Catherine Deneuve is an icon. She’s an icon to cinephiles, to fashionistas, and to lesbians. Her (continuing) career first began in the 1950s starting with small roles. Noted director Jacques Demy saw her in THE LADIES’ MAN and then cast her in THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG. The 1964 musical shot her to fame: a star, as they say, was born. Deneuve did some other films, notably THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL SWINDLERS (an anthology film in which her segment was directed by Claude Chabrol), until 1965, when Roman Polanski cast Deneuve in REPULSION. Polanski had had great success with his debut film KNIFE IN THE WATER but still had to find funding for his script (co-written by Gerard Brach). He finally scored a deal with Compton Pictures, a studio infamous for its soft-core pornography.
Repulsion – 1965 – dir. Roman Polanski
Few movie reviewing pleasures are as satisfying as being able to sing the praises of Catherine Deneuve. Even more stunning today than she was when she first burst onto international movie screens as a 60s vixen and sexpot, she is still working and continues to fascinate movie audiences around the world. It is impossible to believe she is almost 70 years old, so recently does her reign as France’s leading female star seem to have risen. No other French actress has taken her crown. Over the years, she has allowed some (Anna Karina, Genevieve Bujold, Juliette Binoche) to borrow it for a while, but even they knew it had to be given back, that it was only on loan. Deneuve, with her aloof translucence, her continental cool was and is an international force. Irresistibly beautiful on the outside, she also exudes within a searing intelligence and a dignity that places her on higher planes than those occupied by actresses who are merely pretty to look at. After decades of moviemaking, she remains France’s most delectable export. Like all the greatest movie stars, there is something eternal about Deneuve. Not only is she not of this world; she seems to exist beyond the world of cinema. When you die, you half-expect to find her in some corner of the Cosmos, holding court in rarefied air.