Conclusion Historicizing Moreau And Deneuve

Thus far, we have interpreted Moreau and Deneuve in terms of well-established western archetypes of women, but can we historicize their star images more precisely? In other words, was there anything specific about the period in which they became stars that facilitated imagery of the Red and the white, the dirty and the clean, in female stars? The answer lies in Fast Cars, Clean Bodies, Kristin Ross's excellent analysis of French culture in the fifties and sixties. Ross reveals in great detail the extent to which post-war France was obsessed with the discourse of cleanliness. The origins of this 'deep psychological need [...] to be clean'54 can be located in a resolve to purify and modernise France after the trauma of the Second World War (the German Occupation, collaboration by the Vichy state, civil war of a kind). In the months and years following the Liberation, efforts were made to cleanse France of various 'stains', including purges of collaborators (l'épuration), and a campaign for 'moral cleanliness', which culminated in the closing down of all 177 brothels in Paris, via the law of 13 April 1946. It is no accident that such measures were aimed principally at women. The representation of the nation by means of female figures (Marianne, for example) is a key factor here, but so is the psychological effect of decolonisation in the post-war years. As Ross puts it,

If the woman is clean, the family is clean, the nation is clean. If the French woman is dirty, then France is dirty and backward. But France can't be dirty and backward, because that is the role played by the colonies. But there are no more colonies. [...] France must, so to speak, clean house.55

Hence the establishment or re-launching of women's magazines in the fifties, with their emphasis on the need to 'clean house'. In 1951, an investigative survey by Elle, called 'La Française est-elle propre ? ', discovered that '25 per cent of French women never brushed their

53- See Chapter 11 for an account of digital technology's impact on the representation of Deneuve.

54- K. Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture, Cambridge, Mass., October Books, MIT Press, 1996, p.73. Italics in original.

teeth, and that 39 percent washed themselves once a month'.56 This was not good enough for a country that was trying to wash away the past and reinvent itself as a modem, urbanised nation. The dirt had to be scrubbed off.

As a star, Deneuve embodies perfecdy the cultural project of post-war France. Even her (stage) name suggests the new and the modern: T)e-neuve (new). Her star image crystallises the process identified by Ross, which, in the decade from 1955 to 1965, 'saw both the end of the empire and the surge in French consumption and modernization'.57 The attendant discourse of whiteness, cleanliness, and timelessness reads like a definition of Deneuve-as-star. Her whiteness (the blonde hair, the pale, flawless face, the associations with snow and ice) conforms not just to the archetype of the white woman, but also to the aspirations of French women in the fifties and sixties, who were encouraged to surround themselves with white goods: Marie-Claire magazine marked its relaunch in 1954 by celebrating 'the age [...] of the refrigerator, pasteurised milk, the washing machine', while in 1955, Elle published an issue devoted entirely to whiteness.58 With its celebration of the new, clean, modern woman, Elle was aimed at a female readership from the provinces, 'the reader from Angouleme'.59 Deneuve plays precisely this kind of woman as Genevieve in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. Beginning as a young, slightly wild provincial, she ends the film a modernised bourgeoise, driving her own car and presumably living in Paris, having left her origins far behind. Her symbolic identification with white goods and with cleanliness is made clear when the umbrella shop she leaves behind is re-equipped as a store selling brand new washing machines.60 Moreover, the shiny new car she drives in the closing sequence is itself a metaphor for modern France. As Roland Barthes noted in 1963 (a year before Les Parapluies de Cherbourg), the shining car and its ritualised cleaning symbolises a need 'to remake the virginity of the object over and over again', an 'obsession with cleanliness' which aims at 'immobilizing time'.61 Deneuve is the human face of this desire: apparendy ageless and eternal, she is always modern and yet always the same (remade over and over again, as in the identical "Telerama covers).

Deneuve's 'clean' image is also a salient example of the 'domesticated sublime' identified by Henri Lefebvre in sixties France.62 She is both domestic (white goods, maternal imagery) and a goddess (divine, unattainable, idealised). Her reticence, the distance she maintains between self and audience, her inwardness and coolness all chime with the

56* Ibid., p.209, n.ll. The survey's title translates as Ms the French woman clean?'.

57* Ibid., p.77. Deneuve, of course, later played the role of France giving up her colonies in Indochine.

60* The shift in the film from 'artisanal' umbrella shop to modern white goods store is noted by Ross in ibid., p.98. She does not, however, consider Deneuve's image.

61* R. Barthes, 'La voiture, projection de l'égo', Réalités, 213 (1963), cited in ibid., pp.105-6.

62* See H. Lefebvre, Critique de la vie quotidienne (volume 2), Paris, Arche, 1961. Deneuve is repeatedly described as clean. See, for example, D. Roth-Bettoni, J. Valot and Y. Alion, 'L'autre Deneuve', Le Mensuel du cinéma, June 1993, p.15.

concept of introversion and the privatisation of space, a 'movement of retreat, or repliement ("folding back inward")' noted by Lefebvre and others as 'the dominant social movement' of the late 1950s and early 1960s.63 Among the things apparently left behind by this modernised, privatised vision of France were not just previous formations of public or social space, but also a previous formulation of Woman, to be discarded and replaced by the new, clean bourgeoise. In the words of Edgar Morin, France was seeing the 'decolonisation of the peasant woman'.64 The first step to achieving this was the development of a 'filth complex' on the part of working-class women. In 1964, the very same year that Les Parapluies de Cherbourg dramatises this process, so too does Moreau's performance as Celestine in Le Journal d'unefemme de chambre. At first, she is identified with the working class and with what lies outside (or beneath) a facade of domestic order and purity. Although set in the 1930s, the film can in fact be seen to reflect the 1960s trend towards the Manichean division of the interior from the exterior, the latter now viewed as sordid, dirty, and repellent to the woman, who vigilantly policies its various invasions into her realm in the form of grime and odors tracked in from the outside on bodies and hands.65

By the close of the film, Celestine has internalised the values of cleanliness and order.

However, the success of Moreau's shocking, sexualised, non-bourgeois star image suggests that the internal decolonisation sought by Morin and achieved by Celestine was not total. In modern France there remain elements that have not been fully expunged, and which demand to be expressed. Hence, there is Moreau the star, swearing, laughing, coming. Despite her Rolls-Royce and her Cardin clothes, she is rooted and dirty in a way that Deneuve is not. No one could accuse her of being ageless, and she refuses to be domesticated, decolonised or cleaned up. Thus, we return to the polarised archetypes of the Red woman and the white, but anchored in a precise historical moment:

All of the new repulsions and aversions coalesce into a 'filth complex' that accompanies the definitive eruption of the new domestic model into the female psyche and which in turn translates into a global repudiation of the peasant condition.66

If Deneuve represents the triumph of the 'filth complex' in France, then Moreau represents what this apparent triumph represses: dirt and sex, streams and floods.

64> E. Morin, Commune en France: La metamorphose de Plodémet, Paris, Fayard, 1967, cited in ibid., p.91.


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Which one will wear the trousers? Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve in La

Sirène du Mississippi (1969).

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