Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Premiere of Romy, Thorsten C. Fischer, Germany 2009

Although it is 'only' a made-for television film, the much hyped and talked about biopic on the legendary German-Austrian actress Romy Schneider had its premiere last night at the Delphi Palace in Berlin.

German actress Jessica Schwartz attending the premiere of Romy last night at Berlin's Delphi Palace

Romy will be aired on German television on 11 November. A second biopic on the actress - a German/ French coproduction - this one intended for cinematic release and was to star Yvonne Catterfeld in the title role, fell through due to quarrels between the producers and the Romy Schneider estate. Romy Schneider, who made her first film at the age of 15, later rose to international fame in films by Orson Welles and Luchino Visconti. She eventually settled in Paris, and in 1980 was voted the most popular 'French' actress in a poll by Paris-Match, thus beating heavyweights such as Catherine Deneuve and Jeanne Moreau. Schneider, after Marlene Dietrich and Hildegard Knef, was one of the few German actress who had an international career and were known outside the borders of Germany. Nevertheless, the reason why today Schneider is again primarily remembered in Germany and Austria, may be because there 'is not a single film she made which is considered a classic', as Schneider herself once lamented. When she, at the beginning of the 1980s, compiled a list of all her films, she managed to come up with merely ten which she deemed 'good', but nothing more.

On the left: Romy Schneider in all her melancholy, mysterious, beauty. On the right, Jessica Schwartz.

I, however, beg to differ. I believe that at least her five collaborations with director Claude Sautet have yielded interesting films which, although very much 'time capsules' of the 197s, are nonetheless excellent films which stood the test of time. Films like Cesar et Rosalie (France 1972) or Une histoire simple (France 1978), for which Schneider received the second of two Cesars for Best Actress, is a film along the lines of Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (USA 1973), in other words, a product of its time where topics like Women's Lib, abortion and sexual revolution were on everybody's lips. However, in today's cinematic landscape where women are only allowed to concern themselves with marriage and children - and, perhaps, with juggling a 'successful' career on top of it - these portraits of independent women, stand out as almost revolutionary and provocative. Compared to many of today's 'women's films', they seem as fresh as dew on an English lawn on a Spring morning! So, could some clever film distributor please take the Schneider-Sauter collaborations out of their mothballs and re-release them?!

Les choses de la vie, Claude Sautet (France 1969), Scheider's first collaboration with Claude Sautet (1924 - 2000).

'La chanson d'Helene', from the film Les Choses de la vie, sung by Romy Scheider

Cesar et Rosalie (France 1971), the third Schneider-Sautet collaboration, which is a sometimes touching, often funny, film about a menage-a-trois, which in many ways echoes Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim (France 1961).