Is it any wonder the word chic is French? Perhaps as legendary as French food, the revered and elusive mystique of the French woman has simultaneously fascinated and intimidated women all over the world for generations. Naturally slender, aloofly confident, and unbearably cultured and polished, French women have all the trappings of a mythical goddess. They move with ineffable grace, master the effortlessly tousled coiffure and swear by the quality-over-quantity mantra. We love them, we hate them, and we’re terribly envious of their innately good taste. But are they really worth all the fuss?
This romanticized image of the French woman as a paragon of style has traditionally been represented by cinematic icons Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot, Sophie Marceau and Juliette Binoche; women who, while forever associated with glamour and sensuality, are no longer relevant examples of the modern French woman. Their classic looks and polished faces still grace the big screen but have been upgraded by new talent and style which show a much more independent and versatile French woman, though just as impeccably groomed and refined.
Each of these burgeoning starlets reflect the breadth French style and have three characteristics in common: grace, guts and good looks. Let’s meet them:
The face of Lady Dior has had quite a whirlwind start to her career. An oscar-winning performance embodying Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose put her on the map internationally; an emotional and transformative role that left movie-goers slack-jawed and critics predicting stardom. Since, she’s smacked lips with Leonardo Dicaprio, inspired Woody Allen, stretched her voice in Nine and is slated to appear alongside Christian Bale in the latest installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Series, The Dark Knight Rises (summer 2012). Add to that job description a slew of upcoming French roles, fashion obligations and a baby on the way and you’ve got yourself the next Catherine Deneuve.
She has played the girl next door, the whimsical romantic, the depressed waif and even Tom Hanks’ sleuthing sidekick but Audrey Tautou really demonstrated her range as Coco Chanel in Coco Avant Chanel, the role of a lifetime. Only fitting, then, that she would be chosen to replace Nicole Kidman as the face of the most quintessentially French perfume on earth, Chanel No. 5. Whether sporting a charming pixie cut or long, wavy locks, this petite beauty has earned her place among the best.
Actress, director, model, singer – is there anything this 28 year old Parisian can’t do? Soft-spoken Mélanie Laurent got her big break when Quentin Tarantino wanted to catapult the career of a relatively unknown foreign star and cast her as Shosanna Dreyfus in his Nazi-resistance film Inglourious Basterds. Following in the footsteps of real-life friend Marion Cotillard, Laurent has quickly become the next “it” girl and plans to keep her focus on French films despite a growing interest among American directors for her talent. From Paris and Don’t Worry, I’m Fine to the acclaimed The Concert, Laurent chooses strong, often gutsy roles with an element of mystery (which makes her all the more intriguing!). Catch her next as a contract killer in Requiem Pour une Tueuse and opposite Ewan McGregor this summer in Beginners.
Most don’t realize that Daniel Craig’s seductive love interest in Casino Royale is actually French but British-sounding Eva Green exudes French class. Green’s debut film The Dreamers was controversial in the U.S. for its explicit sexual content but won her the attention of Ridley Scott who later cast her in Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom. But her role as Vesper Lynd, perhaps the most elegant and articulate of all Bond girls, garnered her more than just indie cred. Her killer looks and piercing blue eyes have landed her multiple ad campaigns but acting continues to be her priority. In the video above, she talks about the intensity of her character in one of her recent films, “Cracks”.
Lindsey Tramuta is a home & culture columnist for BitchBuzz and the creator of Lost In Cheeseland where she writes about food, love, life and obstacles in Paris. Follow her on twitter @LostNCheeseland.
Photo 1 courtesy of CelebrityStatus.com
Photo 2 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons