Long before Audrey (Amélie) Tautou portrayed the young Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in Coco Before Chanel (2009), Marie-France Pisier essayed the role in Chanel Solitaire (1981), which I quite enjoyed when I first saw it under rather unusual circumstances. I was on an ocean liner, accompanying an elderly aunt on a cruise around Norway, and since few (if any) of the other passengers were below retirement age, the movies they screened were a welcome diversion, and I even managed to befriend the projectionist. As I recall, the film held up less well when I saw it again years later, but without reflecting badly on the beauty or talent of La Pisier, and it marked early encounters with Rutger Hauer and Timothy Dalton, who would shortly be important to me.
Pisier has apparently drowned in her own swimming pool at the age of 66, and although I wasn’t familiar with most of the films she made in her 48 years on the screen, her debut alone makes her worthy of inclusion here on BOF. In “Antoine and Colette,” François Truffaut’s segment of the anthology film Love at Twenty (1962), she starred opposite Jean-Pierre Léaud as the first love of Truffaut’s alter-ego, Antoine Doinel (introduced in 1959 in The 400 Blows, one of the films that launched the French New Wave). After an uncredited appearance in Antoine’s next “adventure,” Stolen Kisses (1968)—my favorite of Truffaut’s films to date—she reprised the character in, and even co-wrote, the fifth and final Doinel entry, Love on the Run (1979), which I have yet to see.
Although Pisier failed to establish herself with such American productions as the Sidney Sheldon adaptation The Other Side of Midnight (1977) and the TV miniseries The French Atlantic Affair (1979) and Scruples (1980), she had greater success at home. There, she was able to work with Luis Buñuel and Jacques Rivette, respectively, in The Phantom of Liberty and Celine and Julie Go Boating (both 1974), and enjoyed great commercial success with Cousin Cousine (1975). I searched in vain through my copy of Truffaut by Truffaut for some bon mot regarding Pisier with which to close this post, but found only photos capturing her radiant beauty, most notably the one from Love on the Run that is reproduced here, so let it serve as a far better epitaph than my poor words.