Deconstructing the French Woman: Marion Cotillard
This story was originally published in 2012. It has not been updated.– French Girl in Seattle
Elegant. Flawless. Inimitably stylish. Flaunting a certain Je-ne-sais-quoi. Exuding a subtle confidence. Ah, the French woman. A timeless myth still in the making. How she intrigues, and captivates around the world. Visit your local bookstore, or browse online, under “French style,” “French elegance,” or better yet, “French woman,” and prepare yourself for a deluge of books, essays, blogposts, with would-be enticing – and often downright ridiculous – titles such as: All you need to be impossibly French: A Witty investigation into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women. Or: How to Dress Like A French Woman: The Beginner’s Guide to Dressing Classic, Sexy, Chic and Elegant Just Like the French. My favorite in recent years: French Women Don’t Get Fat. Seriously. Does anyone out there actually believe French women don’t put on weight? (These colorful macarons do not come in a low-fat version, you know.)
Some authors have made a lot of money out of these books, especially in the United States where many women lap up the advice so generously provided by these self-proclaimed life-style gurus, while others brush off the mere mention of French style and would-be European superiority.
Yesterday afternoon, the first rain Seattle has experienced in almost three months pelted my windows for several hours. I sat in my cozy living room sipping a cup of Fauchon‘s Un Après-Midi à Paris (An Afternoon in Paris,) tea blend – how is that for cultural stereotype? – as I browsed online and caught up with current events. All of a sudden, I saw Her; Marion la Magnifique. She was attending the premiere of her new movie, Rust and Bone, on a chilly evening in London. She did not seem to mind the cold in her perfect little black dress. Note to Britney Spears, the Kardashian motley crew, and other starlets and socialites: This is how a true lady – and a bona fide star – gets out of a car. Watch and Learn.
Is is the (Dior) dress? The perfect gams? the elegant shoes? Marion’s body language? All of the above, and more. “This, I thought, is what the ultimate French woman looks like.” Today, I feel generous. I am not a life-style guru, or a fashionista, just a French Girl who types away and shares her musings on a laptop in her corner of American suburbia. Today, I will save you, my reader, a lot of money and time. If you have ever wondered what defines the French woman, her renowned aura, and her inimitable sense of style, just scroll down. It’s all there. Look. Learn. Smile. PS: It’s o.k. to gawk (I am French, and I did too.) Today, I give you, the French woman – personified.
Je vous en prie. You’re welcome.
The French woman knows her classics, from the indispensable petite robe noire (little black dress,) to the simple, clean lines that will stand out in any soirée. She understands traditional does not have to equal frumpy and boring. When she leaves the house, she is always put together, whatever her personal style, out of respect for herself and others.
London, October 2012
(dude in the background clearly showed up for the wrong event…)
|Grace Kelly deserted the French Riviera a long time ago,
but another princess visited the Cannes Film Festival this year…
The French woman can be wild and adventurous, sexy or smoldering. She knows how to turn up the heat and make your heart race.
|Marion, her LBD, Dior accessories… and the Eiffel Tower: Perfection!|
|Marion’s shoes, ah… Marion’s shoes…
|The camera loves her…
(Immortalized by the legendary Harcourt Studios)
The French woman makes it all look so easy, but she works hard and shows discipline.
|Marion, impersonating the great Edith Piaf in her award-winning role|
|On the set of Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies)
with director Guillaume Canet
It’s not all about work: The French woman treasures her accessories and is never seen in public without them…
|Never underestimate the power of a hat
|Marion and Chopard: a love story|
|Marion, holding one of my dream [Dior] handbags|
She is so much more than a stylish silhouette. She enjoys life. She smiles. She has a beautiful smile. Not an American smile, mind you. Some people may even miss it.
|Marion and Owen (Wilson)
Midnight in Paris
|Understated… the make up, the colors, the smile…
but somehow radiant…
The French woman lives her life her own way. She is creative. Maybe she has hidden talents.
|A pregnant Marion still finds the time to play the guitar
with a French band.
|(photo: Tom Munro)|
Her personal life is important to her. She cherishes her family and friends.
|Enjoying a good meal with friends
Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies, 2010)
|Marion with her partner, French actor and director Guillaume Canet|
|Marion, Guillaume and son Marcel in New York City|
Does the French woman exercise?
|What do you think, Marion?|
|Dog walking counts, right?
(Vanity Fair Italy, 2010)
|What about sailing?
(Little White Lies)
She exudes confidence – a trait sometimes mistaken for arrogance – but deep down, she knows life is too short to take oneself too seriously.
|Cannes Film Festival, 2012|
A special merci to Marion, and to all the photographers who captured these images. I gave you credit when I could.
Marion Cotillard is an award-winning actress, with an international career. Her filmography is here.
|Marion, “au naturel”|
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Ahhh I love it!!! Not only do I love Marion … ( who doesn’t ) but I love the description, the (non american smile) love it all 🙂
Well hello there, and thank you very much! You were the first one to stop by today… just ten minutes after I posted the story… 🙂
Thank you for featuring Marion Cotillard, she is one of my favorite actresses. I recently learned that her father, Jean-Claude Cotillard, was the mime in the 1987 “French in Action” educational film that some of us were exposed to while studying French.
Very interesting information. I knew her parents were artists too, and likely very supportive of all Marion’s creative endeavors. I remember French in Action and have used recommended it to students in the past. I guess I will have to watch it again …
Elle est belle, elle a du talent, elle a la grace de la ‘vraie’ femme, la delicatesse. Elle incarne le reve, mais elle est aussi authentique, accessible, naturelle.
Bonjour Agnès. C’est gentil de passer chez moi… Pour résumer: Tu adores Marion, alors? 🙂
Such a gorgeous post, Véronique. I savored every picture and all of your delicious words. I have spent much of my professional life deconstructing the French woman and her style in an effort to explain it to my students and my clients.
I do think it is about the way they approach perfection. I believe French women and their men find perfection rather boring (I agree); so, they come just to the edge of it and then take a step or two back. So much more interesting and original.
BTW, the first picture reminded me so much of Jeanne Moreau in “Jules et Jim.” Don’t you think?
I like your theory, M-T, and I agree with it. Marion is actually a good example. Even when she wears traditional outfits, she always throws in a “quirky” detail to stir things up: the shoes, or the way she does her hair. That’s how you can keep surprising people I guess, by not being where everyone expects you to be… As for the Jeanne Moreau comment, I believe you are right. I had not noticed until you mentioned it… Bien vu!
M-T, tu as l’oeil d’un pro!
And I agree with you and with Véronique: maybe the point is to approach perfection rather than trying to be perfect (= static, constantly posing). Marion Cotillard’s beauty is fascinating because it’s not fake. Therefore each little imperfection (very little indeed) she may have becomes part of her charm…
An exquisite tribute to, and analysis of, the quintessential French Woman. Nodding in agreement as I read every thought, but i suspect you nailed it at the last – that about life being too short to take oneself too seriously. Perhaps that is the secret to both elegance and happiness, n’est-ce pas? xx
Absolutely, and Marion definitely gets it. That is why she has a long, promising career, and – I hope – a long, happy life – ahead of her!
Beautiful post! Ms. Cotillard is a favorite of mine. Such chic, class and attitude, (but the right kind of attitude, of course!) She reminds me a little of Catherine Deneuve, who i’ve also always loved. Not in appearance so much as in a certain way about her. And really, the picture of her wearing a hat! 🙂 She looks even MORE glamorous and poised, if that’s possible? Wonderful photos. Thanks so much for this post, Veronique!
Marion definitely has Catherine Deneuve’s elegance, but I agree with you, they also seem to share a personality trait: a desire to make their own choices, and to do things their way – a rebel side, in short. I like that about them.
That last shot looks a lot like one of our neighbors!
It certainly does, good Dr, it certainly does…
Now, please repeat after me, and write 100 times : I must not make Owen’s heart race like that, I must not make Owen’s heart race like that, I must not…
But what I really want to know, is how on earth did you get to take all these lovely photos of her ? And can I please, pretty please, tag along with you the next time you do a photo shoot with Marion ? 🙂
I must not make Owen’s heart race like that, I must not make Owen’s heart race like that… 🙂 Pauvre Mr Toad. I am sorry. Are you feeling better now? 🙂 To answer your question: It was an easy photo shoot. Marion la Magnifique and I are great copines, you know?! (I wish!) – A bientôt.
You presented this beautiful example of a classic French woman. Beautiful, yet unique and so attractive. She has a beautiful figure and is also a great model.
You have such insight into the French persona. It takes one to recognize one.
Have a glorious week
PS I am going back and looking at how she exited the car. Can I look this elegant stepping from our jeep suv?
Well thank you very much, Helen! Like most women (French or otherwise) I can only look at Marion and drool… 🙂 As for “Operation SUV,” I would not recommend attempting that move in a short skirt, no matter what 🙂
This is one of my fav. posts. Makes me proud to be half French. Love these photos. Ummm I really want to go to France and buy clothes now. 🙂
Merci Sandy! You do not need to go to France. Just shop online. Plenty of French clothes available in cyberspace!
Good point! Thanks. =)
One of your best posts Veronique! I enjoyed this exquisite and delicious post to the last drop.
You certainly know all the quoi in Je-ne-sais-quoi first hand as a French Girl and you’ve selected perfect images of beautiful and immensely talented Marion Cotillard. What a story you’ve compiled! Once again a tiny prove that French woman style is impossible to imitate no matter how hard one tries, packed in Dior/Chanel head to toe.
How ridiculous looked fashionista Carrie Bradshaw dressed Paris style when in Paris.
The essence will be always lost in translation.
Thank you for putting it all together in such a fun way.
Bonjour Natalie, and thank you for the kind comment. Marion was such an easy “subject!” I honestly did not see a bad photo of her online. That is quite a feat! She looks equally good when she is dolled up by a designer, or “au naturel” on a paparazzi shot. As for Carrie B. I do have a soft spot for that lively, adventurous New York girl. Her fashion choices were not always subtle, but she wore everything with such aplomb (including her Paris outfits) It was hard not to be impressed! 🙂
C’est incroyable ma chère Véronique ! vendredi soir, j’ai revisionné “les petits mouchoirs” et aujourd’hui je lis ta sublime publication !… oui quel talent naturel qu’a notre petite Marion Cotillard !
Je te remercie pour ce merveilleux panel commenté de photos.
Gros bisous à toi
Je t’envoie un petit rayon de notre timide soleil, mais bien français!
Bonjour Martine. Comment va Leo le Toucan? J’aime beaucoup “Les Petits Mouchoirs.” Un très beau film, un peu long parfois, mais les acteurs sont tellement sympatiques! Merci pour le rayon de soleil. C’est la gadoue à Seattle, et on en a bien besoin!
Partie de rien, Marion Cotillard a su, par son côté simple de Française ordinaire, faire rêver toutes les femmes. Sans doute par ce qu’il est plus facile de s’identifier à elle plutôt qu’à Angelina Jolie.
Angelina qui? 🙂
You have chosen a wonderful, varied selection of images, Véronique. The key to French style seems to be ‘understated’. Marion always looks so natural without heavy make up and she just excudes elegance. I agree that it’s that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that many French women have (Inès de la Fressange is another perfect example) So many try to imitate but fail mainly because it’s not just about how much you spend but something much more subtle.
P.S.I must keep practising getting out of a car like Marion. If only I had her shoe collection too!
Bonjour miss b. That photo of Marion getting out of the car seems to have inspired more people than just Moi! 🙂 Natural elegance is not something everyone can achieve, but understated outfits and make up, we can all work on…
Marion Cotillard absolutely defines the classic French woman. Both her and Audrey Tautou (in my opinion) have this particular quality about them, of managing to look glamorous and natural at the same time. Of course, their looks help a bit, it’s not like all of us French women can claim to look that amazing wearing the basic jeans, black jumper and mascara combo.
Bonjour to you. Yes, Audrey Tautou is very French too, but more in a “gamine” sense… I find her less convincing than Marion as a femme fatale (something she has tried in a couple of movies.) She was a perfect choice for the Chanel movie however, as she pulled off quite successfully elegance and tomboy-ish looks. Not an easy feat. No, not all French women look as naturally elegant as Marion, but that does not mean they can’t try… 🙂
Le sigh. I wonder if I slipped a petite robe noir from Dior over my head, would some of that French girl pixie dust rub off on me?
Happy rainy Tuesday, Veronique! XO
Bonjour Jeanne. It does not hurt to try… 🙂
Très jolie, certes, mais dès qu’elle parle, qu’est-ce qu’elle est nunuche..(je vais me faire lyncher!:o)je préfère une Inès de la Fressange, beaucoup plus pétillante.
Oui , je suis allée à Notting Hill et Porto Bello, je suis allée partout!:o) Londres est vraiment ma ville préférée à moi aussi, un vrai tourbillon, un régal!J’ai adoré l’autre côté de Kensington, vers le Royal Albert Hall.Lorsque nous déménagerons là-bas, nous pourrons donc nous retrouver dans les jardins, au milieu des écureuils! :o)
Pour l’instant, c’est valises , lessives et rattrapage de boulot..
un peu déphasée!
Ah, enfin des nouvelles de ma “Niçoise” préférée! 🙂 Ravie que ton séjour à Londres se soit aussi bien passé. Tu as raison: Nous pourrons peut-être nous y retrouver un jour. Vous y êtes restés pendant les trois semaines?
En ce qui concerne Marion, tu as raison: Tu risques de te faire lyncher. Si j’ai bien compris, ton message pour notre jolie star c’est “Sois belle et tais-toi?” 🙂 C’est bien que tu mentionnes Ines. Je prépare un petit quelque chose sur elle et une autre grande dame du cinema français (mais pas forcément celle que tout le monde attend…)
What a great post about a great actress and an interesting beauty.
Proof that such a combination can exist in the often shallow and mindless world of celebrity.
As we warm up for summer in this part of the world (Perth, Western Australia), you prepare for the winter months ahead.
Wishing you a clear day, Joanna
Bonjour Joanna. Ah, summer sounds nice as we are bracing for another round of rain here in soggy Seattle. We can’t complain. We had a nice long, dry summer – while it lasted.
As for Marion, what I like the most about her is that she manages to stay out of the public eye when not working, at least in France. Interestingly, all of the paparazzi shots of her/her family I found online were taken in the United States while she worked there…
She is one of the very few movie stars left who really has that old Hollywood glamour about her. She very easily could go back in time and be a major film star in the 1950s. It would be a flawless transition because she’s just so classy and naturally stunning.
I really love this post. I love how she gets out of a car. I’m embarrassed when I think of American celebrities getting out of cars and how they simply don’t care how much they expose when they do. Ugh.
And as for those books on how to be “French” haha. Well, that’s what France gets for being so chic and stylish. Everyone wants a piece! I will admit though I got that “French Women Don’t Get Fat” book from the library a few years ago because a friend of mine swore she lost 15 pounds using it. I enjoyed the recipes and the stories and I like the idea of being able to eat what I want, when I want and not gain weight. But living in the American Midwest, it seems living like the French (according to that book) is almost impossible. There are no charming bakeries in my neighborhood to go grab a croissant whenever I feel the urge. We have Krispy Kreme, haha. And the portion sizes here are out of control. That is one thing I envy about Europe. Everyone is accustomed (it seems) to small portions. You buy lunch and get a small sandwich. Here, I grew up where a lunch portion could feel a family of four. :S
Hello Jenny. I agree with you: Marion is timeless, and she could easily act in an old black and white movie.
I loved your comments about trying to live like the French in the American Midwest… What? No French bakeries in your neck of the woods? Shocking! How can people LIVE like that? 🙂 Hey, don’t beat yourself up too much. Krispy Kreme ain’t that bad, and I am pretty sure a French pastry like the Millefeuille (Napoleon,) would do just as much damage as a doughnut, portion control or not!
Thank you for stopping by, my friend.
I have enjoyed watching Marion in several movies but my all time favorite has to be A Good Year with Russell Crowe.
Bonjour Kim. I would have to say A Good Year is a favorite of mine. In fact, I re-ordered the DVD just this week. I had lost the original one I got several years ago! Hilarious movie; chocked full of stereotypes (about the French, the Brits, and the Americans…) Russel and Marion had pretty good chemistry, I thought. I could never quite figure out why the movie had flopped when it came out?!
Love her!! That was delightful, Veronique, thank you!
The ‘Kardashian Era’ you eluded to really is so tacky.
We used to have Jackie, Audrey, Grace….true ladies who lit-up the world!
Marion is like that. Truly adorable and admirable. Love her films! Like Audrey, she so becomes the character.
Suzanne: lovely to hear from you. Yes, graceful and classy celebrities are few and far between nowadays, that is the sad truth. Thank goodness for Marion!
Love these insights. What are your favorite restaurants in the Cours Saleya?
Cours Saleya in Nice? I’d have to say I have had a couple of good meals at 26 Cours Saleya, not a small feat in that very touristy and overpriced area of town. My favorite café (for breakfast or Sunday brunch) is in a small street in the Old Town, two minutes away from Cours Saleya, “Café Marché,” rue Barillerie. They offer free WiFi too.
I fell in love with her in Midnight in Paris, but her Edith Piaf portrayal knocked my socks off. What a beautiful and talented woman she is. Great post V.
Merci beaucoup Virginia. Apparently, her “death scene” in the last Batman movie has not been up to her usual standards… It has been mocked worldwide all over the Internet… 🙂
Loved this post Veronique, Marion to me is the quintessential French woman, so beautiful so ‘together’! I’m inspired to try and lose that 5 kilos again after seeing this haha!
There you go. Let’s all go on a diet and hope we *vaguely* look like Marion! 🙂
What a pleasure to see all these photos of gorgeous Marion!
She is phenomenal, both as an actress and as a woman. She has played and can play so many different roles…
How many great movies since the first one (Taxi) which revealed her talent! A lot!
She is the best ambassador ever to French women. We can be proud of her… (though we all know she is not representative of the average French woman as her beauty is outstanding)
Not sure I am allowed to post a link with my comment I will try though: it’s Lady Dior campaign (video) with Marion… A short movie but a great “chef d’oeuvre”. Hope you can enjoy it.
Cool link, Anne, merci beaucoup! We are all running out of adjectives to describe that very special girl, arent’ we? I can’t believe how enthusiastic comments have been. It seems almost everyone loves Marion!
Marion Cotillard is definitely divine and irresistible in this clip. And the way Dior makes fun of itself in this video is flabbergasting! I used to work for Dior some twenty years ago and at that time it would have been totally inappropriate to make fun of the brand… I can’t believe how bold and modern Dior has become. To me Dior is now miles ahead of Chanel regarding communication. Les temps changent!!!
What a great way to start my day, merci.
Now … What to wear?
… If you need to get out of a limo on a red carpet today, I would recommend staying away from these skimpy little black dresses. Not everyone can pull it off as gracefully as Marion! 🙂
I love Marion. Enjoyed all the pictures. She made A Good Year a very good movie in my opinion. We visited several of the movie locations when we were in Provence last week including the old house that Max inherits from his uncle.
Funny you should say that, Michel, as I watched it again just last night. Such a cute movie, and who would not want to live in that beautiful home in Provence? I did not know you could actually visit it…
New to your blog Veronique! So happy a reader made me aware…not sure how I’ve missed you in the two years we’ve been in Seattle.
I loved this tribute…very inspiring!
Welcome Stephanie. So happy you are here. I have stopped by your blog and it seems we have many things in common… I will see you again very soon, chez moi or chez toi!
Marion is beyond perfection! I loved her in Midnight in Paris 🙂
Who did not? 🙂
Yes she is stunning and flawless and perfectly captures the essence of a French woman! You said it perfectly as well!!! Great photos! Thanks for sharing!
A lovely Seattle rain, a cup of tea and all these beautiful,stylish French women … perfection.
Glad Marion (and this post) made your morning, Glenda!
Maybe the “au naturel” is the best? 🙂
Why am I not surprised, Peter? 🙂
Veronique adore Marion and absolutely loved reading this post……..fabulous xx
Such a natural beauty and a talented woman Carla x
Welcome back, Carla. I would love it if you could photograph Marion one day. Wouldn’t that be just perfect?
I adore her and really enjoyed the post. She is so… normal and so very beautiful. x
Bravo! Beautiful, stylish French women are amazing………S
Yes, the ones that are ACTUALLY stylish 🙂
She is one of my very favorites~
Mine too, Kim.
I just love her.And thanks to you I know so much more about her:-)
You’re welcome. It was fun researching this particular story.
Great post – one of my favourite French actresses. Despite what Marion wears, she is clearly bien dans sa peau – which is always elegant on any woman. Warm regards.
She’s beautiful but not very bright as she said she believes we knocked down the buildings on 9-11 ourselves because they were old. Seriously these people should just act and not speak too much in public.
Great Post ! One of my Favorite women French style.
This is brilliant, Veronique. Thank you. It really says it all.
So you are a Marion fan, eh, Peter? Thank you for your visit.