Les parapluies de Cherbourg

  • Directors: Jacques Demy
  • Producers: Mag Bodard
  • Writers: Jacques Demy
  • Genres: Drama, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo

Madame Emery and her 17 year old daughter Geneviève (Deneuve) sell umbrellas at their little boutique in the coastal town of Cherbourg in Normandy, France. Geneviève is in love with 20 year old Guy (Castelnuovo), a handsome young auto mechanic who lives with and cares for his sickly aunt and godmother Elise along with her quiet, dedicated, care-giver, Madeleine (Ellen Farner), a young woman who clearly loves Guy. Subsequently, though, Guy is drafted, and must leave for a two-year tour of duty in the Algerian War. The night before he leaves, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant, and feels abandoned, as he does not write often. At her mother’s insistence, she marries thirtyish Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), a quietly handsome Parisian jeweler who falls in love with Geneviève and is willing to wed her, even though she is carrying another man’s child (Cassard had previously wooed the title character in Lola, only to be rejected once the father of her child returned—he relates an edited version of this story to Madame Emery with ill-concealed bitterness). The society wedding in a great cathedral shows Genevieve’s upward social and economic movement, but she does not seem at all happy with her situation, and clearly feels trapped.

The coda is set in December 1963, approximately six years after the earliest events. Guy is now managing the couple’s Esso station. He’s with his now upbeat and loving wife Madeleine and their little son François. It is Christmas Eve. Madeleine and François go for a short walk, leaving Guy briefly, after which a new Mercedes pulls in to the station. The mink-clad driver turns out to be a sophisticated, visibly wealthy Geneviève, accompanied by her (and Guy’s) daughter Françoise, who remains in the car. At first shocked to see each other, they go inside the station to talk, and Geneviève explains this is the first time she has returned to Cherbourg since her marriage, and she is only in town on a detour to Paris after picking her daughter up from Cassard’s mother in Anjou. Her fairly young mother is now dead. Her rich husband and child are the only family she has left. She has evidently had no children by Cassard. The two converse while Geneviève’s car is being filled with gas, and Geneviève asks Guy if he wants to meet their daughter. Without comment, and little reflection, he answers “no”, and this leads to their exchanging their final goodbyes. As the film ends, Guy greets his wife with a kiss and plays with his son.

Repulsion

  • Directors: Roman Polanski
  • Producers:
  • Writers: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach, David Stone
  • Genres: Thriller, Horror, Drama
  • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser

Carol (played by a 20-year-old Deneuve) is a young Belgian woman, who is both repelled and attracted by the idea of sex due to repressed memories. Timid and fragile, she lives in London with her sister Helen (Furneaux). When Helen leaves on a holiday to Italy with her married boyfriend (Hendry), Carol is left alone. Isolated at work too, she shuts herself up in their apartment, and becomes a slave of her own paranoid fears. As Carol becomes increasingly psychotic and unable to tell fantasy from reality, she begins to hallucinate. She violently kills a would-be suitor, Colin (Fraser), using a candlestick, and later the landlord (Patrick Wymark) who attempts to rape her. When her sister returns home, she finds Carol under her bed, catatonic, and only a shell of her former self.

At the end, Polanski shows a photograph of the young Carol, hinting at a childhood of sexual abuse, which would later resurface in Chinatown.

Dancer in the Dark

  • Directors: Lars von Trier
  • Producers:
  • Writers: Lars von Trier
  • Genres: Drama, Music
  • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Vladica Kostic, David Morse, Cara Seymour, Peter Stormare

The film is set in Washington State in 1964 and focuses on Selma Ježková (Björk), a Czech immigrant who has moved to the United States with her son, Gene Ježek (Kostic). They live a life of poverty as Selma works at a factory with her good friend Kathy, who she nicknames Cvalda (Deneuve). She rents a trailer home on the property of town policeman Bill Houston (Morse) and his wife Linda Houston (Seymour). She is also pursued by the shy but persistent Jeff (Stormare) who also works at the factory.

What no one in Selma’s life knows is that she has a hereditary degenerative disease which is gradually causing her to go blind. She has been saving up every penny that she makes (in a tin can in her kitchen) to pay for an operation which will prevent her young son from suffering the same fate.

To escape the misery of her daily life Selma accompanies Cvalda to the local cinema where together they watch fabulous Hollywood musicals (or more accurately, Selma listens as Cvalda describes them to her, to the aggravation of the other theater patrons, or acts out the dance steps upon Selma’s hand using her fingers). In her day-to-day life, when things are too boring or upsetting, Selma slips into daydreams or perhaps a trance-like state where she imagines the ordinary circumstances and individuals around her have erupted into elaborate musical theater numbers. These songs, as do many of Björk’s songs, use some sort of real life noise (from factory machines buzzing to the sound of a flag rapping against a flag pole in the wind) as an underlying rhythm.

Cvalda and Jeff eventually put the pieces of the puzzle together and get back Selma’s money, using it instead to pay for a trial lawyer who can free her. Selma becomes furious and refuses the lawyer, opting to face the death penalty rather than letting her son go blind. In the end Selma is hanged, after finding out that the operation went through and that Gene will see. Selma sings the final song of the movie on the gallows with no musical accompaniment, and after her death, a curtain is drawn in front of her body.

Persepolis

  • Directors: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
  • Producers:
  • Writers: Screenplay, Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, Comic Book, Marjane Satrapi
  • Genres: Animation, Biography, Drama, War
  • Actors: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian

The film begins in an airport where Marjane Satrapi is unable to board a plane to Iran. Sitting and smoking a cigarette, she remembers her life as a girl in 1979 with Marji at the age of 10, a young girl with dreams of being a prophet and an emulator of Bruce Lee. (The film is black and white during her memories). At this time, the general uprising against the US backed Shah of Iran begins and her middle class family participates with high hopes for a more just society. Meanwhile, Marji attempts to participate in her age’s point of view whether it is threatening the child of an unpopular government official, or competing for the greater childish prestige of having a relative who has been a political prisoner the longest time such as her communist Uncle Anouche.

Unfortunately, the hopes of the family are profoundly disappointed when Islamic Fundamentalists win the ensuing elections and force Iranian society into its own kind of repressive state, which ranges from forcing women to dress modestly including the Hijab, to rearresting and executing Anouche for his political beliefs. Profoundly disillusioned, Marji rejects her prophetic aspirations and tries with her family to fit into the reality of the intolerant regime. Even as both the horrors of the Iran-Iraq war and blatant injustices occur such as an unqualified government appointed hospital administrator refusing to help a critically ill relative go abroad for medical treatment and thus precipitating his death, the family tries to find some solace in secret parties where they can enjoy simple pleasures the government has outlawed, such as alcohol. However as she grows up, Marji refuses to stay out of trouble, secretly buying Western heavy metal music on the black market, wearing unorthodox clothing such a denim jacket celebrating punk rock with a Michael Jackson button, or openly rebutting a teacher’s lies about the abuses of the government.

Back to present day, Marji once again is unable to return to Iran, and she takes a taxi from the airport. When the driver asks where she is from, she sighs, “Iran”. Her final memory is of her grandmother telling her how she put jasmine in her brassiere to allow her to smell fresh every day.