An Interview With Catherine Deneuve

Catherine Deneuve on her new film, A Christmas Tale, and her long, glorious non-career

It's very difficult for an actress in America, it's true, to find interesting parts after a certain age. I'm sure even some actresses that I like very much, like Meryl Streep...maybe she has to read more scripts, but she does very interesting films. It's not as difficult in Europe, because men have a more mature relationship toward women — an older woman, a grown-up woman, a mature woman. I think in America, it's like in The Graduate, you know? A mature woman and a young man is something still very taboo. There are a lot of taboos about things like that in America.

You actually appeared in two movies in the Official Selection at Cannes this year: A Christmas Tale and I Want to See, a very interesting film by co-directors Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige in which you play yourself — a famous French actress who travels to Lebanon for a charity event and asks to see the remnants of the 2006 war with Israel.

I thought it was a very good idea, and that's why I accepted to do it. It was supposed to be a twenty-minute film. There were no [scripted] dialogues. And after a week of shooting, they started editing the film, and they saw they had a lot of material and maybe they should try to make a longer film. That's how it happened.

Catherine Deneuve shines, as usual, in A Christmas Tale.
Jean-Claude Lother - Why Not Productions
Catherine Deneuve shines, as usual, in A Christmas Tale.

The film seems to come from a place of genuine concern, whereas a lot of the images we see in the media of celebrities traveling to war-torn corners of the world feel somewhat self-serving.

You think so? I am sure that most of the time the people who do it are honest about wanting to see what really happens in those places. I know sometimes it can be taken another way — it depends how you accept to be photographed in those situations. But I'm sure most of the people who take their own time to go there and see how people live, how children are treated.... I think when George Clooney goes to the Sudan, he's doing it to show something to American people who don't seem to be aware of the situation there. He feels very concerned, but he does it not to prove something about himself, but to make a statement about a situation.

Also in Cannes, you received a somewhat odd "special" prize from the jury that was said to be for your performance in A Christmas Tale, but also an acknowledgment of your career in cinema. What was your reaction to that?

They called me on Sunday, four hours before [the awards ceremony]. They said I had to come, that there was something for me. My first reaction was to say, "What do you mean?" I mean, it was one o'clock in the afternoon, and I was in the country! In the end, everything worked out well to go there. But it was a mixed feeling, because Arnaud's film was in competition, and I had the impression that this was a way to sort of give something to the film they couldn't give it officially. Some people on the jury probably disagreed on the film, and finally that was the way to deal with it. That's why, when I made my speech, everything was related to the film of Arnaud. I really give everything to A Christmas Tale.

You've been in movies now for fifty years, and you are still making, on average, two to three films per year. What keeps it fresh for you?

I find cinema still very interesting. For me, to see a film, and to see a film and to be shown a story with actors that I like or actors that I don't know, it's always a discovery. I'm a great fan of films, and I still go to see films in theaters. Even when I'm working, I try to see films. It's a desire, and it's something very important in my life. It's still something that I'm looking for, you know? It's like listening to music — it's part of my life.

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