Saturday, 6 June 2009

Romy Schneider

The new CineMoi French film channel has just finished a mini-season of movies starring Romy Schneider. Now there's a name I know I thought to myself; but when I checked her filmography I had no particular recollection of any of her film roles, despite having seen several of them including a disposable assortment of U.S. movies from the 1960s. Born in Austria, she achieved fame as a teenager in the trilogy of "Sissi" films as the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. She is still revered in Germany for this role and a commemorative postage stamp has even been issued. She followed her lover Alain Delon to Paris and was a fixture of mainly French flicks for the rest of her life, dying at the early age of 43 of a suspected overdose. Since she appeared in an assortment of top productions with A-list co-stars, I was quite looking forward to getting more familiar with her work.

Perhaps I have missed something, but I just can't grasp her magic. She is neither beautiful nor does she seem to have any dramatic depth, so I wonder just what it was that has made her something of an icon. (The French have issued a stamp as well!) She even won the first Cesar Award for best actress for her role in 1975's "L'important c'est d'aimer" -- a film that I found nearly unwatchable as porno-photographer Fabio Testi becomes entranced by her talentless actress, but refuses to have sex with her. (Klaus Kinski in another show-off role as a barnstorming, homosexual actor was the only light relief here). Then there were two films with the ever-watchable Michel Piccoli: in "Les Choices de la vie" (1970) he plays her lover who reviews his life as he lies dying in a car crash and in "Max and the Junkmen" (1971) he plays a top policeman who begins an affair with her 'working girl' in order to entrap a bunch of third-rate petty criminals. He was great in both, but in neither did she make much of an impression. In "Le Train" (1973) she was cast as a Jewish refugee who seduces Jean-Louis Trintignant's husband separated from his pregnant wife as they flee the approaching Nazis. In "A Woman at her Window" (1976) she is the wife of the Italian ambassador to Greece who falls for a hunted communist rebel, but only the supporting role of one of her admirers played by good-old hangdog Phillippe Noiret was really of any interest. There are a further two of her movies in my backlog, but frankly after the above marathon, I'm not in any galloping hurry to view them.

So I'm left with this puzzle. Many people obviously felt that she was talented and her circle of friends amongst the intelligentsia of her day was broad. She was recently voted the most memorable female film star in a German poll. Could somebody please tell me what I am missing.
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