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AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival October 30- November 7, 2009
Check our coverage on from Martha and Mark Halperin


AFIFEST Tribute to Catherine Deneuve: Lessons in beauty and elegance

As Jordan Peimer said in his introduction to the Tribute to Catherine Deneuve on Saturday evening, it's hard to think of anyone who epitomizes beauty and elegance more.

Peimer, the Director of Cultural Programming for the Skirball Cultural Center, started off the night of clips from Deneuve's career and remembrances from the great French actress herself.

A spectacular montage of Deneuve's over 100 films set up moderator and Los Angeles Times film critic Ken Turan's job of guiding the audience through her career. But she didn't need the help. In a black pantsuit and looking remarkable for an actress of her age, Deneuve talked openly about her early experiences, work with famous directors, and her recent work on PERSEPOLIS, which screens at AFI FEST.

"I thought I would like to do an animated film," she said of Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parranoud's story about a girl who grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. "It's a chance to act with the voice and not be concerned with the physical parts of acting."

"I knew the book, and what really impressed me was how she was able to take such a simple film and tell a touching story and be political. I love it."

Deneuve's list of films is impressive, but it doesn't seem to her like she's been in more than a hundred, she said, because she started very young.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to be an actress. My mother was a stage actress, and my father did a few films. My sister was an actress. I was a dreamer more than anything. I didn't know what I wanted to do."

She said she knew early in her career that she got parts "because of the way I looked" and not because of her acting. "But at some point, I wanted more."

She ended up working in films like THE UMBRELLA OF CHERBOURG with director Jaques Demy, who she said "was always making films for himself. He started very young and he was a very shy person. He made musicals because of the happiness and joy. He was a very special and original person.

"It's one of the only films I still know by heart, because we had to learn all the lines for it beforehand."

She met Roman Polansky a little later and made REPULSION. She said she was taken by his strength and his personality. "He would speak to me in French. We got very close. He would put himself in my place and show me what he wanted."

Another director she shares a special relationship with is Luis Bunuel, with whom she made BELLE DE JOUR and TRISTANA.

"Our relationship was better on the 2nd film than the first," she said. When the two made TRISTANA there was a scene where the director wanted a close up of her leg shot from below a balcony. "He was standing below looking up at the shot, and he told me, 'Please, no psychology.'"

And then there's Francois Truffaut, "The greatest French director for me," she said. "I remember one day while shooting LAST METRO that I was having trouble with a scene. I couldn't figure it out, so I told him 'I can't go from this "place" to this "place." It doesn't make sense.' And he told me, 'That's why we hire actors instead of normal people.'"

There was one director that didn't make quite the right impression, however. She described working on Frances Ozon's 8 WOMEN as "being in a very nice army."

"We were a lot of women on one set, but the relationship with the director was a little difficult. I do like the result though."

So even when she had something not-so-nice to say, she knows how to avoid uncomfortable situations. And if you want to know how she does it - and how she lives with herself - she'll tell you:

"You have to look at yourself every day. You have to wake up with yourself every day. You have to live with yourself every day."

AFI Daily News Editor



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