WCW: Fanny Ardant

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If you know one French actress from historical costume movies, it’s probably Fanny Ardant, she of the dark hair, smokey voice, and come-hither eyes. Even if you don’t watch French movies, you’ll probably recognize her as Marie de Guise in Elizabeth (1998) — in which case you really should know more about her!

Since I’m in France right now, I figured it was time to celebrate the woman who is, to me, the grande dame of historical French movies!

 

Les Dames de la Côte (1979)

Three French families living on the Normandy coast have their lives upended by the First World War.

1981 Les dames de la cote

Obviously Fanny’s character gets married!

 

Mémoires de Deux Jeunes Mariées (1981)

Adaptation of a Balzac novel about two young French women who meet at the convent but whose lives follow very different paths. Set in the 1840s.

1980 Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées

Oh the joys of bonnets!

 

La Chute de la Maison Usher (1981)

A French adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe gothic horror.

1981 Histoires Extraordinaires - La chute de la maison Usher

Crappy screencap, big sleeves!

 

Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983)

Three intertwined tales, one set during and after the First World War, the other two modern. Way too complicated to summarize, so just know they’re all centered on a castle in France.

1983 Life Is a Bed of Roses

I like her dress, but his uniform seems to be lacking in structure…

1983 Life Is a Bed of Roses

Who doesn’t love a diadem and some fur?

 

Swann in Love (1984)

Jeremy Irons in love with a courtesan in fin-de-siècle Paris; Fanny plays an aristocratic woman in his circle.

1984 Swann in Love

Such beautiful 1870s bustle gowns in this!

 

La Grande Cabriole (1989)

A French noblewoman (Ardant) takes up with a bourgeois man on the eve of the French Revolution.

1989 La grande cabriole

Hard to find any pics of this!

 

Le Colonel Chabert (1994)

Gérard Depardieu (ugh) is a French colonel who supposedly died during a battle in 1807. He returns to Paris to find his wife has remarried. Stuff doesn’t end well.

1994 Le Colonel Chabert

The color combo is great!

1994 Le Colonel Chabert

Bling, baby

 

Ridicule (1996)

A provincial French aristocrat must learn the games of wit played at the French court just before the Revolution. Ardant plays the worldly widow who both lures and sabotages him.

1996 Ridicule

Weird costume WTF-ery aside, this is a great movie.

1996 Ridicule

Redheaded Marie-Antoinette? Sorry, OT!

 

Elizabeth (1998)

Ardant plays Marie de Guise, regent of Scotland during Queen Elizabeth I’s early reign. Hey, it’s not her fault they got so much of the history wrong!

1998 Elizabeth

It’s also not her fault they gave her embroidered ARMPIT FLAPS.

1998 Elizabeth

She gives a good performance with what’s available!

 

Balzac: A Passionate Life (1999)

The life of famed French writer Honoré de Balzac (Cousin Bette and much more). Ardant plays the married woman he’s in love with.

1999 Balzac- A Passionate Life

Historical layering done right!

1999 Balzac- A Passionate Life

Now that’s a veil!

1999 Balzac- A Passionate Life

Lots of beautiful fur.

 

Le Libertin (2000)

Ardant plays a Prussian painter who paints famed 18th-century intellectual Denis Diderot (Vincent Perez) in the nude, among other naughtiness.

2000 Le Libertin

I really need to see this! If for no other reason, than because I keep finding pics of Perez’s naked ass, and that’s a very good thing.

 

Callas Forever (2002)

The last days of famous opera singer Maria Callas.

2002 Callas Forever

Elly-gant!

 

Raspoutine (2011)

Ardant plays last Russian empress Alexandra to Gérard Depardieu’s (ugh) Rasputin.

2011 Raspoutine

Beautiful!

2011 Raspoutine

Love all the daughters!

2011 Raspoutine

I love the lines of the bodice, so perfect for the era.

And now I feel morally obliged to be random and link to Sarah’s favorite 1970s epic music video, Rasputin by Boney M!

 

Casanova Variations (2014)

John Malkovich as an aging (literal) Casanova; Ardant plays the mother of one of his conquests.

2014 Casanova Variations

I can’t find any pics from the film; this is from the stage play version.

 

Resistance (2014)

A story about French resistance during World War II. All I can find out is Fanny plays “the countess.”

2014 Resistance

I feel like Ardant was born to play any role calling for a French countess.

 

La Séance (2015)

Normally I wouldn’t bother with a short film, but Fanny plays the Comtesse of Castiglione, a 19th-century historical figure close to my heart (short version: she was an Italian countess who lived in Paris during the 1850s-60s and designed and posed for artistic photography, then went into seclusion, then during the 1890s did more photography) — and while the screenshots show WTF costumes, this reconstruction of one of her photographs is shockingly impressive.

2015 La Seance

Compare this, from the film, with real photos of the countess below.

Coin Noir de la Colonne, Pierre-Louis Pierson, 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Countess de Castiglione, from Série des Roses, Pierre-Louis Pierson, 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

What’s your favorite Fanny Ardant historical film?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

8 Responses

  1. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    Aw, you missed the 1950s locked-house murder mystery 8 Women/8 Femmes – a musical film I LOVE very much indeed, with an all-female cast (apart from one blink-and-you-miss-him glimpse of the murder victim). The costuming is fabulous, with splendidly brazen colour-coding and a wide range of 1950s “looks” depicted between the eight women.

    But yes, it’s the historical film I primarily remember Fanny Ardant from.

    Reply
  2. Sharon

    Side bar. Gerard Depardieu, I have the BIGGEST crush on him about 25 years ago. I sat and wept when I saw “Cyrano”…………….now? deeply deeply creepy and sinister, (urgh) indeed! x

    Reply
  3. Claire grave

    The cavalry charge at the battle of eylau is the best cavalry charge in the cinema!!

    Reply
  4. Damnitz

    I found her such a typical too old for the role example in “Le Libertin” and she was one of so many reasons why I hate “Redicule”.

    Reply

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