From 11 July until 29 August, EYE presents a retrospective of Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. The two stars of French film worked with the great directors of French cinema, attracted attention for their political engagement, and were adored by the public. Signoret garnered respect for her portrayals of scarred-for life women; Montant – also famous as a singer – was the epitome of the French charmer who gave shape to tough, but also sensitive men.
Simone Signoret (1921-1985) and Yves Montand (1921-1991) worked with the great directors of French cinema and played opposite the likes of Romy Schneider, Marilyn Monroe, Alain Delon and Jean Gabin. Offstage, the life of the two wasn't without drama either owing to, amongst other things, their turbulent marriage and a passionate, sometimes controversial political engagement.
Signoret and Montand married in 1951. The two formed a celebrity couple whose private life was sometimes widely reported on in the tabloid press, but it was thanks to their political engagement that the couple enjoyed their international reputation: Soviet dissidents, Chilean refugees, and striking factory workers could count on their support.
Decades-long acting careers
Yves Montand made his name as a singer and later became known as an actor, notably through his role as an intrepid adventurer in the thriller Le salaire de la peur (1953) by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Along with Greek director Costa-Gavras – who fled his country before the 1967 military junta – he made a series of successful political thrillers (Z, L'aveu and L'état de siège), Claude Sautet directed him in his precise observations of everyday life: César et Rosalie and Vincent, François, Paul et les autres. In the eighties, Montand experienced his last great success with the Pagnol film adaptions, Jean de Florette and Manon des sources. Between 1946 and 1991, Montand appeared in almost fifty films.
Unlike Montand, Simone Signoret worked early on in her career under great directors such as Max Ophüls (La ronde) and Henri-Georges Clouzot (Les diaboliques). Her big break – an Oscar – came with Room at the Top (1959), the film version of Jack Osborne's novel of the same name. In her later career, she often signed up for roles of older women, that she portrayed extremely realistically. One of her most famous roles, that of an ageing former prostitute, she would play in La vie devant soi (Madam Rosa) by Moshé Misrahi.
The summer programme – a collaboration with Institut Français – offers the unique opportunity to see all the famous and lesser-known films starring Signoret and Montand again. There are also special events, including an interview by film critic Floortje Smit with cabaret artist Marc-Marie Huijbregts about his favourite film Le chat, and a Classic Lecture (in Dutch) by film journalist André Waardenburg about Casque d'or (the restored copy will be reissued by EYE).
Simone Signoret and Yves Montand Summer Programme, 11 July – 29 August in EYE
From 5 July, Casque d'or (restoration), can be see in EYE, filmtheater ’t Hoogt (Utrecht), Filmhuis Den Haag (The Hague) and cinemas nationwide.