When a shot goes badly, I feel like a useless object

Catherine Deneuve in 1966

Catherine Deneuve’s film career has been prolific and illustrious. Since her big screen debut in 1957 she has starred in close to 130 movies and garnered 14 César Award nominations, of which she has won two, cementing her as one of France’s most acclaimed actresses. Yet, even the most venerated of stars are not immune to the vagaries of human experience. On the day of the following diary entry in November of 1969, Deneuve had been working on the set of Tristana, a film directed by Luis Buñuel that would go on to win critical acclaim and awards upon its release. During production, however, Deneuve was struggling to find her feet.

The Diary Entry

Monday 8 November

Difficult start today. The scene where Saturna and I go for a walk, and I choose one of two streets. I’m so aware of Buñuel’s irritation and impatience with the slightest setback that I become completely paralysed. Even though this shot shouldn’t be difficult, I can’t seem to break it down. He settles for three takes. Grim lunch at La Venta de los Aires, I feel like crying. When a shot goes badly, I feel like a useless object. Totally useless, because my dialogue is of no interest to him, he’s not even listening. This will be a proper Spanish film, I’ll be dubbed, which I sometimes find hard to accept. One shot this afternoon, a bit better. My first really bad day.

Further Reading

Catherine Deneuve’s diary was first published in 2004, in French, by Editions Stock with the title A L’Ombre de Moi-Méme. A year later it arrived in English, translated by Polly McLean, titled Close Up and Personal. Entries all relate to the films in which she has starred, from The April Fools in 1969 to Dancer in the Dark in 2000. The diary (or at least, the early edition I have) also contains a few letters to Deneuve, written by Lars von Trier, François Truffaut, and Leos Carax. All in all, an enjoyable and insightful little book.


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