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Romy Schneider

"I don't know anything about life, but everything about cinema," Romy Schneider once wrote in a letter to her friend the actress Simone Signoret. Schneider was exaggerating, of course: Any woman who was engaged to French heartthrob Alain Delon and played muse to directors such as Luchino Visconti and Orson Welles undoubtedly knew plenty about living. But there's no avoiding the fact that many of the lessons Schneider took from life were hard ones. Indeed, torment and tragedy are central to the Schneider mystique, which will be commemorated with "Romy Schneider: Empress of the Screen," a two-month-long film series at New York's Alliance Française.

The homage is well-timed; this month marks the 30th anniversary of Schneider's death. She was young—only 43. But she lives on in her body of work, commanding the screen in pictures as varied as Sissi, the saccharine biopic that launched her career, and La Piscine, the dark, erotic thriller that reunited her with Delon six years after he left her for his pregnant lover. Anyone who watches the latter flick—with its lingering shots of Schneider frolicking poolside in a skimpy maillot—will likely find Delon's infidelity downright befuddling. Right to the end, Romy Schneider was a knockout.

—Maya Singer
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