I’m definitely not the starstruck type. In fact, I am positively out of touch; I often horrify friends and acquaintances by not recognising the names of apparently big celebrities.
But I was totally starstruck when I saw Fanny Ardant in the flesh; perhaps because she’s one of the few living actresses who retain old-style star quality, like Joan Crawford or Marilyn Monroe.
Or maybe because I watched François Truffaut’s La Femme d’à côté at an impressionable age and have been virtually in love with her ever since.
At any rate, unless one of the aforementioned actresses comes back to life, I doubt I’ll be as starstruck ever again – though bumping into Vanessa Redgrave came quite close, and meeting the legendary pianist Martha Argerich would be just as thrilling.
The occasion was the UK premiere of Marion Vernoux’s Les beaux jours at the Curzon Soho in London, starring the 65-year-old actress. Both the director and Ardant were in the audience and took part in a question-and-answer session at the end of the screening.
The awareness that Madame Ardant was sitting one row behind me made watching the romantic comedy a strange experience – but only for the first 20 minutes or so: then I forgot her presence, thanks to the film being very enjoyable.
It was strange because Ardant plays the role of a grandmother who has a passionate affair with a younger man and even though the sex scenes weren’t explicit, I couldn’t help feeling slightly uneasy. I kept thinking how awkward it must be to sit there and watch oneself in a passionate love scene in front of a cinema packed full of people.
Then I wondered if my feeling ill at ease was a result of living in prudish Britain too long. But some weeks before, I’d watched Lars von Trier’s no-holds-barred Nymphomaniac in a packed Renoir Cinema and felt no embarrassment whatsoever.
That evening, I even spotted an elderly woman and what appeared to be her granddaughter sitting next to each other only a couple of seats away from me.
It was one of those moments that make me love London and its inhabitants.
In Les beaux jours, Marion Vernoux does a great job of portraying the extramarital, cross-generational affair and she couldn’t have chosen a better leading actress for the film.
Fanny Ardant is as mesmerising as ever. Both on camera and in the flesh, she looks as beautiful as she did 30 years ago and still exudes total ownership of her sensuality; something very few women over the age of 60 can do so naturally, and a quality that many men would find intimidating.
I was quite awe-struck myself when, on leaving the cinema, I saw her standing tall in her high heels at the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Frith Street, looking statuesque. I was surprised that fans hadn’t surrounded her; probably because she’s not so famous in the Anglophone world, but perhaps also due to the fact she doesn’t quite come across as the approachable type.
It was only thanks to the push my boyfriend gave me that I gathered up the courage to go up and talk to her. I asked politely if I could have my picture taken with her, to which she promptly agreed. And when I confessed my enduring love, she said “Merci” with an irresistibly charming smile.
The eye contact was electrifying.