Catherine Spaak, a romantic and strong-willed icon of an era

There was a time before the revolution when no one was like Catherine Spaak. There had been Jacqueline Sassard, the first of the nymphets, Lolita ante litteram, the middle-class teenager struggling with the first heart problems. And there would be, a few years later, Stefania Sandrelli, the same age but never really a girl, an object of male desire but capable of calibrating humor and passion. But none, really none, was like Catherine Spaak (who died yesterday, April 17, at the age of 77). No one like her has embodied the joys and pains of adolescence, malice and naivety, provocation and naturalness, candor and sensuality. Read also Borghese, indeed very bourgeois (daughter of Charles, screenwriter for Renoir, Duvivier, Grémillon and very “cinéma de papa”), French yet Belgian allure (uncle Paul-Henri was prime minister), in 1960 she was chosen by her friend Alberto Lattuada’s family – former pygmalion of Sassard – for ‘I dolci inganni’, a super censored coming of age that testifies to the resonances of the nouvelle vague at the apex of our production. It was – is – a capital film, ‘The sweet deceptions’, because it revealed the secret life of girls of good family, investigated their sentimental disturbances, told the adventure of a desirable body that finally discovers itself the active subject of a desire. .Aceral and curious, frank and aware, romantic and strong-willed, Catherine Spaak reassured because she moved the origin of the turmoil to exotic places, that is, beyond the Alps where the customs were more uninhibited, not like in Italy still suspended between rurality and signs of a boom, and at the same time he disturbed because he lent his jaunty image to a generation of Italian girls who recognized themselves in his desire to emancipate themselves. Thereafter, Spaak truly became an icon of an entire era, a model to emulate to connect on the frequencies of a changing world, an example to follow against the conventions imposed by adults that had annihilated the right to imagination and the need for to break free. She dictated the fashion, imposed the blond bob, cleared the irregular smile. She put males, children and above all parents in crisis, like Vittorio Gassman who made her her father (absent) in ‘Il sorpasso’. And the moment in which, on the beach, he tries an approach by not recognizing her is subtly disturbing and really offers an exhaustive key to the protagonist. how much it actually is. But Bruno Cortona’s daughter is a decisive character to understand the whole story: she is the embodied failure of her father, she gets engaged to an older man for an obvious and dramatic reason, she treats Bruno as a nice but irrecoverable scoundrel, she lights up the day of Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant) to show him an alternative way to the established order. And how can we forget ‘La boredom’: no ​​one like her has embodied the Moravian universe, advancing by spreading sex, lying on the bed covered with banknotes in an image that has remained legendary.With ‘La parmigiana’, Antonio Pietrangeli gave her the role of life: flirtatious and pragmatic, light and sensual, provincial and international, in a bigoted and greedy Italy she knows what she wants even if she doesn’t know it well, she trusts and yet stumbles but nevertheless does not get indignant, she tries to get up every time despite everything and in the more questionable ways, she fights with males while she loves them or just makes herself loved. In a masculine and male-centered cinema, an episodic film just for her is conquered (‘3 nights of love’), alternating author’s singularity (the cursed and splendid ‘Break up’ by Marco Ferreri, the bizarre and unsolved ‘Non I make war, I make love ‘by Franco Rossi) and super productions (the masterpiece’ L’armata Brancaleone ‘by Mario Monicelli,’ Madamigella di Maupin ‘by Mauro Bolognini), forming a partnership with the cultured and popular Pasquale Festa Campanile , from ‘The husband is mine and I’ll kill him when I want’ to ‘Adulterio all’italiana’ up to ‘With what love’, with what love is ‘The matriarch’, an irresistible sixty-eight comedy in which she is a nice and casual erotomaniac who finds herself progressively more and more naked, revealing more inexperience than purity, aware that the body belongs to her but the heart also has its reasons.Cultured, acute, brilliant, able to measure itself with musical comedy (alongside the then comrade Johnny Dorelli triumphs in ‘Promesse … Promesse …’, written by Garinei and Giovannini, singing the excellent Italian adaptation of ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’), not even thirty years old had already grown up, but still leaves its mark in ‘Certo, certissimo, nzi … probable’, ‘Il cat with nine tails’, ‘The way of the baboons’,’ Fever from horse ‘. She became the lady of the television salons, with an unparalleled kindness and charm, and attended the fiction, sweetly. Today that she is no longer there, we like to remember her as the very embodiment of youth, at that moment, before the revolution, in which no one was like her, while she complains, lazy and erotic, with the mad desire to live again: ” What anger, summer is over ”.