Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Maria Schneider's Arthouse: Beyond the Myths

Merry Go Round, 1977.
For most, the focus for Maria Schneider is on a film that is 40 years old, on a role that was written by Bertolucci for a young boy but was acted by a 19-year-old French woman. Can you imagine that film? Maria discovered the original story in Italy. A film that in auteur conceit could have been the second leg of a trilogy on fascism: The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900.
In Last Tango Jeanne confronts her sadistic attacker Paul and shoots him. Schneider sums it up: “I must say that the murder in the end of the film did me much good”. 
Few journalists having a field day with the film’s excesses knew of her work, her life, or her thoughts. David Thompson ("Remembering Maria Schneider: Did film ruin the controversial actress's life?", New Republic, February 2011) decided to impose his astute personal reading of a photograph of Schneider at 50 and anticipate the reaction of male gazers “gulping” in pimply faced immaturity at their goddess. Even though in the end, Thompson tips his hat to Maria, the patronizing gesture is as fresh as fermented Roquefort.
How can Thompson read so much into a picture or a life of someone he never met, having seen a few (English language) films out of the 50 Schneider made? This is par for the majority of Anglophile publications with catchy tabloid titles and short, shallow obituaries on Maria.

Luigi Commencini, Ordre des Arts et Lettres
Maria Schneider worked almost every year of her nearly 40 year career. Thompson and many other journalists would have us believe that "film killed her"; that after her debut in Last Tango, which made her become a drug addict,  she never reached the same pinnacle of acclaim. That pinnacle for Thompson's "male gazers" is the voyeuristic love of explicit sex. The film with a graphic rape for the "gulpers". Was it film or paparazzi that "killed" Maria, if the metaphor is to be used? According to the actress, she was terrified of the instant success the film brought her and used drugs to escape. But by the 80's that was over. She met and stayed with the same woman to her death.
"I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol I wanted to be recognized as an actress, and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown". Maria Schneider.

It should be noted that the widely publicized story about Maria Schneider checking into a mental hospital to be with her lover in 1975 was at a time when visitation rights for same sex partners was prohibited, not only in Italy but everywhere. It is one of the single most recurrent fallacies circulating about her.
There are other bio fallacies that need correction- she quit the set of Caligula to make a 100% feminist film (A Woman Like Eve) and she refused to make sexist films for Joseph Losey and Luis Bunuel and left those sets too. She could have had a much bigger career," observed director Penelope Spheeris, a close friend at the time. "But I have a lot of respect for her. Think about it: To be such a sex symbol, to be so profoundly beautiful and have so much charisma and then not be available to men? Hollywood just doesn't stand for that. I don't care what people say, this town is run by men. Always."

Maria continually worked as a fine actress with a solid and productive career.  Even if you don't read French, its not hard to appreciate Schneider's impressive lineage of work.
I interviewed Maria Schneider two years before her 50th birthday in Paris. She was beautiful and radiant, the Créteil Film de Femmes guest of honor. We saw her films, and heard her words. They drown out the cacophony of the ignorant. They need to be remembered: how film is a tracing of memory, how women must be recognized as actors and directors. How senior actors must be supported when they are unemployed and impoverished. She was vice-president of "La Roue Tourne" for this purpose.
Q: How do you feel about the response to you-there is a lot of press in France about you being honored at Créteil? How do you feel you've been received?
A: Very interesting. Because finally after I've been doing this now for thirty years, finally I find some cheerful articles, and you know people kind of understand me better now today than they used to. Because the media threw stones at me. [See Time, March 3, 1975]. When you read the articles back in the 70s they were terrible back then. And now seeing the kind of choices I made, they kind of understand me better. And respect me better, maybe it's the age, I don't know. (laughter). 
(Interview with Maria Schneider 2001 © Moira Sullivan, Movie Magazine International)
In the USA there is still stone throwing. But we know better with every stone unturned. Richard Corliss wrote  about Schneider in Time, comparing her life work with two other actors Tura Satana and Lena Nyman.  Compressing their life work into a singular film and shallow obituary. the article is entitled  Dead Sex Kittens: Farewell to Three Icons of Movie Eroticism. (February 10, 2010).
Contrast sensationalized articles with interviews of Schneider and you will discover the truth that "male gazers" and "gulpers" ignore.  Directors, writers, artists and actors knew her real work, knew her capability, in France and abroad. The yellow journalism of Corliss, Thompson and several mainstream film critics speaks for itself.  Some  journalists were kinder but almost everyone singles out Last Tango as the tour de force, of Schneider's career,  a film Maria did not enjoy making, even less with director Bernardo Bertolucci for unrealistic dialogue and scenes. He fired her for 1900, which in hindsight was fortuitous for Schneider who said that after Last Tango the "sweaty palmed" Italian director never made anything of substance. In a twist his conceits in the film - costume, makeup, mis en scéne, are his failures: all unfairly accredited to Schneider. A full clothed Brando emerges unscathed for the wear and tear.
Ordre des Arts et de Lettres, 2010.
Its been a sad week since the news of Maria Schneider's death was announced on February 3. Few realized she was so ill with terminal cancer.  The comments about how her looks had changed from the young woman of the film that gave her international attention were unkind.  It was as if she was supposed to stay forever young in real life as in cinema. Like most young women when she matured, she was not interesting. 
The pictures that contrasted the young Maria with the mature Maria in fact were taken when she was inducted into the Ordre de Arts et Lettres in July 2010, a mere six months before her death. Some of them featured her costar in Merry Go Round, (Frédéric Mitterand) who is the Minister of Culture in France. Maria was impeccably dressed in a smart blue coat, knee length, with blue slacks and crisp white blouse. On her jacket, the medal of knighthood was pinned.
Maria looked tired and must have mustered the strength to be present and honored, which she did with bravery. She was hailed by Frédéric Mitterand in a letter read at the ceremony at the Ministry of Culture in Paris. Few journalists outside France covered the story. The photographs from the event received worldwide currency only with her death.
Schneider protége of Bardot. 
This was the French order that Brigitte Bardot refused to be inducted into in 1985. Brigitte Bardot was Maria Schneider's confidante and took the vagabond actress, the 15 year old daughter of actor and colleague Daniel Gélin under her wing. She introduced her to people in the cinema and modeling world: an agent and William Morris. The young Maria was impressed that already at 33 Bardot was planning on quitting pictures, which she did six years later.
You embody, you too, a facet of the modern woman and her freedom. You're an audacious actress, able to play all roles, even including your own: thus we believe that you uncover who you are, or rather as the film makes you become in the the subtle abyss of implementation -  realized by Bertrand Blier ten years ago in "Les Actors" where you hang out with many other "stars" of  "the French seventh art". However, it is primarily through international productions that you have risen in the cinematic landscape and in the heart of each. At just twenty years, "Last Tango in Paris" was for you your first waltz in this world brilliant, too brilliant, perhaps, because of mysteries and appearances. Alongside the great Marlon Brando, you  have "dared" to violate the proprieties of the time, and you deserved an Oscar nomination, along with all the insults and all the successes still attached to the scandal and the advances that art and artists know so often which take on the public of their time ...
Exponential artist, you hug the greatest legends of cinema.
Directors like Bertolucci, or in ANTONIONI "Profession: Reporter, like Bulle OGIER with  RIVETTE, GARREL, SCHROETER or FASSBINDER. You share the stage with Jack Nicholson and many other giants. Altogether, no fewer than fifty films in just forty years.  It is remarkable that this sustainability has earned you the honor of being in  2001 in Creteil, Festival International du Film de Femmes. Many are your appearances, both film and television, which marked the spirits and touched a wide audience, as in "Les Nuits Fauves" in 1992 whose success has been truly extraordinary. Always free, you do not hesitate to reject proposals when  they lock you into the category of "Lolita", or when you do not feel comfortable with authors, as prestigious as they are, such as Luis Bunuel and Joseph Losey. Thus, you knew that it goes beyond the interests of your career to convey an authentic artistic personality.  Always bold, you have roles that have marked a radiant spontaneity, an explosive vitality as in the Last Tango I mentioned, or in the role of the prostitute in "La Déborade" by Daniel Duval.
You too have been an artist that I am pleased today to honor, a singular icon of today's woman. Your presence, your voice hoarse and sensual, which seems to express wonderful powers of revolt, you were a model of emancipation for more than a generation. That too, I think,  is the meaning of film, the image of our potential set before our eyes which reaches out to help us become ourselves. And you have succeeded, more than others, and embody our freedom, with a tangible vitality and especially of women at a time of exploration and conquest.
At this very imperfect sketch of your personality, I would add, in fact, finally, "commitment", not only because you give yourself on the screen, the rebellious woman, as I suggested in a few instances, but also because you're in solidarity with your profession, as evidenced by your investment in the association "La Roue Tourne"created  a little over half a century, in 1957, for older artists whom fortune has overshadowed ... It is also you know, a cause particularly dear to me and which I wished to give my full support by participating in  Gala d’Union of Artists recently held in Paris at the Cirque d'Hiver.     
For all of your background and your fighting, for your charm and emotion that you inspire in the heart of each spectator, it gives me great pleasure, dear Maria Schneider, on behalf of  the French Republic, to make you a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. 
 July 2010.
At the quiet funeral held at Èglise Saint-Roch, Brigitte Bardot was present through a moving letter read by Alain Delon, the woman who called Schneider every Sunday during her illness.  Among Maria's friends in attendance was the director Bertrand Blier, actress Claudia Cardinale, the writer Jean-Henri Servat, actor Alain Delon, Manuel and Fiona Gélin, actress Christine Boisson, artistic director Dominique Besnehard, actress Farida Rahouadj, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of Culture, Christophe Girard, and actress Andrea Ferreol.  
Maria's partner (compagne) since the 80s, Pia, spoke at the memorial.  "Ciao Bella, Ciao Maria" and saluted her for her bravery in the long illness that took her life. 
Maria's ashes were to be taken from Père Lachaise to later be scattered at La Roche de Vierge in Biarritz.
It may seem pointless to react to the media as if there is any conscience involved in paparazzi and yellow journalists who make a living by exploiting celebrities with a click of a camera or a quickly written paragraph dripping with sensationalism.
Maria Schneider was in the limelight from the beginning to the end. How she was remembered in France was moving where she received the genuine appreciation and affirmation she was seeking her entire career. That honor must be extended elsewhere within the international film community.

Salut Maria!

Èglise Saint-Roch, Paris
La Roche de Vierge in Biarritz.
From this point on the film, Jeanne takes charge.
Famous feminist film made in Holland by Nouchka Van Brakel
Bertolucci's odd couple: 47 year old Marlon Brando making a comeback, and 19 year old Maria Schneider.
Au Pays des Juliets
La Dérobade with Miou-Miou
Traversing the empty space of Last Tango
At Cannes Film Festival: Au Pays des Juliets
The Passenger
Maria Schneider
Merry Go Round with Joe Dallesandro
The Passenger with Jack Nicolson
Créteil Films de Femmes, guest of honor, 2001© Moira Sullivan
Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001, ©Moira Sullivan
Last Tango
The Passenger
Hellé, Roger Vadim
The Repentant: Isabelle Adjani, Maria Schneider
Last Tango
La Babysitter

The funeral of Maria Schneider, Èglise Saint-Roch,
February 10, 2011

Paris, February 10, 2011.


Maria Schneider: Forget Last Tango.

Autoportrait: Maria Schneider

Maria Schneider - Belle et Rebelle
What had become of her?
We left her, a child in the arms of handsome Marlon. In a role too overwhelming for her and she would not return unscathed. Descent into hell. Solitude. Chaotic career. With the sole bastion of  acute lucidity of the mediocrities in the world. We find her today more beautiful than ever. Funny. Insolent. A little bruised. Waiting for a role of good measure, and we would be proud. We love her very much. Portrait.

A Precocious Rebel
"I wanted to paint, and I studied Latin and Greek. I was a good student, I wanted to make excavations and illustration for children's books, because it is an artistic craft. My mother was a librarian. I was living with her. Then there was May 68 and while my brother became bourgeois, a physician, and demonstrated with red flags, I cried because I could not study. I had quite a violent conflict with my mother, so I left home at fifteen and a half. I earned my living by selling drawings and illustrations for restaurant menus. I have also been a young model for jeans.
I was a cinephile. I went to see many films, like those of Italian neorealism. In 1969, while making the rounds I met  Brigitte Bardot at a film by Jean Aurel, Les Femmes. She took a liking to me. I told her that I lived alone. As if Brigitte was not nice to animals and stray dogs! She knew my father, Daniel Gélin, who was an actor and who I did not know. She offered me a converted maid's room in her home in Paris, and I stayed two years. That's how I started in the trade. I met her agent who told me with his Yugoslavian accent: "You should make movies with the physique you have." I was fascinated by the personality of Brigitte Bardot, who was thirty-three years and was a dazzling beauty. She was already very clear about her work  and began to want to quit. She taught me things that I subsequently was able to verify. I met Warren Beatty, Alain Delon, who made me do Madly (1970). After I did some little things like La Vieille Fille (1971), by Jean Pierre Blanc, with Annie Girardot and Philippe Noiret.

Last Tango ... first major role 
In fact, it's a total coincidence. I was friends with Dominique Sanda. She would make the film with Jean-Louis Trintignant, but she was pregnant. She had a large picture with her of both of us. Bertolucci saw it. He made me do a casting. I read the script, I did not immediately understand. I did not really want to do it and everyone told me: "C'mon, with Brando! ..." I resisted until the last moment, because I had to make a film by Valerio Zurlini, with Delon,  called The Professor, with the dancer Sonia Petrovna. I regretted my choice since the beginning of my career would have been sweeter, quieter. For Tango, I was not prepared. People have identified with a character that was not me. Butter, about saucy old pigs ... I think it's a film that has aged, style, form and speech. It's a film typical of the '70s, dated, unlike the films of Antonioni, Rossellini, that do not wrinkle. Bertolucci's very smart, he followed the fashions. Even Marlon with his charisma and class, felt a bit violated, exploited a little in this film. He rejected it for years. And me, I felt it doubly. Marlon was extraordinary, sympathetic with the technicians and generous. Bertolucci, who was a Communist, had the people with him and was working fifteen hours a day. Marlon said: "There they are - sandwiches for everyone," the Hollywood superstar that he was. There was a chemistry between us, a complicity. With other actors, the film would have been very different.

The 70s and the Sexual revolution
Last Tango is the And God Created Woman (Vadim, 1956) of the 70s. But I'll tell you a secret, it's a scoop that I found in Italy but not in France. In the original script of Tango, my role would be played by a boy, which obviously changes everything. They did not dare. Marlon always told me: "But you have more character than a boy! "[Laughs] It's still the first draft that would have broken taboos. The film, as it was filmed, was banned in Italy by a group of Catholics in Spain under the Franco regime. As in Lolita (Kubrick, 1962) the age difference is also a real taboo. Marlon me twenty and fifty years. In retrospect, this film is harder in the dialogue of the picture - since we have seen much worse - in the perversity of the text and the screenplay by Franco Arcalli, which rotates around zoophilia, pigs and all that ... There is also a deadly side, and I must say that the murder in the end of the film did me much good.

The True Nature of an Actress
I learned on the field, because I have not taken lessons.
I was just at the Actors Studio, but I did not like it. I do not like drama. I go to the opera, but the theater is boring. There are very few actors who say that. For me, cinema is closer to  painting, and I like working with filmmakers who have a sense of the image. I like the idea that cinema remains a memory of our time,  and when filmed, that there is a trace of it. Then I met Antonioni, who is closer to what I am in life. He chose not to sell his soul, and many actors also abstain . After the Bertolucci film, I had golden bridges to sub-Tango, roles of sex symbols ... I ended it very quickly. I also had problems because they said: "She does not want to undress, she will not do the love scenes ..." That's what we always ask young women, even in 2001, it has not changed one iota, however. I'm still shocked about the fact that men of sixty years, Serrault, Poiret, Noiret, have a continuous career, compared to women the same age. Even Girardot. Between the sex symbol and grandma, there are no other interesting roles. I'm  a part of an association for those involved in difficulty called “La Roue Tourne “ which has existed since 1956. I'm just their ambassador. The president is eighty years old and she helps those she calls "disasters of glory." The actors have no unemployment insurance and when they have an accident they are not covered by social security. It's incredible when you consider that this association has paid the rent for Marcel Carné in the last ten years of his life ... but also that of Abel Gance. The state did nothing. Me, I also see a time when I will have difficulty working. The president said: "But, my dear Maria, it has always existed, now you're old, you are forty ! She has known actresses of the silent era, like Jacqueline Delubac. All this has not changed, even with women directors. There is a terrible crisis of roles, and  film seems locked up. Everyone has their place, and "family film" is an illusion.
Garbo's character interested me enormously. I did an interview with Frederic Mitterrand, referring to the interactive exhibit Ciné Cité, which was held at La Defense. To Frederick, with his kindness, his curiosity, I asked about the great actresses of the past, and I mentioned Greta Garbo's ambiguity [laughs], Anna Magnani for her strength and Vivian Leigh for her fragility. These three actresses I worship.
"I was rock’n roll"
About  drugs, we did not know at the time, it was so dangerous. There was an ideal, to change society, and especially a thirst for novelty. Young people today do not take drugs at all in the same way. They are all paranoid, violent. But we have AIDS and unemployment. Drugs have become a matter of money. I have lost seven years of my life and I regret it bitterly. First, an image that sticks  with you in relation to people who want to work with you. Fortunately, I have not deviated to alcohol or pills. I am one of the few who has been  (an addict) and so far who is still alive. Nico, unfortunately, has not, she was suicidal. It all depends on the love we have of life, or not. Basically, I liked life and I'm out, but not alone. I started using drugs when I became famous. I did not like the celebrity, and especially the image full of innuendo, naughty, that people had of me after Last Tango. In addition, I had no family behind me, who protect you. I had no bodyguard like Sharon Stone, and so I was very exposed. I suffered abuse. People who come up to tell you unpleasant things on planes. I was tracked down, and I felt hounded. And then, we must put things into perspective. I adopted what Mastroianni said: "I am a craftsman." This is really what is best for me. I did not paint, but I paint with myself. Giving emotions to people is a pleasure. The money, fame, power, all that, it is better for protection. It takes years to understand, and it's called maturity. 

Exploring the margins
When I had trouble, I was working in the more marginal routes, with Garrel, Rivette ... I made the film Le Voyage au jardin des morts (1976), a rare film that only the fans of Garrel saw. There was no money. Garrel did everything: sound, image ... He would film in the studios at night. Rassam gave us a thousand francs for  it, a thousand francs  to make the film. Nobody was paid. This film was really made for love of art. The image is beautiful, it was blown up 16 mm black and white. I am not made up and there are shots of extraordinary beauty. Then there was Rivette. He came to me and said, "Maria, I turn to you. "Completely out of it, already under  the influence of Tranxene (drug). He made me go to Paris, his favorite cafe on the Champs-Elysees. I arrived I see a guy sitting in a suit who told me: "You know, I'm writing the script at the same time . What would you like to do? Me: "I dunno, a thriller, a thriller ..." He left  "And with what actor would you do it with? "Well, I know, with my friend Joe [Dallessandro] [laughs]. It became Merry-Go-Round (1977). Now we do more movies like this. It was the new wave, anything was possible. I am a little nervous, because Rivette is really someone who does nothing in a movie. Lubtchansky did every camera movement, and another guy wrote the lyrics. The actors are in the middle. Rivette is the posture of the director. He especially has the gift of bringing people together. 

The byways of cinema
I made  L'Imposteur by Luigi Comencini in 1982. He's a wonderful gentleman, a great director, and his three daughters are in the business: Francesca, Peppe and Cristina. This film is a fable about Jesus and the Vatican today. The subject reminds me of a movie that I declined  to do with Zeffirelli, where I interpreted the Virgin Mary, Jesus of Nazareth (1978). At the time, I said: "It's not my thing, the Virgin Mary, but I regret it very much. In addition, he emphasized he was not angry with me because he came to pick me up four years ago for a role in Jane Eyre (1994). I love Zeffirelli who is a great classic filmmaker.
For fifteen years, I went regularly between Italy and France. Citons La Dérobade, by Daniel Duval (1979), Balles perdues, by Jean-Louis Comolli (1983) which is a comic thriller, Ecrans de sable, by Randa Chahal Sabbag (1990), Au pays des Juliets, by Mehdi Charef (1991).I always go to the movies, but choose my films. My latest love Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee (2000). It is a brilliant  lyrical ballet! 

Maria Schneider, Créteil 2001
© Moira Sullivan

Un féminisme empreint de mystère (Feminism tinged with mystery )
"I prefer mystery. But at nineteen, when someone asks you about your private life, it's really painful. Questions like "Who is your lover? "Why you do not have children? At the time, I responded with a joke, I said that I had fifty lovers, men and women. It was terrible saying that. Newspapers such as Le Gay Pied responded immediately with the first degree. I think all this information interests only me. Coming out and stuff, what does it mean today? Even Jodie Foster hides. The witch hunt still exists in some quarters just as the Middle Ages. Cinema is still archaic. Among men, there is a solidarity, they look out for each other, produce among themselves, give themselves a hand, it's great. 

Women are isolated, they claim less and the more they must spread their privacy. The actress who has a baby, it sells, but the one who lives very well in her corner, it is not possible. We all have ambiguous genitalia, but it is not written on the face.  
One day, Delphine Seyrig came to see me in Los Angeles. She was forty years old, me I was twenty. She was more motivated than me by the feminist struggle. Me, I said: "We'll see, I'll do this perhaps more in two years. She made enemies and embarrassed journalists, but if it is sure to succeed, we must go in the direction of rubbing someone the right way, as Nathalie Baye, Isabelle Huppert".

Maria Schneider: Accomplished Arthouse Actress Dies at 58

Maria Schneider: Accomplished Arthouse Actress Dies at 58

Maria Schneider: Accomplished arthouse actor dies at 58; forget Last Tango.
Créteil Films de Femmes


British Actress Susannah York Dies at 72

British Actress Susannah York Dies at 72

Susannah York and Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York and Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George

The Killing of Sister George

The distinguished British actress of the stage and screen Susannah York died in England on January 15. York played in over 100 films and appeared on the stage. She was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her role as a marathon dancer in They Shoot Horses Don't They (1969) opposite Jane Fonda, which earned her a BAFTA as Best Supporting Actress in 1969.
Another memorable role York played was "Childie", the partner of the cigar smoking June Buckridge (Beryl Reid) in The Killing of Sister George (1969- review by Movie Magazine International San Francisco ). Sister George was a British TV soap featuring June Buckridge that was cancelled. Up until that point the relationship between June and "Childie" was balanced in favor of the dominating and jealous soap star who made her drink her bathwater, but when Childie's mean spirited partner lost her job, the predatory programmer for the BBC, Mrs. Croft (Coral Brown) seduced her. The film features a scene at the authentic lesbian nightclub The Gateways which was a favorite spot for singer Dusty Springfield.
At the Cannes Film Festival York was nominated for several acting awards in and out of competition and in 1972, she won the best actress award for her role in Images directed by Robert Altman. In 1991 she was decorated for "The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" (Order of Arts and Literature) in France for significant contributions to the arts.
Films of Susannah York can be found at Le Video in San Francisco, the best arthouse film rental service in the city.