Late last night I surfed into a movie starring Jacqueline Bisset. It was a bad movie, produced by Showtime, but I watched to the end because of our sentimental connection (which she is unaware of). It began when as an unsuspecting young man I bought a ticket to see Day for Night, and spent six months trying to come to terms with the existence of someone of such unwordly beauty. It reached maturity when I saw her on the street six years ago. Then in her early 60s, she was still as beautiful. A friend I was walking with looked at her and said, “She’s gotten old.” That remark launched the writing of The Magic of Middle-Aged Women.
This morning I looked online to see what she has been up to. Her latest project is a movie about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was the superstar head of the International Monetary Fund, and potential future President of France. He was arrested by New York City police for improper sexual conduct with a maid. And so ended his career.
Strauss-Kahn is played by the French actor Gerard Depardieu, who is four years younger than Jacqueline Bisset, who plays his wife. Here’s where I started to have trouble. Depardieu was one of the hot properties of Gallic cinema in the 70s and 80s (Bisset is British and bi-lingual).
The young Gerard Depardieu:
The young Jacqueline Bisset:
And the current Jacqueline Bisset:
While everyone cares more about women’s looks than men’s, how deep is the disparity? How can actors turn themselves into giant sodden kielbasas and expect to star in movies, when even perfect older actresses are almost never seen? Imagine their conditions reversed, he buff and exquisite, she haggard and bloated. He would be emblazoned on magazine covers, an inspiration for aging manhood; she would live alone in an apartment filled with carpets, cats, and photos carefully centered on doilies.
Verisimilitude is not an issue in this movie: Bisset is a prettier version of Strauss-Kahn’s pretty wife, whereas Depardieu approximates what the rather dashing Strauss-Kahn would look like fished from a sewer five days after drowning.
The only good I can find in this is that at 68 she is still working. And the world can still see her.