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21 June 2016

Juliette Mayniel

Doe-eyed French actress Juliette Mayniel (1936) appeared in 35 films and TV films between 1958 and 1978. Her film career made a jump start with two masterpieces, Claude Chabrol’s Les Cousins (1959) and the horror film Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960).

Juliette Mayniel
French postcard by E.D.U.G. (Editions du Globe), no. 45. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Juliette Mayniel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1019. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Silver Bear


Juliette Mayniel was born in Saint Hippolyte, France in 1936.

Her first film appearance was an uncredited bit role in the comedy Premier mai/First of May (Luis Saslavsky, 1958) starring Yves Montand, but she had her breakthrough with her second film, the classic Nouvelle Vague film Les Cousins/The Cousins (Claude Chabrol, 1959). She is the girl between the two cousins, Jean-Claude Brialy and Gérard Blain. The film was an immediate success and remains one of Chabrol’s most striking films.

Next Mayniel had unwillingly her face removed by a mad doctor (Pierre Brasseur) in the masterpiece Les Yeux Sans Visage/Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960). Hal Erickson at AllMovie calls the film ‘an unsettling, sometimes poetic horror film’: “Franju's haunting, muted handling of basic horror material is what lifts Eyes Without a Face out of the ordinary and into the realm of near-classic.”

James Travers adds at Le Film Guide: “Les Yeux sans visage differs from virtually all other films in the fantasy-horror genre. It doesn’t set out to shock us with gruesome images or insult our intelligence with an implausible plot or fantastic characters. Everything it shows us is frighteningly plausible, but presented to us in a dreamlike manner which, if anything, softens the horror of the situation. Crucially, it is not evil which provides the stimulus for the horror, but love, the love of a father determined to give his daughter back her life. In the end, it is the film’s haunting poetry, not its horror connotations, which have the deepest impact on the spectator.”

In the compelling WW II drama Kirmes/The Fair (Wolfgang Staudte, 1960) a young German soldier (Götz George) who had often been ordered to execute women and children deserts the army during WW II and tries to find a hiding place in his native village. He is sheltered by a priest and a young French woman (Mayniel) with whom he falls in love. At the 10th Berlin International Film Festival, Mayniel won the Silver Bear for Best Actress for her role.

Juliette Mayniel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1019A, presented by Les Carbones Korès Carboplane. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Juliette Mayniel
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 835. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Juliette Mayniel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1014. Photo: Noa.

Juliette Mayniel
East-German starcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2.003, 1964. Photo: publicity still for Kirmes/The Fair (Wolfgang Staudte, 1960).

Peplum and Giallo


Juliette Mayniel had a small part in Les Godelureaux/The Wise Guys (Claude Chabrol, 1961), a Nouvelle Vague drama about a trio of youths (including Jean-Claude Brialy and Bernadette Lafont) looking to debunk hypocrisy wherever they find it. In Italy, she appeared in the Peplum La Guerra di Troia/The Trojan Horse (Giorgio Ferroni, 1962), a retelling of the final year of the siege of Troy from the point of view of Aeneas (Steve Reeves). Bruce Eder at AllMovie calls it: “one of the best examples of Italy's sword-and-sandal genre”.

She was reunited with director Claude Chabrol for Ophelia (1962), a curious, modern version of Hamlet, co-starring André Jocelyn and Alida Valli, and for Landru/Bluebeard (Claude Chabrol, 1963), a black comedy based on the dastardly deeds of serial killer Henri-Desire Landru (Charles Denner), who wined, dined, scammed, and dismembered over 10 women (including Danielle Darrieux and Michèle Morgan) during WW I.

Juliette Mayniel was married to Robert Auboyneau till 1964. From 1964 until 1968 she was the partner of actor Vittorio Gassman. They have a son, actor Alessandro Gassman. During this period Mayniel didn’t work in the cinema.

In 1968 she returned as Circe in the Italian TV series L'odissea/The Odyssee (Franco Rossi, Piero Schivazappa, Mario Bava, 1968) based on Homer and starring Bekim Fehmiu and Irene Papas. She then appeared in the drama Scusi, Facciamo L'Amore?/Listen, Let's Make Love? (Vittorio Caprioli, 1968) about a young gigolo (Pierre Clementi). In Quella Piccola Differenza/That Little Difference (Duccio Tessari, 1970) she was the wife of a virile macho (Pino Caruso) who changes in three days in a woman.

Mayniel played the female lead in the Bud Spencer comedy Piedone Lo Sbirro/A Fistful of Hell (Steno, 1973) and in the soft sex comedy Peccati in Famiglia/Sins in the Family (Bruno Gaburro, 1975) opposite Michele Placido. On TV she appeared in Un anno di scuola/A Year of School (Franco Giraldi, 1977) with Mario Adorf, and in the mini-series Madame Bovary (Daniele D'Anza, 1978) with Carla Gravina as the heroin of Gustave Flaubert’s novel.

Her last film roles were a supporting part in the Giallo thriller Solamente Nero/The Blood Stained Shadow (Antonio Bido, 1978) with Stefania Casini and Massimo Serato, and eight years later another small part in Molly O (Gino Bortoloni, 1986). As herself, Juliette Mayniel appeared in the TV documentaries Portrait de Vittorio Gassman/Portrait of Vittorio Gassman (Pierre Laforêt, 1979) and Di padre in figlio/From Father To Son (Alessandro Gassman, Vittorio Gassman, 1982).

Juliette Mayniel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1060. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Juliette Mayniel
French postcard by E.D.U.G. (Editions du Globe), no. 72. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Sources: James Travers (Le Film Guide), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), John Conomos (Senses of Cinema), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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