Delphine Seyrig Poster


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Overview (5)

Born in Beirut, French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon [now Lebanon]
Died in Paris, France  (lung cancer)
Birth NameDelphine Claire Belriane Seyrig
Nicknames La Nouvelle Garbo
The Royal Voice
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Delphine was born in Beirut on the 10th April 1932 into an intellectual Protestant family. Her Alsatian father, Henri Seyrig, was the director of the Archaeological Institute and later France's cultural attaché in New York during World War Two. Her Swiss mother, Hermine De Saussure, was an adept of Rousseau's theories, a female sailing pioneer and the niece of the universally acclaimed linguist and semiologist, Ferdinand De Saussure. Delphine also had a brother, Francis Seyrig, who would go on to become a successful composer. At the end of the war, the family relocated to Paris, although Delphine's adolescence was to be spent between her country, Greece and New York. Never a good student, she decided to quit school at age 17 to pursue a stage career. Her father gave her his approval on the condition that she would have done this with seriousness and dedication. Delphine took courses of Dramatic Arts with some illustrious teachers such as Roger Blin, Pierre Bertin and Tania Balachova. Some of her fellow students included Jean-Louis Trintignant, Michael Lonsdale, Laurent Terzieff, Bernard Fresson, Stéphane Audran, Daniel Emilfork and Antoine Vitez. Her stage debut came in 1952 in a production of Louis Ducreux's musical "L'Amour en Papier", followed by roles in "Le Jardin du Roi" (Pierre Devaux) and in Jean Giraudoux's "Tessa, la nymphe au Coeur fidèle". Stage legend Jean Dasté was the first director to offer her a couple of parts that would truly showcase her talents: Ariel in Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and Chérubin in Beaumarchais' "The Marriage of Figaro". He also had her take the title role in a production of Giraudoux's "Ondine" from Odile Versois, who had gone to England to shoot an Ealing movie. Delphine's performance was greeted with enormous critical approval. The young actress stayed in Europe for a couple years more, starring in a production of Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" in Paris, making two guest appearances in Sherlock Holmes (1954) (which was entirely shot in France) and trying to enter the TNP (People's National Theatre). She actually wasn't admitted because the poetic, melodious voice that would become her signature mark was deemed too strange. In 1956, Delphine decided to sail for America along with her husband Jack Youngerman (a painter she had married in Paris) and son Duncan.

Delphine tried to enter the Actor's studio, but, just like in the case of many of Hollywood's finest actors, she failed the admittance test. She would still spend three years as an observer (also attending Lee Strasberg's classes) and this minor mishap didn't prevent her from going on with her stage career anyway, as she did theatre work in Connecticut and appeared in an off-Broadway production of Pirandello's "Henry IV" opposite Burgess Meredith and Alida Valli. Legend wants that the show was such a flop that the producer burned down the set designs. One year later, a single meeting would change the young actress' life forever. Delphine was starring in a production of Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" when one very day she was approached by a very enthusiast spectator. It was the great director Alain Resnais, fresh of the huge personal triumph he had scored with his masterwork, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). Resnais was now trying to do a movie about the pulp magazine character Harry Dickson (an American version of Sherlock Holmes) and thought that Delphine could have played the role of the detective's nemesis, Georgette Cuvelier/The Spider. The project would never see the light of the day, but this meeting would soon lead to the genesis of an immortal cinematic partnership. Delphine's first feature film was also done the same year: it was the manifesto of the Beat Generation, the innovative Pull My Daisy (1959). The 30 minutes film was written and narrated by Jack Kerouac and featured an almost entirely non-professional cast including poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky along with painter Larry Rivers. Delphine played Rivers' wife in this well-done and interesting curio, an appropriate starting point to a very intriguing and alternative career. In 1960 she landed the role of Cara Williams and Harry Morgan's French neighbour in a new sitcom, Pete and Gladys (1960). Although she left the show after only three episodes, it is interesting to see her interact with the likes of Williams, Morgan and Cesar Romero, since they seem to belong to such different worlds. This was going to be the end of Delphine's journey in the States, although she would keep very fond memories of this period, stating in 1969 that she didn't consider herself "particularly French, but American in equal measure". In 1961 she would take her native France by storm.

Resnais had now been approached by writer Alain Robbe-Grillet- one of the main creators of the "Nouveau Roman" genre- to direct a movie based upon his script "L'anneé dernière". Having been awed by the recent Vertigo (1958), Robbe-Grillet was nourishing the hope that Kim Novak could have possibly played the mysterious female protagonist of the upcoming adaptation of his novel. Luckily, Resnais had different plans. Delphine was back in France for a holiday when the director offered her the role of the enigmatic lady nicknamed A. in his latest movie, Last Year at Marienbad (1961). Delphine accepted and finally took her rightful place in film history. The plot of the movie is apparently simple: in a baroque-looking castle, X. (Giorgio Albertazzi) tries to convince the reclusive A. that they had an affair the previous year. The movie has been interpreted in many different ways: a ghost story, a sci-fi story, an example of meta-theatre, a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a retelling of Pygmalion and the Statue and plenty more. Resnais proved to be very partial to Delphine and didn't want her to just stand there like a motionless mannequin like the entire supporting cast did. As X. begins to instill or awake some feelings and memories into A., Delphine subtly hints at a change happening inside the character, managing to alternatively project an image of innocence and desire in a brilliant way. With her stunning, sphinx-like beauty being particularly highlighted by raven-black hair (Resnais wanted her to look like Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box (1929)) and her warm, seductive voice completing the magical charm of the character, Delphine made A. her most iconic-looking creation and got immediately welcomed to the club of the greatest actresses of France. The movie itself received the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival and remains Resnais' masterpiece, not to mention possibly the greatest son of the French New Wave. The gothic organ music provided by Delphine's brother Francis also played an important role in the success of "Marienbad".

Like he had done a couple years before with Emmanuelle Riva, Resnais had made another invaluable gift to French cinema and one would have expected to see Delphine immediately racking a dozen film projects after "Marienbad", but for the time being she preferred to return to her first love, the theatre. She always wished to avoid the perils of celebrity and started a very turbulent relationship with reporters. She made this statement on the subject: "There is nothing to say about an actor or an actress. You just need to go and see them, that's all". She also hated the fact that, after "Marienbad", many journalists had paraphrased many of her statements in order to get meatier articles or entirely made up stories about her. Her next film project came in 1963 when she was reunited with Resnais for the superb Muriel (1963). Wearing some makeup that made her look plainer and older, Delphine gave a first sample of her chameleon-like abilities and one of her most spectacular performances ever as Hélène Aughain, an apparently absent-minded, but actually very tragic antique shop dealer who tries to reshape her squalid present in order to get even with a past made of shame and humiliation. Providing her character with a clumsy walk and an odd behavior that looks amusing on the surface, she delegated her subtlest facial expressions to hint at Hélène's grief and sense of dissatisfaction, creating a very pathetic and moving figure in the process. This incredible achievement was awarded with a Volpi cup at Venice Film Festival. Delphine felt very proud for herself and for Resnais. "Muriel" turned out to be one of the director's most divisive works, with some people considering it his finest film and others dismissing it as a product below his standard. The movie's American reception was unfortunately disastrous: having been released in New York disguised as an "even more mysterious sequel" to Marienbad, it stayed in theaters for five days only. The same year, Delphine did a TV movie called Le troisième concerto (1963) which marked her first collaboration with Marcel Cravenne. Her performance as a pianist who's seemingly losing her mind scored big with both critics and audience and made her much more popular with the French public than two rather inaccessible movies such as "Marienbad" and "Muriel" could ever do. Delphine never considered herself a star though, stating that "a star is like a racing horse a producer can place money on" and that she wasn't anything like that. In the following years she kept doing remarkable stage work. 1964 saw her first collaboration with Samuel Beckett: she invited the great author at her place in Place Des Vosges where she rehearsed for the role of the Lover in the first French production of "Play" along with Michael Lonsdale as the Husband and Eléonore Hirt as the Wife. The three of them would then bring the show to the stage and star in a film version in 1966. Delphine would team up with Beckett on other occasions in the future and even more frequently with Lonsdale, her co-star in several films and stage productions. For two consecutive times she won the "Prix Du Syndicat de la Critique" (the most ancient and illustrious award given by French theatre critics) for Best Actress: in 1967 (1966/1967 season) for her performances in "Next Time I'll Sing to You" and "To Find Oneself" and in 1969 (1968/1969 season) for her work in L'Aide-mémoire. In 1966 she did a cameo in the surreal, Monty Pythonesque Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966), which was written and directed by William Klein (her friend of about 20 years) and starred Sami Frey, who would be her partner for her entire life after her separation from Youngerman. In 1967, she had a few exquisitely acted scenes (all shot in one day and a half) with Dirk Bogarde in Joseph Losey's excellent Accident (1967). Her appearance as Bogarde's old flame seemed to echo and pay homage to "Marienbad", from the almost illusory touch of the whole sequence to the suggestive use of music by the great John Dankworth. Delphine totally enjoyed to work with Losey, although their relationship would drastically change by the time of their next adventure together. The same year would also see the release of the spellbinding The Music (1967), her first filmed collaboration with Marguerite Duras. The author had always worshiped Delphine for her exceptional screen presence and for possessing the aura of a classic goddess of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She said about her: "When Delphine Seyrig moves into the camera's field, there's a flicker of Garbo and Clara Bow and we look to see if Cary Grant is at her side". She also loved her sexy voice, stating that she always sounded like "she had just sucked a sweet fruit and her mouth was still moist" and would go on to call her "the greatest actress in France and possibly in the entire world". "La Musica" isn't the most remembered Seyrig-Duras collaboration, but nevertheless occupies a special place in history as the beginning of a beautiful friendship between two artists that would become strictly associated with each other for eternity. Delphine's performance won her the "Étoile de Cristal" (the top film award given in France by the "Académie Française" between 1955 and 1975 and later replaced by the César). The actress later made a glorious Hedda Gabler for French television, although she never much enjoyed to do work for this kind of medium. She often complained about the poverty of means and little professionalism of French TV and declined on several occasions the possibility to play the role of Mme De Mortsauf in an adaptation of Balzac's "Le lys dans la vallée". In 1968 she found one of her most famous and celebrated roles in François Truffaut's latest installment of the Antoine Doinel saga, Stolen Kisses (1968), which overall qualifies as one of her most "traditional" career choices. Delphine's new divine creature was Fabienne Tabard, the breathtakingly beautiful wife of an obnoxious shoe store owner (Michael Lonsdale) and the latest object of Antoine's attention. It is very interesting that, in the movie, Antoine reads a copy of "Le lys dans la vallée" and compares Fabienne to the novel's heroine. At one point, Delphine had almost agreed to appear in the TV production on the condition that Jean-Pierre Léaud would have played the leading male role. She later inquired with Truffaut if he knew about this by the time he had written the script, but he swore that it was just a coincidence. In 1969 she declined the leading female role in La Piscine (1969) because she didn't see anything interesting about it; this despite strong soliciting from her close friend Jean Rochefort (whom she nicknamed "Mon petit Jeannot"). At the time, it was considered almost inconceivable to decline the chance of appearing in an Alain Delon movie, but Delphine really valued the power of saying "no" and the part went to Romy Schneider instead. It consequently came of great surprise when, the same year, she accepted the role of Marie-Madeleine in William Klein's rather dated, but somewhat charming Mr. Freedom (1968), where she played most of her scenes semi-naked. But Delphine, as usual, had her valid reasons to appear in this strong satire of American Imperialism. Klein's comic strip adaptation isn't without its enjoyable moments (like a scene where the Americans use a map to indicate the Latin dictatorships as the civilized, democratic world), but goes on for too long and suffers every time Delphine disappears from the screen. Still, it remains a must for Seyrig fans, as you'd never expect to see the most intellectual of actresses having a martial arts fight with the gigantic John Abbey and giving a performance of pure comic genius in the tradition of Kay Kendall. The same year she also had a cameo as the Prostitute in Luis Buñuel's masterful The Milky Way (1969). Delphine read the entire script, but eventually regretted that she hadn't watched Alain Cuny playing his scene, because, in that case, she would have played her own very differently and brought the movie to full circle, something she thought she hadn't done. She promised Buñuel to do better on the next occasion they would have worked together.

In 1970, Delphine eventually agreed to appear in Le lys dans la vallée (1970) under the direction of Marcel Cravenne, although the male protagonist wasn't played by Léaud, but by Richard Leduc. It turned out to be one of the best ever adaptations of a French classic and her performance was titanic. She then played the Lilac Fairy in Jacques Demy's lovely musical Donkey Skin (1970), which starred a young Catherine Deneuve in the title role, but boosted a superlative supporting cast including Jacques Perrin, Micheline Presle, Sacha Pitoëff and Jean Marais (who sort of provided a link with Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946)). Despite all this profusion of talent, Delphine effortlessly stole the movie with her sassy smile, impeccable comedic timing and multi-colored wardrobe. Although she would go on to sing on future occasions, Demy preferred to have her musical number dubbed by Christiane Legrand. The following year, she won a new multitude of male admirers when she arguably played the sexiest and most memorable female vampire in film history in the underrated psychological horror Daughters of Darkness (1971). The choice of a niche actress like Delphine to play the lesbian, Dietrichesque Countess Bathory is considered one of the main factors that sets Harry Kümel's movie apart from the coeval products made by the likes of Jesús Franco or Jean Rollin. To see another horror movie highlighted by the presence of an unforgettable female vampire in Seyrig style, one will have to wait for the similar casting of the splendid Nina Hoss in the auteur effort We Are the Night (2010). Cravenne's Tartuffe (1971) was a delicious "Jeu à Deux" between Delphine and the immense Michel Bouquet. In 1972, Delphine would add another immortal title to her filmography, as she was cast in Luis Buñuel's surrealist masterpiece, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). As the adulterous Simone Thévenot, always wearing a sanctimoniously polite smile, she managed to give the star turn in a flawless cast: Fernando Rey made his Rafael Acosta deliciously nasty behind his cover of unflappability, Paul Frankeur was hilariously obtuse as M.Thévenot, Jean-Pierre Cassel suitably ambiguous as M.Sénéchal, Julien Bertheau looked charmingly sinister as Mons.Dufour, Bulle Ogier got to show her formidable gifts for physical comedy as Florence and the role of Alice Sénéchal, a woman who gets annoyed at not getting coffee while a man has just confessed to have murdered his father, proved for once the perfect fit for the coldest and least emotional of actresses, Stéphane Audran. The movie won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The next year, Delphine appeared in a couple of star-studded productions: she gave a brief, but memorably moving performance in Fred Zinnemann's The Day of the Jackal (1973) as a French woman who makes the fatal mistake of falling for Edward Fox's ruthless killer. People's memories of the movie are often associated with her scenes. She also appeared in Losey's disappointing A Doll's House (1973) opposite a badly miscast Jane Fonda as Nora. The two actresses didn't get along with the director as they both thought his vision of the story to be deeply misogynist. Many key dialogues were unskillfully butchered for the adaptation, diminishing the depth of the characters and the end result was consequently cold, although the movie has its redeeming features. The brilliant David Warner arguably remains the definitive screen Torvald and Delphine is typically impeccable in the fine role of Kristine, although one can't help but think that an accomplished Ibsenian actress like her should have played Nora in the first place. Although Losey wasn't in speaking terms with her any longer by the time the shooting ended, Delphine befriended Jane as they shared a lot of ideals and causes. Delphine Seyrig was of course a vocal feminist, although she didn't consider herself a militant: she actually believed that women should have already known their rights by then and that she didn't have to cause any consciousness raising in them. She would go on to work with more and more female directors shortly after, considering also that she had now begun to love cinema as much as theatre. In 1974 she appeared in a stage production of "La Cheuvachée sur le lac de Constance" because she dearly desired to act opposite the wonderful Jeanne Moreau, but from that moment on, most of her energies were saved for film work. She also grew more and more radical in picking up her projects: Diary of a Suicide (1972), Say It with Flowers (1974) and The Last Word (1975) certainly qualify as some of her oddest features, not to mention the most difficult to watch. Le cri du coeur (1974), although flawed by an inept performance by Stéphane Audran, was slightly more interesting: the director capitalized on Delphine's Marienbad image once again, casting her as a mysterious woman the crippled young protagonist gets sexually obsessed with. She made another relatively "ordinary" pick by playing villainous in Don Siegel's remarkable spy thriller The Black Windmill (1974) alongside stellar performers like Michael Caine, Donald Pleasence, John Vernon and Janet Suzman.

The following year, Delphine had two first rate roles in The Garden That Tilts (1975) and in Liliane de Kermadec's Aloïse (1975) (where her younger self was played, quite fittingly, by an already prodigious Isabelle Huppert). But 1975 wasn't over for Delphine as the thespian would round off the year with two of her most amazing achievements. The Seyrig/Duras team did finally spring into action again with the memorable India Song (1975), another movie which lived and died entirely on Delphine's intense face. Laure Adler wrote these pertinent words in her biography of Duras: "In India Song we see nothing of Calcutta, all we see is a woman dancing in the drawing room of the French embassy and that is enough, for Delphine fills the screen". Coming next was what many people consider the actress' most monumental personal achievement: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). It has become a common saying that, when you have a great interest in an actor, you could watch him/her reading the phone book. Seyrig fans can experiment it almost literally in Chantal Akerman's three hour minimalist masterpiece, which meticulously follows the daily routine of widowed housewife Jeanne. Akerman chose Delphine "because she brought with her all the roles of mythical woman that she played until now. The woman in Marienbad, The woman in India Song". The movie can be considered a filmed example of "Nouveau Roman": every moment of Jeanne's day is presented almost real-time -from the act of peeling potatoes or washing dishes- and every gesture has a precise meaning, like Jeanne's incapacity of putting her life together being expressed by her inability of making a decent coffee or put buttons back on a shirt. The movie is also of course a feminist declaration: Jeanne regularly resorts to prostitution to make a living, which (according to Akerman) symbolizes that, even after the death of her husband, she's still dependant of him and always needs to have a male figure enter her life in his place. Her declaration of independence is expressed at the end of the movie through the murder of one of her clients. Delphine's approach to the role was as natural as possible and she completely disappeared into it, giving a hypnotic performance that keeps the viewer glued to his chair and prevents him to feel the sense of boredom every actress short of extraordinary would have induced. It's considered one of the greatest examples of acting ever recorded by a camera and possibly the definitive testament to Delphine's abilities. By now she was being referred as France's greatest actress with the same frequency Michel Piccoli was called the greatest actor. 1976 saw the the Césars replacing the "Étoiles de Cristal" and Delphine was nominated for "India Song", but she lost to Romy Schneider for her work in That Most Important Thing: Love (1975) by Andrzej Zulawski. The same year also saw her getting behind the camera as she directed Scum Manifesto (1976), a short where she read the Valerie Solanas text by the same name. She also starred in Duras' new version of "India Song", Her Venetian Name in Deserted Calcutta (1976) (where the setting was changed to the desert) and headlined the cast of Mario Monicelli's Caro Michele (1976). In 1977 she traveled to the UK to shoot an episode of BBC Play of the Month (1965). She stated her great admiration for British TV as opposed to French TV, congratulating BBC for its higher production values and for its major respect for the material it used to produce. Thinking retrospectively about the whole thing, these sentiments seem rather misplaced, since BBC erased tons of programs from existence in order to make room in the storage and for other reasons, but fortunately "The Ambassadors" wasn't part of the slaughter. Like Henry James's story, the cast featured some veritable cultural ambassadors as three different nations offered one of their most talented thespians ever: Paul Scofield represented England, Lee Remick represented United States and Delphine represented France as Madame De Vionnet. Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977) marked her final and most forgettable film collaboration with Duras. In Faces of Love (1977), she played the drug-addicted ex-wife of a director (a typically outstanding Jean-Louis Trintignant) who summons her along with two other actresses to shoot a film version of "The Three Sisters". She was again nominated for a César, but the sentimentality factor played in favor of Simone Signoret's performance in Moshé Mizrahi's award-friendly Madame Rosa (1977), which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film two months later. Mizrahi later cast both actresses in his subsequent feature, I Sent a Letter to My Love (1980), also starring Jean Rochefort. This bittersweet feature proved much better than the director's previous work: Signoret and Rochefort gave great performances, but, once again, Delphine was best in show as a naive, hare-brained woman so much different from her usual characters and gave another confirmation of her phenomenal range. She was nominated for another César in the supporting actress category, but lost to Nathalie Baye for Every Man for Himself (1980). It's ironic that, despite being considered the nation's top actress by so many people, Delphine never won a César. One theory is that she had alienated many voters (particularly the older ones) by often dismissing 50's French cinema and regularly comparing French actors unfavorably to American ones, just like many New Wave authors (Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette) had done back in the days when they worked as critics for the "Cahiérs Du Cinema" and none of them ever won a César either (or at least not a competitive one). This along with having made many enemies because of her vocally feminist attitude of course. She once stated herself that many people in France probably disliked her because she was always saying what she thought.

In the 80's, Delphine appeared in three stage plays that were later filmed: La Bête dans la Jungle (a Duras adaptation of the Henry James novel), "Letters Home" (about the poet Sylvia Plath) and "Sarah et le cri de la langouste" (where she played the legendary Sarah Bernhardt). She scored a particular success with the latter and won the "Prix Du Syndicat de la Critique" for a record third time, more than any other actress (Michel Bouquet is her male counterpart with three Best Actor wins). In 1981, she directed a feminist documentary, Be Pretty and Shut Up (1981), where she interviewed many actresses, including her friend Jane Fonda, about their role (sometimes purely decorative) in the male-dominated film industry. In 1982 she co-founded the Simone De Beauvoir audiovisual centre along with Carole Roussopoulos and Ioana Wieder. A final collaboration with Chantal Akerman, the innovative musical Golden Eighties (1986), allowed her to do what she couldn't do in "Peau d'âne" and give a very moving rendition of a beautiful song. Avant-garde German director Ulrike Ottinger provided Delphine with some unforgettable and appropriately weird roles in three of her features: multiple characters in Freak Orlando (1981), the only female incarnation of Dr.Mabuse in Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press (1984) (opposite Veruschka von Lehndorff, playing the title role 'en travesti') and Lady Windermere in Joan of Arc of Mongolia (1989). She gave a final, stunning TV performance in Sentiments: Une saison de feuilles (1989) as an actress suffering from Alzheimer's disease and won a 7 d'or (a French Emmy) for it. Her mature turn as a woman who's reaching the end of the line looks particularly poignant now, as it has the bitter taste of a tear-eyed farewell. A woman of extraordinary courage, Delphine had been secretly battling lung cancer (she had always been a chain smoker) for a few years, but, because of her supreme professionalism, she had never neglected a work commitment because of that. Only her closest friends knew. It became evident that there was no hope left when, in September 1990, she had do withdraw her participation from a production of Peter Shaffer's "Lettice and Lovage" with Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud's theatre company. One month later she tragically lost her battle with cancer and died in hospital, leaving an unbridgeable void in the acting world and in the lives of many. Tributes flew in torrents, with Jean-Claude Brialy hosting a particularly touching memorial where Jeanne Moreau read some very heartfelt phrases come from the pen of Marguerite Duras to honour the memory of her muse. In the decade following Delphine's death, many of her features unfortunately didn't prove to have much staying power -being so unique and destined to a very selected and elitist audience- and plenty of people began to forget about the actress. Delphine's good friend, director Jacqueline Veuve, thought this unacceptable and she saw to do something about it, shooting a documentary called Delphine Seyrig, portrait d'une comète (2000), which premiered at Locarno film festival. This partially helped to renew the actress' cult and to expand it to several other followers. Similar retrospectives at the Modern Art Museum in New York and at the La Rochelle Film Festival hopefully served the same purpose as well. One can also hope that the French Academy (Académie des arts et techniques du cinéma) would start to make amends for past sins by awarding Delphine a posthumous César: since the immortal Jean Gabin received one in 1987, who could possibly make a likelier pair with him?

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Riccardo Simonazzi

Family (2)

Spouse Jack Youngerman (1950 - ?)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Parents Henri Seyrig
Hermine de Saussure

Trade Mark (10)

Earthy sex appeal
Normally played provocative, strong-willed women
Melodious, enchanting voice
Often played mysterious women with spellbinding presence
Her characters often entered movies as seemingly magical appearances
Often appeared in the movies of Marguerite Duras, Chantal Akerman, Ulrike Ottinger and Marcel Cravenne
Often worked with female directors
Often appeared in experimental movies by alternative auteurs
Wasp waist
Often worked with Liliane de Kermadec

Trivia (101)

Sister of Francis Seyrig
Festival tribute at the Créteil International Women's Film Festival, France. [1989]
Aunt of Coralie Seyrig.
Vociferous feminist from the mid-1970's.
Cool, auburn-haired French actress, born in Lebanon. Spent part of her early childhood in New York, where her archaeologist father was cultural attaché. Acted on the Parisian stage from 1952-55. Returned to New York to attend classes at the Actor's Studio. Appeared on stage in Arthur Miller's adaptation of Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People". On the strength of her performance, she was cast in the lead of Last Year at Marienbad (1961) by director Alain Resnais. Subsequently acted in films by major European film makers, including Joseph Losey, Luis Bunuel and Francois Truffaut.
She considered herself a feminist who was additionally socialist as opposed to her friend Jane Fonda, whom she called a socialist who was additionally feminist.
There's a Rue Delphine Seyrig in Paris: a métro station and university residence wearing the actress' name are located there.
She named Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid Bergman as some of her acting idols.
She shot her role in Stolen Kisses (1968) in eight days only.
She used to credit Alain Resnais for having passed on to her the love for cinema.
Both Delphine and Emmanuelle Riva played an unnamed heroine nicknamed 'Elle' in a movie penned by Marguerite Duras, The Music (1967) and Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) respectively.
Her biographer François Poiriée coined the nickname Déesse for her because her initials D. (French pronunciation: de) and S. (French pronunciation: es) form the word Déesse (Goddess).
She admired Marilyn Monroe both for her acting abilities and for her patience to pose for Hollywood photographers.
Director Yvon Marciano describes his love for Delphine in his short J'aime (2007).
In the 70's she proposed a deal to Marguerite Duras: she offered her to star in 12 of her movies every year just on the condition that she would have been given a few days off every month. The contract was never sealed, as Duras couldn't apparently come out with 12 scripts a year.
There's a Rue Delphine Seyrig in Brest, followed by a Rue Simone Signoret. The two actresses starred together in I Sent a Letter to My Love (1980), which takes place in Brest.
She was short of breath. She had some nodules on her vocal cords, which caused her to give a particular rhythm to her sentences out of fear of not finishing them. These trademark intonations are one of the reasons her voice is considered by many the most beautiful of French cinema.
Always kept visiting son Duncan Youngerman in New York after he relocated there to study.
Michael Lonsdale nicknamed her "The Actress with the Cello Voice".
She was supposed to play the role of Mylene De Lambert in Jacques Demy's Three Seats for the 26th (1988), but Yves Montand opposed her casting because he had heard from Joseph Losey that her vocally feminist attitude could cause trouble on the set. The role went to Françoise Fabian instead.
During the shooting of Muriel (1963), Alain Resnais introduced her to Agnès Varda, Liliane de Kermadec and Marguerite Duras. Delphine told the three female filmmakers that, had they needed her, she would have been glad to work with them. She went on to work with all three.
While in England to star in a stage production of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant", she went to visit the Chiswick Refuge Centre for victims of domestic violence set up by Erin Pizzey. She wanted to set up a similar one in Paris.
She personally introduced Joan of Arc of Mongolia (1989) at the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 1989.
She used to ride a motor-scooter.
Before she died, she was considering to direct a western and a sequel to her documentary Be Pretty and Shut Up (1981).
In 1971 she recorded an LP called "Une fourmie et moi".
Her final stage performance was in a 1987 production of Alan Ayckbourn's "A Woman in Mind". She was nominated for a Molière award for it.
She once joked that, had she not been an actress, her ideal job would have been to sell tickets at the cinema, so that she could see a lot of movies.
In December 1977, she was awarded the "French National Arts Prize" along with director Éric Rohmer, actor François Périer and composer Olivier Messiaen.
She mainly worked with female directors from the 70's onwards. This wasn't entirely her choice, but also due to the fact that many male directors wouldn't call her any longer because of her feminist attitude.
She first met Chantal Akerman at a French film festival. She was supposed to show some slides of her friend Jane Fonda during the Vietnam war at 10 p.m while Akerman had to introduce her film Hôtel Monterey (1973) at 8 p.m. Delphine asked the director if they could switch the time of the screenings, because she thought it was really important for people to see Fonda's work. Akerman agreed on the condition that the actress would have appeared in her next movie. She did.
When he visited New York in the 40s, Luis Buñuel (as he recalls in his autobiography "Mon dernier soupir") took on his knees the daughter of the French cultural attaché. This little girl was Delphine, who would go on to star in two of his movies : The Milky Way (1969) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972).
She reprised her stage role in Jean-Claude Carrière's "L'Aide-mémoire" when the play was translated into English and brought to the US. The production was directed by Milos Forman (who nicknamed her 'Delfinka').
She was friends with writer Jean-Claude Carrière. They got to know each other when he wrote the play "L'Aide-mémoire" for her. He later brought Luis Buñuel to see her acting on stage. This lead the director to cast the actress in The Milky Way (1969) and then in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972).
In his autobiography "Désordre", Jean-Claude Carrière tells a very funny anecdote related to the actress. His friend Guy Bechtel had called his daughter Delphine. The girl was born in the 50's and Carrière was her stepfather. The writer asked his friend why he had picked this name, imagining that the actress couldn't have inspired this choice. Bechtel told him that he had named his daughter after a Delphine he had once met in a provincial Protestant college after the war, a head-turner who had won the hearts of all the boys. Carrière later found out that it was Delphine Seyrig indeed.
François Truffaut wrote the part of Fabienne Tabiard in Stolen Kisses (1968) specifically for Delphine, having loved her performances in Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Muriel (1963). Some time after having sent her the script, the director went to see the actress in a stage performance of Harold Pinter's "The Lover" to later have dinner with her at her place in Place des Vosges and hear her response. She accepted the role. Truffaut later stated that he would have been in trouble had she declined the offer, because, when he had finished to write the script, he had realized that only the "Marienbad" actress could have played the character.
She appeared in 6 movies with Michael Lonsdale: Comédie (1966), Stolen Kisses (1968), The Day of the Jackal (1973), Aloïse (1975), India Song (1975) and Her Venetian Name in Deserted Calcutta (1976). The two actors also worked together in several stage productions, including La chevauchée sur le lac de Constance (1974), which was filmed.
Her neighbors in Place Des Vosges were Annie Girardot and Francis Blanche.
She was a great admirer of Gérard Philipe: she stated that watching his performances played a crucial role in inspiring her to become an actress.
She often wore Chanel. She got to know the stylist as she first designed her clothes for Last Year at Marienbad (1961).
On the set of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Luis Buñuel enjoyed embarrassing Stéphane Audran by calling her Mrs. Chabrol in front of the cast and crew. Delphine used to cheer up Stéphane, telling her that she had already worked with Buñuel and that he was doing this without malice.
Bulle Ogier recalls that, on the set of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Delphine (wearing Chanel) and Stéphane Audran (wearing Lagerfeld) were engaged in an elegance contest. They asked Luis Buñuel if he could give a close-up to the back décolletages of their dresses, a wish he was happy to grant in exchange of one bottle of champagne and one of whiskey.
One year after Stolen Kisses (1968), she collaborated again with François Truffaut in Mississippi Mermaid (1969). Her voice can be heard reading the newspaper announcements at the beginning of the movie and during the restaurant scene later on.
She first met Ulrike Ottinger at the 1975 Bruxelles Film Festival where the director's first movies (Berlinfieber - Wolf Vostell (1973), Laocoon & Sons (1975) and The Enchantment of the Blue Sailors (1975)) were shown. Delphine congratulated the director on the courage and originality of her works and told her that she would have been glad to work with her in the future. She did.
She was well-known for not caring about awards. She never attended the Césars when she was nominated and even refused the "Prix du Syndicat de la Critique" that she won for her stage performance in "Sarah et le cri de la langouste".
Shortly before she died, she and Ulrike Ottinger were considering to do another movie together. It would have been called "Diamond Dance" and Delphine was supposed to play a woman traumatized by the past in it. They used to have long discussions on the phone about the project, even if, near the end, Delphine's respiratory problems were giving her huge difficulties to reply. The movie was never made.
She became friends with John Karlen and Andrea Rau on the set of Daughters of Darkness (1971).
Close friends with Roger Blin, whom she considered her true acting mentor.
Before starting to shoot The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Stéphane Audran was scared by the thought of having to work with Delphine (her fellow student at Tania Balachova's theatre classes) because she thought her pretentious. They got perfectly along in the end.
She was one of Samuel Beckett's favourite actresses and starred in several of his plays, sometimes under his direction. She was always under the impression of having let him down, not managing to fulfill everything he expected of her. He felt the opposite and, in 1981, he stated that the only contribution he would have liked to offer to the annual "Festival d'automne" in Paris would have been a stage production of "Footfalls" with Billie Whitelaw or Delphine.
Shortly before she died, she had approached her frequent collaborator Chantal Akerman, asking her to direct a stage production of "A Streetcar named Desire" where she wished to play Blanche. Akerman wasn't available and the production was never done. The director later stated that, had she been familiar with Delphine's illness, she would have done it.
During her 1956-1961 stay in New York, she lived in Greenwich village.
As of February 2014, she's the only 20th century actress who has a Paris rue wearing her name. There was talk in 2013 to name another one after Romy Schneider, but the project has been indefinitely postponed.
She wasn't the first choice to play the leading role of Kate in The Garden That Tilts (1975), as writer/director Guy Gilles had originally intended it for his friend Jeanne Moreau, who was unavailable. After her friend Delphine got the role, Moreau accepted to have a cameo in the film.
Her family owned several Picasso paintings. Her father, Henri Seyrig, was friends with the artist.
She's buried at the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. When he was director of the "Théâtre Montparnasse", Gaston Baty had one door opened on the wall that separates the theatre from the cemetery, so that he could easily visit the tomb of 19th century stage legend Marie Dorval, whom he worshiped. Being familiar with this anecdote, Delphine chose to be buried against the wall of the cemetery.
She signed the Manifesto of the 343 to support the legalization of abortion in France.
Her friend Jean-Claude Carrière stated that she used to lend her apartment in Place des Vosges to women who wanted to have abortions under the assistance of licensed doctors.
She took part to the "Marche Internationale des Femmes" in 1971 in support of the freedom of women.
In the documentary Delphine Seyrig, portrait d'une comète (2000), Michael Lonsdale tells a very poignant anecdote related to the actress: Delphine had once made him a gift of a succulent plant that grew flowers about every two years. He claims that it kept flourishing for about 15 years, but never again after Delphine's death.
In her autobiography "Le temps et rien d'autre", Françoise Fabian shares an anecdote about a stage production of Harold Pinter's "Old Times" where she starred opposite Delphine and Jean Rochefort. It was an habit for spectators to arrive even ten minutes after the beginning of a performance, consequently making distracting noises. Irritated by this, Delphine chose one evening to enter the stage, sit on the couch she had to and then stay in silence for about ten minutes as a form of provocation. Only after everyone had taken his seat, she delivered her first line.
She befriended Françoise Fabian as they worked together in a stage production of Harold Pinter's "Old Times" and slept at her place every night until the show was over.
She was good friends with Jean Rochefort, whom she personally chose as her partner in a theatrical production of "Cet animal étrange" (a Gabriel Arout play based on a series of short stories by Tchekhov) and went on to work with on many other occasions, both on screen and stage. Rochefort always considered Delphine a crucial figure of his life, stating that the honour of being her partner helped him gaining a lot of visibility and respect as an actor. He was so devastated by Delphine's death that he coined the term 'orphan-brother' to describe his feelings.
She adopted her cat Olivia while doing a stage production of Harold Pinter's "The Collection". They appeared in about 200 performances together.
The feasts she had at her apartment in Place des Vosges were legendary among French actors. Jean-Pierre Marielle once called her apartment the best night club in all of Paris.
Marguerite Duras once called her a 'famous stranger' with regards to her relatively little fame among large audiences.
She was well-known for having great power on the stage plays she starred in, usually choosing her directors herself or making them bend to her wishes.
It was thanks to her power of persuasion that Harold Pinter accepted that his plays 'The Lover', 'The Collection' and 'Old Times' would be performed in France for the first time. In his autobiography 'Ce genre de choses', Jean Rochefort offers an hilarious recounting of the meeting: he and Delphine had flown to London to convince Pinter to give his permission for the plays to be performed. During their meeting at the bar of the Savoy Hotel, Rochefort, who could barely speak English, was just repeating the sentence 'We are before a wall' with regards to the stubbornness of Pinter's refusal, something that was deeply annoying the author. It was only thanks to Delphine's charms and communication skills that Pinter eventually reconsidered and gave his approval to the project.
She once criticized the movies of Ingmar Bergman for their unrealistic portrayal of the relationships between women and compared them unfavorably to the plays of Henrik Ibsen, whom she admired for his ability to offer more authentic portrayals of female characters.
She was fluent in German due to her Alsatian ancestry.
She was an active opposer of the Brazilian military government, signing petitions against its oppressive methods and calling for it to observe the human and most elementary judiciary rights.
In 1972, she lent her apartment to Harvey Karman to give the first ever demonstration of the 'super coil' abortion technique.
Mother of Duncan Youm-German (Duncan Youngerman).
When she moved to New York in the 50s, her dream was to play Cleopatra opposite Marlon Brando's Antony on Broadway. She eventually went on to play the role in 1976 in a London production at the Young Vic theatre opposite actor Michael Graham Cox.
In the early 60s, she introduced her former mentor Lee Strasberg to the French theatre world. She dreamed of a method acting workshop being started in Paris.
She gives her name to a Toulouse rue.
In the early stages of her career, many thought that her unique, now immensely celebrated voice would be an obstacle to a successful acting future. She even saw some coaches that tried to teach her how to change it.
She was awarded the 1963 "Victoire du Cinéma Français" for her performance in Muriel (1963).
Jean-Claude Carrière remembers that, while she was starring in his play, "The Little Black Book", Delphine became enthralled with the student movement and took part to protests in Renault car factories.
Replaced Dominique Sanda as the female lead in India Song (1975).
She often collaborated with choreographer Maurice Béjart, providing voice-over for some of his documentaries or filmed ballet productions.
She wasn't the original choice for the female lead in The Music (1967) as Marguerite Duras (a vocal detractor of Delphine's star-making movie Last Year at Marienbad (1961)) wanted Anouk Aimée instead. It was Duras' co-director Paul Seban who insisted on having Delphine and he eventually won. The actress went on to be awarded the 'Étoile de cristal' (the Pre-César) for her performance in the film and become Duras' favourite and quintessential collaborator.
She played 'Elle' opposite Robert Hossein as 'Lui' in The Music (1967), Marguerite Duras and Paul Saban's filmed adaptation of the original version of Duras' play. When, in 1985, Duras staged a new version of the play on Jean-Louis Barrault's request, the roles of 'Elle' and 'Lui' were respectively played by Miou-Miou and Sami Frey, who happened to be Delphine's partner in real life.
Between 1947 and 1950 she studied at "Le Collège-Lycée Cévenol International', a protestant secondary school in Haute-Loire.
Was an E.P.J.D. (Education by Theatre project) student for two years under the mentorship of Roger Blin.
In her adolescence, she was friends with stage actors Jacques Amyrian and Danièle Condamin, both members of the theatre company Laniel Leveugle. This relationship was what got her interested in an acting career in the first place.
'The Stranger' in Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977) was originally supposed to be a male character, but Marguerite Duras turned it into a woman so that she could cast Delphine in the role.
Gives her name to a Montpellier rue.
Peter Greenaway named Delphine as his favourite actress.
She stayed at Michael Lonsdale's place during the whole shooting of Stolen Kisses (1968).
After they worked together in Last Year at Marienbad (1961), her co-star Sacha Pitoëff immediately offered her a contract for several plays with his theatre company.
Comedian Claude Véga was famous for his acclaimed impression of Delphine, which he's seen doing in François Truffaut's penultimate installment of his Antoine Doinel saga, Bed & Board (1970). Delphine had appeared in the previous chapter as Fabienne Tabard.
Tilda Swinton named Delphine as a major role model, stating that she was particularly influenced by her work in Last Year at Marienbad (1961).
She starred in 5 movies with companion Sami Frey: Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966), Spray of the Days (1968), Mr. Freedom (1968), Diary of a Suicide (1972) and The Garden That Tilts (1975). They also worked together in several stage productions, two of which were filmed: La chevauchée sur le lac de Constance (1974) and The Beast of the Jungle (1988).
In his autobiography (Visites), Michael Lonsdale states that his character's feelings in India Song (1975) were the same he felt towards Delphine in real life, as the Vice-Consul is doomed to be hopelessly in love with the actress' character, Anne-Marie Stretter, whose heart belongs to another man.
Marguerite Duras stated that no one possessed Delphine's ability to read/recite texts.
Born the same day as Omar Sharif.
Once mentioned the role of Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971) as the favourite of her career.
Catherine Corsini, director of Summertime (2015), stated that she named Izïa Higelin's character Delphine after the actress. The other main character, Carole (played by Cécile de France) was named after writer/director Carole Roussopoulos. Fellow feminists Delphine Seyrig and Carole Roussopoulos were friends and co-founders of the 'Women's Audiovisual Centre Simone De Beauvoir.
As of 2015, she's the only French winner of the NSFC (National Society of Film Critics) Award for Best Supporting Actress (for her performance in Stolen Kisses (1968)).

Personal Quotes (27)

We live in a so-called heterosexual society which is really male heterosexual. Power, press, media, industry all stress male achievements. Heterosexuality was a mask. In the commercial cinema, this heterosexuality appears basically anti-feminine: you see more male faces on the posters than before. The world is showing its true face at last.
[on Marguerite Duras] Marguerite is not a woman. She is a person with characteristics which may be feminine.
[on Alain Resnais] He never tells you 'I want'. I never once heard him say I want this or I want that. When he chooses an actor he knows why he is choosing him. His casts are all very carefully considered. All his 'I wants' go into this preliminary section, and because of this the actors enjoy great freedom of action- cohesion being inevitable, you see? When you have a scene to play, you can try it gay or sad, whichever you like. Resnais will always say 'Do what you like, provided is how you feel the character'. But if he isn't pleased with the take, you go on and on until it's right, changing your approach if you like. This way he sometimes gets takes which are completely different.
[on her approach to characters] I have to create an entire past history for her/me. If one isn't provided, I create it for myself. I invent it. I can't work any other way. The act of moving a cigarette lighter in itself doesn't interest me; what interests me is how to move it as the character would. I think the real reason why one loves acting lies in this conception of the gesture bound by personality. I think that even actors who don't admit it actually play much more than the text and its necessary movements. They act because they invent a character. And when one invents a character, he doesn't invent her at thirty-five or seventy years old; one makes her arrive there. Actors who deny it deny it because they're unaware of it, but they do it unconsciously. I don't care if they say the opposite. I know it isn't true.
American actors work out their characters really thoroughly. They leave nothing to chance. When they do it, it is because they are certain of achieving a certain result. Take Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in [Billy] Wilder's Some Like it Hot, for instance. Their improvisation bursts out every inch of the way, but at the same time, how those characters are constructed! They hang together without a flaw. The actors can do the most incredible things because they have a solid base to build on. They can even amuse themselves by creating gags to amuse us. When French actors play the fool, it doesn't work out. Sometimes it's charming, more often self-indulging. When Americans do it, it's impeccable.
Words are icebergs. You only see the little tip which sticks out of the sea. But under the water... there is all the rest. My way of working corresponds to this way of thinking. I work by reflex. I don't rack my brains... except when I don't understand. If a character does something and I can't see why, then I must try to find some justification. I try to make the character's development logical, even if it means going off into fantasy. If a director tells me nothing about a character, I invent all sorts of things about her for myself, just for my own use. I envelop her, try to identify her personality so as to be able to live it later.
[on working with William Klein on Mr. Freedom (1968)] I know his mind, the way he functions. I couldn't have played the role for anyone else. With him I joked and had a lot of fun: he is like a brother to me. Usually I am afraid of my directors. But Bill impresses me by what he does, not as a person. I have known him so long we can say what we like about each other, and with him I was able to do things I might have never dared to try with other directors. Which proves that an actor can do anything provided he feels the context is right. For "Mr.Freedom" I did not construct a life for my character in my head. I did not create my private film. Klein was my film, my life. My friendship with Bill enabled to see myself in a new light. No one else ever offered me a role like that. Only Bill.
[on Luis Buñuel] With Buñuel one is more likely to go into raptures over his ideas and antitheses than over his compositions. We were just talking about an Alain Resnais tracking shot, but it would be difficult to know what camera movement to talk about in a Buñuel film. And if you did speak about one, it wouldn't be for the movement itself but for the weight thrown into the balance by the meaning it expresses. With Buñuel one is involved by the idea rather than by the visual expression of the idea.
The theater and films are very far from women's consciousness about themselves.
[on Beckettian theatre] Sam doesn't try to explain what the play means- the invisible part of the play. He says you have to do that and that, you have to do it with your body, your voice, your lips.
[on Samuel Beckett] He is like an orchestra conductor: he sets the tempo. Actors, it seems to me, are ever less inclined, or no longer inclined at all, to respect rhythms, and French actors no longer take into account the metrical structure as they used to. When you work with Beckett, you find yourself regretting not having this almost musical education. It's a concrete, real kind of work that is quite distinct from the question of interpretation.
[on being directed by Samuel Beckett in a stage production of "Play"] It's still quite different to be dealing with Beckett as an author who has precise ideas about the way he wishes to be interpreted and to be dealing with that author as a director; we were alone with him. It's both overwhelming and reassuring to be alone with the author-director.
[on playing Beckettian roles] I played "Comédie" in 1964 and "Pas" in 1978; "Comédie, it seems to me was an easier play to do, and the text less remote than "Pas", easier to understand. At one and the same time there are all the elements of the most classic and the most casual theater, as if put through a food mill by Beckett. "Pas" is a piece which seems to me more difficult to play, perhaps because there's one person on stage and one person in the wings. Likely, musicians would find it difficult to play a sonata in a concert where the violinist would be on stage and the pianist in the wings or vice versa. Whatever the reason, I feel I lacked confidence in "Pas". There is real virtuosity in Beckett's texts and I am no virtuoso. I was never able to summon the right precision for the role. It was almost as the instrument itself were insufficient. To play Beckett you have to have a real capacity for precision in delivery. You have to know how to talk and to act mechanically and precisely as if for a Bach partita. Enough talk of being supple and inventing all that you will from within. As for me, I have a fluid, undefined, imprecise elocution, which isn't exactly bothersome in playing Turgenev, but which is troublesome in Beckett.
In the case of [Samuel] Beckett and [Marguerite] Duras, writing is really staging within oneself, and then comes in the imagery. In the context of my work with Sam Beckett, I was strongly affected: I didn't achieve everything I would have wished; I don't have the feeling of having reached the outer limit of everything he might have expected of me. That gives me the feeling of wanting to try again and to do better next time. [1986 interview]
[on the Actors' Studio] It was an essential training for me. I lived in a milieu of painters and poets that led me to act in Robert Frank's first film, "Pull My Daisy", in 1959, and which was screened in the same program as Shadows (1958).
[on Dirk Bogarde] That English Bogey: ah, what a wonderful actor and partner he is.
[on Chantal Akerman] Chantal is of her time. While other filmmakers do 19th century filmmaking most of the time, hers is 20th century filmmaking. That's why I think she's important. She, Ulrike Ottinger and Marguerite Duras are really the people who are making movies modern.
Women who refuse the whole concept of femininity are lucid much earlier, but they suffer more. Many women strive for femininity as a way of getting by. There are lots of things I wouldn't do any more.
[on becoming a director] Video is my independence from men. It's my feminist thing. I can express things with video that I can't with films or plays. I like being able to fiddle with the camera, and the whole editing process.
[on the title character in Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)] Her sex life is very much like any housewife's.
[on Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)] It observes the woman in a loving and generous way, doing the things she has to do every day- the way she cooks, the way she stands over a sink. It has turned out to be quite unbearable to watch. Nobody has really had to watch 3½ hours of housewife-ing before. It is a very important film. We went very far with the details of the character. I hate to feel ugly, and I did feel ugly. She was so trapped, it was like being in jail.
I had always been in rage. I had been very angry since childhood. But what man would want an angry woman? The rage came out as charm.
[on starring in the stage play of 'The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant'] Passion is a subject people don't dare speak of in a completely direct way now. Authors are afraid of talking about it.
[on working with female directors] It's odd. In one year I made three films with women. Somehow we must sense each other.
[on the male and female position] The weird thing is that I don't think men know they are manipulating. Nothing can be expected of men unless women start to become aware of the manipulation which men do to them. Once a woman becomes aware, the solution doesn't come either, but at least the struggle begins. A little oxygen is getting in.
I think all women are feminists from the day they are born. But we each have different ways of surviving. Women are deeply insecure. Saying you're not a feminist doesn't mean you aren't one. You may be afraid to saying so because you're afraid of losing ground. I have a heavy past, having been an actress. It was a way of seducing, or proving to myself that I could be accepted. But actresses are a commercial product. They represent the whole male-female product seen with a microscope. They are agents of the male optic.
[on her acting profession] I can't give it up. It's the way I earn my living. All I can do is to try to get my personal points across.

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