It is there, still alive and throbbing. With this white scarf in her hair, her tanned complexion and her luminous gaze slightly tinged with melancholy. Forever in our memories, the Hélène of things of life, by Claude Sautet. It is to the actress who passed away too soon, at 43, and to the incredibly beautiful and free woman that La Cinémathèque française has chosen to pay tribute to on the fortieth anniversary of her death.
→ CRITICAL. Romy Schneider, the German misunderstanding
Far from the ingenuous image of her beginnings, her mediatized love affairs and the personal dramas to which she has too often been reduced. “For some time now, the tragic end of her life has taken precedence over the rest and leaves it to others to speak for her”, regrets the curator of the exhibition, Clémentine Deroudille, who voluntarily chose to show another face of Romy Schneider. That of the passionate woman, invested in her profession, steeped in doubts but who has constantly reinvented herself to assert herself as the actress she had chosen to be. Avoiding the pitfalls of a precocious notoriety which had made her the “little Austrian fiancée” with a prudish gaze to become this talented, sensual and fulfilled actress in the films of Claude Sautet. The incarnation of the liberated French woman of the 1970s, in which everyone could identify.
A decisive meeting with Claude Sautet
“In reality, I was ahead of my time, she once explained. At a time when there was no mention of women’s liberation anywhere, I undertook my own liberation. » By choosing to break with his family first, and in particular with his mother, actress Magda Schneider, who jealously watched over his career. By settling in Paris then, to live his love story with Alain Delon and, far from the Sissi who stuck to his skin, start from scratch in the shadow of the rising star. Finally, by carefully selecting her directors (Alain Cavalier, Luchino Visconti, Orson Welles, etc.) and her roles, in which this eternal dissatisfaction could lose herself body and soul.
As with Henri-Georges Clouzot, whom she followed to the end in Hell of an aborted shoot. After a disappointing detour via the United States and then Germany, where she married the playwright Harry Meyen and gave birth to her son, David, it was her return to France – still thanks to Alain Delon, who imposed her in The swimming pool, by Jacques Deray – and his meeting with Claude Sautet which will be decisive.
“Tormented, pure, violent, proud”
A whole room of the exhibition is devoted to their collaboration. It will give birth to five films between 1970 and 1978 (Things of life, Max and the scrap dealers, Caesar and Rosalie, Mado, A simple story), the most beautiful of his roles and a César (the second after that for The important thing is to love, by Andrzej Zulawski). Between them, the agreement is immediate. The telegrams, the little notes addressed to his “Dear Clo” of her great slender writing testify to the professional commitment of the actress. “Claude, it’s great, I read everything and worked a lot, a lot”she sends him after having received the scenario of the things of lifesigning Romy-Hélène.
But also of her anxieties when she no longer receives interesting offers. “I don’t have the position of a Deneuve or a Jobert. Don’t need the money but finally you understand”writes again the one who was the antistar par excellence, permanently on the set, refusing to participate in a dinner on the grounds that the technicians were not invited. “It is his passionate character that attracts me, said the filmmaker of her. She has tremendous inner energy, she is not peaceful but tormented, pure, violent, proud. »
A requirement and a hypersensitivity that will lead her to ever more devouring roles, in which this flayed alive partly expiates her guilt for being born German, and shootings that leave her bloodless, with always this feeling of not having the career that she would have deserved. Life will not have left him time to build his legend. And yet, to see the excerpts from her films, the hundreds of filming photos unearthed from the archives of the Cinémathèque and the magnificent portraits that punctuate the exhibition, she is still incredibly present in our minds. Infinitely fragile and touching.