Feature: The Greatest European Style Icons

This month sees the DVD and Blu-ray release of Potiche, starring the timelessly stylish Catherine Deneuve. It’s a satirical take on the war between the sexes and the classes, with Deneuve playing the ‘Potiche’ (or trophy wife, in English) of the title who takes control of her husband’s factory when he falls ill. Deneuve is as chic as ever, and the film’s release gives us the perfect excuse to look down the greatest and most stylish screen icons Europe has produced…

Bridgette Bardot
Parisian born Bardot appeared as a standard blonde beauty in plenty of movies in her early 20s (even appearing in British knockabout comedy Doctor At Sea alongside Dirk Bogarde). But it was of course her leading role in And God Created Woman, directed by her then husband Roger Vadim that made her a superstar and international sex-symbol. She went on to work with Jean-Luc Godard and Loius Malle as the world’s greatest filmmakers wanted to capture her beauty onscreen, but in 1973 she retired from acting as “a way to get out elegantly”. She has since a very vocal animal rights activist.

 

Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren became a star in her native Italy before signing a contract with Paramount Pictures in 1958, starring alongside the likes of Cary Grant and Clarke Gable. Yet it was her return to Italian cinema to star in the powerful drama Two Women that won her true international acclaim, as well as the Best Actress Oscar (the first one ever awarded for a non-English speaking role). Her stunning looks and sharp wit made her one of the most popular actress in the world, and when asked about her voluptuous figure she famously quipped “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” She’s still acting to this day, appearing as Daniel Day-Lewis’ mother in 2009’s musical Nine.

Anna Karina
Anna Karina arrived in Paris from her native Denmark aged just 17, unable to speak any French. After being spotted in a café, she became a successful fashion model, meeting Pierre Cardin and Coco Chanel. Yet it was when French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard saw her in a Palmolive commercial that her place in history was made. She came his muse, and he cast her several in his massively influential and timelessly stylish movies, including Alphaville and A Woman Is A Woman. Her star may have faded when she split from Godard, both romantically and creatively, but she remains a timeless style icon.

Juliette Binoche
‘La Binoche’, as the French press have affectionately dubbed her, became a national star in France in the mid-80s, and soon grabbed the attention of Hollywood. Yet she turned down a role in Jurassic Park to star in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours: Blue. International stardom truly came for her when she appeared alongside Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. The film went onto be a worldwide success, picking up a multitude of Oscars including Best Film and the Best Supporting Actress for Binoche herself. She remains one of the most glamorous and respected actress in the world, constantly picking interesting roles in films like Michael Hanke’s Hidden and Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy.

Vanessa Paradis
Topping the French charts aged just 14 with the worldwide hit ‘Joe le Taxi’, Vanessa Paradis has been an icon since the late 80s. She continued her musical career throughout 90s, recording an English-language album with Lenny Kravitz. She has also modelled for Chanel, and made the move into cinema, most recently appearing alongside Gallic heartthrob Romain Duris in the smash hit romantic comedy Heartbreaker. She is perhaps though, despite all this, most famous for being the long-term partner of one Johnny Depp, making her the envy of women the world over.

Catherine Deneuve
A true international icon and a legend of cinema. Deneuve became a worldwide star in the 1960s by starring in films like Repulsion and in particular Belle de Jour. Her incredible beauty also lead to modelling, with her becoming the face of Chanel No 5, and even played Marianne, the national symbol of France. The great designer Yves Saint Laurent considered her his muse, and dressing her in films such as Belle de Jour and The Hunger. She’s still going strong today, with her latest film Potiche, which is on DVD and Blu Ray this month. Potiche sees her reunite with Francois Ozon with whom she previously collaborated on the excellent 8 Women. Based on Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy’s play of the same name, Deneuve takes centre stage in a story about a submissive housewife who gets to run her husband’s umbrella factory. A typically brilliant performance by Deneuve, Potiche is an incredibly assured and thoroughly enjoyable piece of filmmaking.

Potiche is on DVD and Blu-ray

 From 10th October 2011.

 

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