L'Histoire des blondes
Lire en Français
At the Astor Theatre Nov 4-6
Melburnians rejoice! A new French Film Festival is being launched by the Alliance française de Melbourne, dedicated to the classics of French cinema. For its debut year, the festival is screening five films from 1950-1970 which pay homage to blonde actresses who stand out in the history of cinema.
In Hollywood being blonde can be an indication of someone aristocratic, someone unobtainable. However it is far more commonly associated with the distinctive feature of a pretty girl who receives wolf-whistles in the street. The title ‘Les Blondes’ plays on the American cliché summed up in Howard Hawk’s masterpiece ‘Gentlemen prefer blondes’. However if Hollywood blondes are verging on deception in claiming to portray the feminine ideal, what about the blondes in French cinema where the commercial value of an actress does not boil down to her looks? Brigitte Bardot would have something to say in response! She is an actress who did not have the career of Mae West, Marilyn Monroe or even Lana Turner and furthermore had to face insults, threats and the wrath of the Vatican for her natural radiance, sexual charisma and the model of femininity that she portrayed.
Through five films and five actresses, you will discover that blondness is a natural characteristic that is the privilege of exceptional personalities. Blondness not only exudes beauty and elegance – common themes in French cinema – but is above all a sign of strength of character and power over others. It is the attribute of women who demand respect and equality from men. Watch out those who underestimate the blonde! Marie (Simone Signoret) throws us into working -class Paris of the Belle Epoque as she frees herself from the constraints of conventional society in order to obtain and then protect her chosen man against all odds. Rosalie (Romy Schneider) hiding behind her blonde fringe bleached by the summer sun is a woman whose freedom and independence are spell-binding. Maria (Brigitte Bardot) is an anarchist in a petticoat who plants bombs by day, dances and sings at night, all the while collecting men to add to her trophy case. With her androgynous allure and boyish haircut, Patricia (Jean Seberg) resists the advances, as best as she can, of a young criminal whilst maintaining for better or for worse, control over her destiny. Nelly (Catherine Deneuve) is yet another fearless woman who takes on a thuggish character so often assigned to the male role within the genre.
The Alliance Française Classic French Film Festival invites you to enter a world where blondes, who are neither easy nor gentle, neither icy nor ultra-sophisticated, stir up popular convention by their decision to question and share in the power of men.
By Michel Richard
Translated by Penny Matthews
Casque d’or by Jacques Becker (1952), starring Simone Signoret
A bout de souffle (Breathless) by Jean-Luc Godard (1960), starring Jean Seberg
Viva Maria! by Louis Malle (1965), starring Brigitte Bardot
César & Rosalie by Claude Sautet (1972), starring Romy Schneider
Le sauvage (Lovers like us) by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, starring Catherine Deneuve
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