(Credit: Océan Films)

The life and career of Marianne Denicourt

French actress Marianne Denicourt is an important presence in French cinema. In a career spanning more than 35 years, Denicourt has worked in more than 50 productions and has collaborated with some of the greatest filmmakers ever, including the French New Wave maestro Jacques Rivette and the experimental Chilean master Raúl Ruiz. On her 58th birthday, we revisit Marianne Denicourt’s life as a celebration of her achievements in the world of cinema.

Born in Paris in 1963 to the filmmaker and critic Bernard Cuau, Denicourt was drawn to the world of vaudeville from an early age. Due to the influence of her family, she made her first film appearance as a teenager in Robert Bresson’s 1983 crime drama L’Argent. Convinced that she wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts, Denicourt attended classes at the prestigious Ecole du Théâtre des Amandiers where she trained under French director Patrice Chéreau.

While recalling her childhood, Denicourt said: “A distracted and a little shy child who had invented a friend: Rothko. Why this name? I do not know. Every day, coming home from school, I told my mother about my games with this little boy who didn’t exist. On the other hand, I did have a sister, one year older than me, who is now a director under the name of Emmanuelle Cuau. Me, at 15, I had a kind of revelation when I played a play by Michel Deutsch at my high school theatre club.”

Her acting career properly started in 1987 when she appeared in films like Patrice Chéreau’s Hôtel de France. However, she delivered some of her finest performances when she joined forces with gifted filmmakers like Jacques Rivette. In his 1991 drama The Beautiful Troublemaker, Denicourt played the sister of a wannabe artist Nicolas who falls under the influence of an aging artist (played by Michel Piccoli). Denicourt would collaborate with Rivette on other projects like Divertimento and Up, Down, Fragile where she was brilliant as a woman who wakes up from a coma and learns to live again.

Some of her other well-known works include Benoît Jacquot’s 2000 historical drama about Marquis de Sade where Denicourt starred as the libertine’s mistress – Marie-Constance Quesnet, who helps keep him alive. The actress slowly transitioned to mainstream cinema with appearances in comedies like Romain Goupil’s À mort la mort! and Félix Olivier’s 2006 action drama Djihad. For her performance in Thomas Lilti’s 2014 film Hippocrate, Denicourt even received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for a César Award.

Denicourt is set to star again in French filmmaker Claude Lelouch’s 2021 drama Love is Better than Life. While the actress has often found herself in minor roles throughout her career, there is a sense that she will discover her true potential in the latter half of her career with bigger projects. While talking about her personal philosophy, Denicourt said: “I recognise having an aptitude for happiness. To be happy, you have to take advantage of what you have, and I have the chance to always appreciate the present moment and the people around me. I know what unhappiness is and I have no desire to go back. I always want to see a glass half full, never half empty.”

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