Your RDA of Irony

Les Irresistibles

 Imagine a film starring Olivia de Havilland, Eva Marie Saint, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel and Anne Hathaway.  If you can’t imagine it, then you obviously are not French.  Otherwise, you would have realized that I have somewhat plagiarized “8 Women”, a movie that showcases four generations of France’s leading actresses. 

La grande dame of this cast–the only one who has yet to do a nude scene–is Danielle Darrieux.  In the 1930s Charles Boyer and Jean-Pierre Aumont were killing themselves for her.  (Boyer in “Mayerling” because he couldn’t have her; Aumont in “Taras Bulba” because he did.)  Even in the 1950s she could drive Vitorio DeSica to his death in “The Earrings of Madame De”.  Now 92, she still could be a threat to Ernest Borgnine.

Darrieux plays the matriarch of a very dyfunctional family: adultery, murder, embezzlement, incest,and lesbianism are its typical day.  Yes, this is a comedy and a musical, too.  Playing her daughters–and the succeeding generation of French cinema–are Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert.  The sisters hate each other, and indeed the two actresses represent the divergent strands of French cinema.  The breathtaking Deneuve embodies (with some silicon) the traditional glamour of films.  The moody Huppert reflects the iconoclasm inspired by the New Wave.  Their respective careers personify the French cinema from the mid-Sixties through the Eighties.   

By the late Eighties, however,  neither Deneuve nor Huppert would have seemed plausible as a virginal farmgirl in “Manon of the Springs”.  So begins the career and era of Emmanuelle Beart.  In “8 Women” Beart portrays the scheming housemaid.   But it is now the 2000’s, and Mlle. Beart has had collagen treatments; so there must be a new generation of French beauties.  Playing the daughters of Catherine Deneuve are the current coquettes of le cinema:  Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier.  Mademoiselle Ledoyen usually plays a good girl “in trouble”, and Mademoiselle Sagnier’s characters seem to be more familiar with birth control.

So the assembled actresses represent seven decades of French cinema.  Does it matter if the film itself is silly?  Not with that cast; the gimmick is irresistible. 

p.s.  If you are counting the actresses in “8 Women”, the other two are Firmine Richard and Fanny Ardant.

p.p.s.  And here is the historic significance of this day:

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