best film:   The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. There are really three candidates here. There is The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Repulsion (an often-overlooked Polanski masterpiece) and Dancer in the Dark (where Deneuve is in support of course). All three films land between 100-200 on the all-time list- with Demy’s masterpiece at the top. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is visually spectacular—a flood of color and a prime contender for the strongest compositions of the films from the French New Wave.


though not her debut, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg finds a 21-year old Catherine Deneuve in her first archiveable film- front and center in one of the pillars of the French New Wave



best performance:   Repulsion. It is a three-horse race here as well substituting Belle de Jour here for Dancer in the Dark. Deneuve’s hauntingly vacant performance in Polanski’s claustrophobic horror film edges out the others. It is unsettling how good she is—one of those performances that that changes the conversation on what a good performance is (she hardly speaks). Certainly, Polanski deserves credit for  Repulsion’s atmosphere- but Deneuve proved herself to be quite the virtuoso talent and a worthy collaborator.


Repulsion- Deneuve’s bizarre, yet spectacular performance- a brave choice for a budding movie star


stylistic innovations/traits:   Catherine Deneuve is one of the seminal acting figures of the French New Wave (with great works that included films with Bunuel and Polanski as well).  Deneuve is almost always playing a chilly beauty – but rarely just a dumb blonde. Her minimal, subtle acting style helps to give her characters subtext and that is a tribute to her skills as an actor. Deneuve had a ridiculous string of superior work in the 1960s (same as Anna Karina and Jeanne Moreau) but Deneuve has had a greater lasting power including eight (8) archiveable films from 1997 on. Deneuve has eighteen (18) archiveable films total—certainly a high number in her favor. She worked with both Demy and Truffaut (two major figures in the New Wave).


Deneuve taking risks- here with Bunuel in Belle de Jour


directors worked with: Jacques Demy (3) and it is hard to think of his work and not picture Deneuve. Luis Bunuel (2) from his rich French period, François Truffaut (2), Raul Ruiz (2) and Arnaud Desplechin (2) —taking her into the 21st century. One archiveable film a piece with Jean-Pierre Melville, Leos Carax, Lars von Trier and Roman Polanski.


The Young Girls of Rochefort– Deneuve’s trademark icy stare



top ten performances:

  1. Repulsion
  2. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
  3. Belle de Jour
  4. Mississippi Mermaid
  5. The Young Girls of Rochefort
  6. The Last Metro
  7. Tristana
  8. Un Flic
  9. A Christmas Tale
  10. Pola X



Deneuve in Mississippi Mermaid opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo under the direction of Truffaut



archiveable films

1964- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
1965- Repulsion
1967- Belle de Jour
1967- The Young Girls of Rochefort
1969- Mississippi Mermaid
1970- Donkey Skin
1970- Tristana
1972- Un Flic
1980- The Last Metro
1983- The Hunger
1997-Genealogies of a Crime
1999- Pola X
1999- Time Regained
2000- Dancer in the Dark
2001- I’m Going Home
2002- 8 Women
2004- Kings and Queen
2008- A Christmas Tale