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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 09:26 GMT
Deneuve's trouble with women
Catherine Deneuve
Deneuve has had a varied career
French screen icon Catherine Deneuve tells BBC News Online about working with seven other top French actresses and her approach to sex scenes as her acclaimed new movie 8 Women's premières in the UK.
Catherine Deneuve's on-screen and, arguably, off-screen history is intriguingly rummaged through in her latest movie 8 Women.

The movie, which has already enjoyed success in its native France ahead of its release, is the bizarre new film from subversive French auteur Francois Ozon, who previously directed Sitcom and Under the Sand.


I was very pleased not to have been right at the centre of attention

Catherine Deneuve

Deneuve has previously been seen singing on screen, as in Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

She has also been known to commit acts of violence, as in Roman Polanski's Repulsion. But this is probably the first time she has done both in the same film.

Sapphic scenes

Deneuve, 59, plays the part ice queen and part (ageing) sex kitten widow of an industrialist who is found stabbed to death at the start of the film.

Her country home is teeming with female members of her family, any one of whom could have done the dirty deed. It seems like a conventional Agatha Christie-like murder mystery is afoot.

French movie 8 women
The movie features some of France's most acclaimed actresses

However, this being an Ozon film, it features the crème de la crème of French actresses, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Beart and Virginie Ledoyen.

They kick up their heels in a camp series of song and dance routines, and plot twists involving incest and Sapphic revelations.

Attention-grabbing

Suggesting that egos must have clashed among this bevy of beauties elicits a sharp response from Deneuve.

"It always seems to be the men who say that," she says. "We formed a real group, we really did.

"Mr Ozon made sure that nobody was being favoured in any way. Personally, I was very pleased not to have been right at the centre of attention on the set."


Every time I see this film I realise that we're all to blame for something

Catherine Deneuve

Deneuve nevertheless has some of the more attention-grabbing moments.

A dispute between her and Fanny Ardant, playing her sister-in-law, begins with the actresses rolling on the ground before making up with a sensual kiss.

'Apprehension'

It is a moment Ozon believes will have especial appeal in America, where Deneuve is a gay icon because of horror movie The Hunger, where she plays a vampire feasting upon the blood of her lovers, male or female.

Despite her years of screen experience, Deneuve admits she was nervous about the scene, though not because she was required to kiss a woman on camera for the first time.

"There's always a lot of apprehension about these very physical scenes, whether it's with an actress or an actor," explains the star of Bunuel's S&M comedy, Belle de Jour.

"When you start touching each other physically, you're no longer protected by your words, by your gestures.

"It means leaving a part of my own intimacy with them, possibly more than I might be expected to give as an actress. It's very personal."

State of mind

Deneuve's controlling widow does not just loosen up sexually; she turns quite violent, too - never more so than when she breaks a bottle over another character's head.

It is a fun moment but for Deneuve it was difficult to do, because she is always concerned about her "victim's" welfare.

Still from 8 Women
Ledoyen and Beart are among the cast

"You had to make sure you hit in the right place, you had to be very careful, and you had to be in the right state of mind.

"It might look very easy when you see it on the screen but I can tell you, in real life, it is rather difficult."

For all her worries, Deneuve seems to have enjoyed making 8 Women - even if she does sometimes look as if she's wondering what she's got herself into.

She seems to suggest that despite the grappling and the broken bottle, the secret to the film is that kiss.

"Every time I see this film I realise that we're all to blame for something," she says.

"Like having loved too much. What I see most is a lot of love, a lot of which is being mishandled."

8 Women is released in the UK on 29 November.

See also:

01 Sep 02 | Entertainment
04 Oct 02 | Entertainment
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