Catherine Deneuve, in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) and Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967) and Tristana (1970), illuminates the screen with her signature ‘presence’ and in so doing, contributes greatly to making these films classics of global cinema. In no other of the dozen or so of her films I’ve seen is her signature so apparent. Why? In this post I will argue that these three films, each in its own way, was the occasion for a synergistic conjunction of woman, actress, screenplay, role and director, and as such generate an energy that makes the films as compelling today as they were at the time of their release.
Susanne Valerie Granzer, in her philosophical reflection on the art of acting (Actors and the Art of Performance: Under Exposure), writes: ‘Acting is sensuous, contradictory, performative and ecstatic. It thus always includes an incalculable, unpredictable moment, an increase of being. The result of a performance is not logical, but ontological. It cannot be summed up with arguments. Its character is more of an erotic nature. Desirable, coupled. Every performance is a copulation, a copula, an amour fou’. She defines ‘the distinctive eros of the actor’ as ‘the demonic, the erotic act of play that couples the canny with the uncanny’.
The actor’s art as demonic and erotic: this vision will inform my reflections on Catherine Deneuve as an actress.