Marianne Malivert in Nicole Garcia's Place Vendôme (1998). Rousing herself from the alcoholic stupor in which she had spent the last years of her marriage, Marianne decides to extricate herself from the debt into which her shifty jeweller husband has landed her by cutting a deal for the five stolen diamonds she finds in his safe. She is splendidly supported by Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jacques Dutronc and Emmanuel Seigner, but Deneuve draws on her inner Elizabeth Taylor to dominate with a display that earned her the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival.
Having appeared in his 1997 short, Sans titre, Deneuve next reunited with Leos Carax for Pola X (1999), a reworking of Herman Melville's Pierre, or The Ambiguities that sees Marie (Deneuve) hide from her son, Pierre (Guillaume Dépardieu) the fact that he has an illegitimate sister, Isabelle (Yekaterina Golubeva). Further dark deeds enveloped Deneuve in Philippe Garrel's Le Vent de la nuit, while she teamed with the Egyptian-born Gabriel Aghion for the first time on Belle maman (1999). He would also direct her cameo in Absolument fabuleux (2001), the French version of Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2012), which starred Josiane Balasko and Nathalie Baye as Eddie and Patsy. She resumed her customary regality as onetime courtesan Odette de Crécy in Time Regained (1999), Raúl Ruiz's masterly adaptation of the last volume of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, which cast Emmanuelle Béart as Odette's flirtatious daughter, Gilberte, and Chiara Mastroianni as the author's heartbroken sweetheart, Albertine.
La Grande Dame Sans Merci
At a time when many Hollywood actresses of a similar age were starting to complain about the dearth of decent roles, Deneuve continued to go from strength to strength, as, despite her looks, she had positioned herself as an artist rather than a star. As she told one interviewer in claiming that her beauty had always been a burden: 'I wouldn't want to be a young actress today. They are not allowed to be individual...They all have to look the same, like Barbie dolls.'
Consequently, film-makers have tailored roles to her presence and persona rather than simply her appearance. After Deneuve had contacted him after seeing Breaking the Waves (1996), Danish provocateur Lars von Trier saw her as the perfect foil for Icelandic singer Björk in Dancer in the Dark (2000), who had been cast as mid-60s Czech immigrant, Selma Ježková, Indeed, he rewrote the role of Kathy (who had originally been African-American) to suit Deneuve, as she tries to help Selma overcome her gradual sight loss by describing the classic musicals they see together at the local picturehouse.
François Ozon went a decade further back for the setting of 8 Women (2002), a song-filled adaptation of Robert Thomas's 1958 stage whodunit that teamed Deneuve with the cream of French female talent, as Danielle Darrieux, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier and Firmine Richard all come under suspicion after Deneuve's husband is murdered shortly before Christmas. Winners of a special award at the Berlin Film Festival, the ensemble excels, as Ozon amuses himself by referencing such Hollywood titans as George Cukor, Vincente Minnelli, Douglas Sirk and Alfred Hitchcock. Yet, while it was nominated for 12 Césars, this irresistible piece of knowing kitsch didn't win a single award.
Prior to this, Deneuve had returned Stateside and looked suitably queenly as Anne of Austria in The Musketeer, Peter Hyams's reworking of Alexandre Dumas's swashbuckling classic. She had also provided deft support to Michel Piccoli, as an actor miscast in director John Malkovich's adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses in 93 year-old Manoel de Oliveira's I'm Going Home (both 2001). She would reunite with the Portuguese auteur one last time on A Talking Picture (2003), as she ventured on to the small screen for the first time to play Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in Josée Dayan's take on Les Liaisons dangereuses (2003) and Marie Bonaparte in Benoît Jacquot's Princesse Marie (2004). Fittingly, she would be cast as Catherine the Great in Yannis Smaragdis's The Pirate before she spoofed her imperious image as Queen Cordelia alongside Édouard Baer and Gérard Depardieu in Laurent Tirard's Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia (both 2012), which, somewhat ridiculously, has never been released in this country.
Amidst this flurry of TV work, Deneuve also managed a guest slot in the 'Diane Lubey' episode of Ryan Murphy's Nip/Tuck (2006). As esteemed critic Roger Ebert wondered, however, 'Has there ever been an actress in the history of the movies who has changed as little and aged as slowly as Catherine Deneuve?' In 2001, she was chosen as the face of L'Oréal Paris and she paid tribute to her favourite couturier in Olivier Meyrou's Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections (2007). Indeed, as befits such an enduring icon, Deneuve has been much sought after in recent times for such diverse actualities as Marina Zenovich's Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008) and Laurent Bouzereau's Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (2011), Pierre Thoretton's True Love (again about YSL), Richard Press's Bill Cunningham New York (both 2010), the Nucleus Films trailer compilation, Fifty Shades of Erotica (2015) and Tom Volf's Maria By Callas (2017).
In 2007, Deneuve did her first voiceover work, when she co-starred with Chiara Mastroianni as Marjane's mother in Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's exceptional animated biopic, Persepolis. Either side of which, she forged a key partnership with director Arnaud Desplechin on Kings and Queen (2004) and A Christmas Tale (2008), which was her 100th feature. The former sees her cameo as Mme Vasset, the psychiatrist at the institution in which Mathieu Amalric is confined after his marriage to gallery manager Emmanuelle Devos breaks down. But Deneuve is very much to the fore in the latter, as domineering matriarch Junon Vuillard, who has ulterior motives for inviting resentful offspring Elizabeth (Anne Consigny), Henri (Mathieu Amalric) and Ivan (Melvil Poupaud) to the family home in Roubaix.
Once again, Chiara Mastroianni acted opposite against her mother as Ivan's wife, Sylvia. In 2004, Deneuve was reunited with another familiar face in André Téchiné's Changing Times, as engineer Gérard Depardieu arrives in Tangier to find the old flame with whom he still regrets losing touch after 30 years. In addition to seeing the publication of her film diaries, In My Own Shadow, the following year also brought a César nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work as the Dowager Queen Eugénia in Valérie Lemercier's courtly comedy, Palais royal! (2005). She was equally amusing in Laetitia Colombani's My Stars, in which she plays a screen diva alongside Emmanuelle Béart. But any thought that Deneuve was coasting on her celebrity were dismissed after she travelled to Lebanon to play the 'famous actress' being escorted around the bombsites of Beirut by actor Rabih Mroue in Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige's innovative and deeply affecting improvised drama, Je veux voir (both 2008).
Actual incidents have also inspired Deneuve's two most recent collaborations with André Téchiné. In The Girl on the Train (2009), she plays Louise Fabre, a widow whose day-care centre in a Parisian suburb is affected after her daughter, Jeanne (Emilie Dequenne), is subjected to anti-Semitic abuse on an RER train. Five years later, in In the Name of My Daughter, Deneuve took on the role of Renée Le Roux, the widowed casino owner who suspects that Nice lawyer Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet) is behind the disappearance of her daughter, Agnès (Adèle Haenel).
Another name to crop up regularly during Deneuve's career is that of Gérard Depardieu and they were paired again in François Ozon's Potiche (2010) and Florence Quentin's Nobody's Perfect (2017). The latter sees Depardieu flee his demanding in-laws to open a garage in a provincial village opposite the inn run by the enigmatic Deneuve. He also shows up unexpectedly in Ozon's witty adaptation of Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy's stage play of industrial manners, as the union leader who has come to co-ordinate the shopfloor protest after Deneuve takes over the running of feckless husband Fabrice Luchini's umbrella factory.
Such allusions to Deneuve's canon are almost inevitable, especially when she is teamed with Chiara Mastroianni, as she has been on four occasions over the last decade. Echoes of Jacques Demy can be heard throughout Beloved (2011), a bittersweet musical saga in which Véra (Mastroianni) tries to emerge from the shadows of her mother, Madeleine (Deneuve), who was working as a prostitute in the 1960s when she became pregnant following an encounter with a Czech doctor. Later the same year, the pair lined up alongside Isabelle Huppert and Michel Piccoli for cameos in Wellington, which stars John Malkovich as the Duke of Wellington waging the Peninsular War against Napoleon Bonaparte in a project that Valeria Sarmiento heroically completed on behalf of her late husband, Raúl Ruiz.
Deneuve again played Mastroianni's screen mother in Benoît Jacquot's Three Hearts (2014). However, when the latter develops a relationship with Benoît Poelvoorde, she is dismayed to discover that he cannot forget a brief encounter he once had with her sister, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Most recently, in Julie Bertuccelli's Claire Darling (2018), Mastroianni returns to her childhood home in the village of Verderonne for the first time in two decades when she hears that her mother has convinced herself that she only has a day to live and is intent on giving away all of her belongings.
The lawyer Deneuve plays in The Big Picture (2010) is also living on borrowed time and plans to turn her practice over to junior partner Romain Duris. But a murderous accident forces him to assume the identity of a photojournalist in Eric Lartigau's tense take on Douglas Kennedy's bestseller. More outrageously, with the world in the hands of God's mischievous daughter, Ea (Pili Groyne), downtrodden wife Martine (Deneuve) follows in the footsteps of Charlotte Rampling in Nagisa Oshima's Max My Love (1986) by indulging in a simian romance in Jaco Van Dormael's flamboyant comic parable, The Brand New Testament (2015).
Award nominations tend not to be handed out to actresses going ape. But Deneuve remains a serious contender and César nominations for Best Actress in the Emmanuelle Bercot duo of On My Way (2013) and Standing Tall (2015) formed part of a hat-trick of plaudits along with Pierre Salvadori's In the Courtyard (2014), in which Deneuve excels as Mathilde, the recently retired married woman from the top floor who forges a bond with fortysomething Antoine (Gustave Kervern) after he quits the music scene to become the new caretaker of her building.
Although she didn't receive any nominations for Martin Provost's The Midwife (2017) or Hirokazu Kore-eda's The Truth (2019), wise counsel rightly ruled that they contained two of Deneuve's finest recent performances. She is wonderfully paired with Catherine Frot in the former, as Béatrice Sobolevski, who reappears in the life of Claire Breton (Frot) three decades after she drove her brokenhearted father to suicide. Still self-centred and emotionally immature, Béatrice is genuinely sorry for causing Claire so much pain, only to become dependent upon her when she's diagnosed with a brain tumour. But Deneuve is even more magnificently matched with Juliette Binoche in Kore-eda's sly treatise on creativity and ego, as the forthcoming publication of screen siren Fabienne Dangeville's memoirs causes screenwriter daughter Lumir to fly back across the Atlantic with her actor husband, Hank (Ethan Hawke), because she has very different memories of her supposedly idyllic childhood.
In November 2019, Deneuve was hospitalised in Paris after suffering a minor stroke. She was still convalescing when the coronavirus pandemic struck. But she will return to French screens as Chantal de Bellabre in Hugo Benamozig and David Caviglioli's Guyana-set comedy, Terrible Jungle (2020), while she is due to resume work on Emmanuelle Bercot's In His Lifetime, in which she plays the concerned mother of the ailing Benoît Magimel. All being well, Deneuve and Bercot will soon reunite as mother and daughter in Cédric Kahn's Joyeux Anniversaire, in which a family reunion at a big house in the Loire Valley is derailed by an unpredictable outburst.