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Sophie Marceau : Movie : La Fidélité

Title : La Fidélité
La Fidélité
Click image to enlarge
Year : 2000
Role : Clélia
Director : Andrzej Zulawski
Language : French

Film: Life, the classics and modelling - welcome to Sophie's world

Independent, The (London), Nov 26, 2000 by Demetrios Matheou

Sophie Marceau has been a Parisian celebrity since she made her first film, aged 14, and became a teenage star. Now 34, she has started to make her presence felt in the English-speaking world, notably opposite Mel Gibson in Braveheart, and as the evil Elektra in The World is not Enough - proving to be a better villain than Robert Carlyle.

Marceau's current film sees her back in her own language and milieu. Moreover, it's directed by her partner of 16 years (and some 26 years her senior), the maverick Polish film-maker Andrzej Zulawski. With its tale of a famous young photographer married to an older man while resisting the advances of a younger one, and fighting off the media's interest in her private life, it is tempting to view La Fidelite as a musing on Marceau's own life, character and career. At the very least her character, Clelia, epitomises the independent spirit that makes Marceau so appealing a figure in French culture.

La Fidélité came about after Zulawski suggested his lover read the 18th-century French classic La Princesse Cleves, whose heroine is a young widow who decides never to remarry. 'She will always refuse another man because she wants to stay her husband's wife, even though he's dead,' Marceau explains, in English that, despite her protestations, is pretty polished.

The title of Zulawski's modernised adaptation refers not only to marital fidelity, but also to journalistic ethics and fidelity to a person's sense of his or her own identity - all of which Clelia fights to uphold. 'I was fascinated by this young woman who goes through life with some sort of natural ethic, of righteousness,' says the actress. 'That's why this story is great, it is about an ordinary woman who is a kind of heroine. People do have those possibilities, to do more than society tells them.'

Which is exactly how she's led her own life. Marceau was born in 1966 in the Paris suburb of Gentilly, 'far from everything,' she smiles, 'except the railway crossings'. Her father was a truck driver and her mother a shop assistant. They were, she says reluctantly, 'more poor than anything'. The family never watched television and Sophie did not see a movie until she was 14 - ironically, when she was making films herself in Paris.

'I wasn't very keen on school,' she recalls. 'I wanted to have a job. To be independent. Probably because I'd seen my parents working all their life... Then I saw an advertisement for a modelling agency. I went there with my mother but they said, `You're too old, we're looking for babies, four months old'.' She laughs. 'But they took some pictures, anyway. And that is how I got a meeting for the first movie I did.'

That was La Boum (The Party), a teen comedy which was quickly followed by a sequel and a Cesar - the French Oscar - as most promising newcomer. When she was 16 she bought back her contract from Gaumont for 1m francs. At 19 she met Zulawski, then in his forties, while making their first film together, L'Amour Braque; they now have a young son, Vincent. Last year, she horrified a smug Cannes audience by suggesting that there was more to life than movies. Marceau clearly doesn't conform to what people expect of her. Her French films have not crossed the Channel with the frequency of Juliette Binoche's, perhaps because they are too populist for the art houses (La Boum), too lurid (Descent into Hell), or simply too Zulawksi. La Fidélité is her fourth collaboration with her partner, whose maverick imagination - though brilliantly cinematic - is not easy to digest (in his best-known film, Possession, Isabelle Adjani makes love to a tentacled monster).

But we have seen Maurice Pialat's Police, in which a young Marceau more than holds her own against Gerard Depardieu's embattled cop, and her swashbuckling heroine of Tavernier's La Fille de d'Artagnan. The puppy-fatted youngster has given way to the more sharply featured, mature woman sitting before me now - tall, lean, blazingly green- eyed, beautiful - who dominates nearly three hours of fluctuating emotions in La Fidelite with such aplomb as to suggest the best is yet to come. Marceau is in no rush. 'I am ambitious for myself, not for movies - it's hard work to become yourself, I think. It takes a whole life.'

'La Fidélité' (15) is out on Friday (1st December 2000)

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