Monday, March 9, 2009
Monday, 9 March '09: French chic with Fanny Ardant
France's gallery of great actresses and beautiful women is well-stocked. Who would you choose as the eiptome of chic, intelligence and talent? I vote for Fanny Ardant with her flashing black eyes, statuesque build and that attractively over-large mouth. I first encountered Fanny Ardant in the 80's starring in a poignant television mini-series, Women of the coast (English sub-titles) about four women from Normandy and their loves during the horrific vagaries of the Great War. The scene of a berefit Fanny wandering along the grey, wet sands of the Normandy beaches is etched in my imagination. It was in this series that Fanny caught the eye of the great French film maker, Francois Traffaut. Traffaut commented that Fanny was "a woman who makes you think of a woman from another country, without knowing quite which one". He gave Fanny her first big role. She became his companion and the mother of their daughter, Francois, giving birth to her just before Traffaut's death in 1984.
On a Saturday afternoon in 1996 Richard and I enjoyed re-discovering Fanny at the art movie house in Rosebank, Johannesburg in a bitingly witty movie: Ridicule set in the decadent Court of Versailles. Most of you would have seen Fanny as the decidedly wicked Mary of Guise in Elizabeth and, of course, as an elegant and tragic Maria Callas in Callas forever..
Perhaps you have also seen the comedy cum drama: 8 women where Fanny took her place with seven other famous French actresses, like Catherine Deneuve and Isabella Huppert. Set in a snow bound mansion in the 1950's the only man in the house is murdered. Which of the eight women, each with a motive, is to blame? Humour is culturally defined and I found the movie quirky but not side-achingly funny.
Said Traffaut, "I recognised in Fanny Ardant the qualities I generally look for in the female protagonists of my films: courage, enthusiasm, humour, strength but, on the other hand, secrecy, a cruel, wild side and above all something throbbing, alive."
Why don't you try an Ardant movie this weekend?