Mireille Darc, who has died aged 79, was a French film star known for her zestful appearances in a string of popular sex comedies and cops and robbers movies. Mainly in the 1960s, she played a variety of good-natured call girls and gangsters’ molls, while not being averse to disrobing when the plot required it, and sometimes when it did not.
One of her most famous roles was in The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe (Le Grand Blond Avec Une Chaussure Noire, 1972), an espionage farce in which she displayed a black backless dress to the astonishment of unwilling spy Pierre Richard. The dress, designed by Guy Laroche, is now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
But Darc herself was not only decorative. She revealed a talent for delivering zinging dialogue, especially that written by Michel Audiard, a master of witty and biting French slang. This was displayed in 13 films directed by Georges Lautner, who tried to keep the same team from film to film: actors Darc, Lino Ventura, Bernard Blier, Francis Blanche and Jean Lefebvre; writer Audiard, and cinematographer Maurice Fellous.
One of the reasons many of Darc’s films are not well known outside France is because much of the dialogue is not easily translatable, along with some of the titles. For example: Pouic-Pouic (Squeak-Squeak, 1963), Des Pissenlits par la Racine (1964, Dandelions By the Root, but colloquially meaning Pushing Up the Daisies); Les Barbouzes (The Great Spy Chase, 1965); and Les Seins de Glace (1974, Icy Breasts or, less politely, Cold Tits.)
They were the sorts of commercial movies despised by the directors of the New Wave. Unlike Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, to whom she had been compared, Darc avoided the new generation of film directors. Therefore, it is ironic that her best film by far was Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend (1967), a virtuoso…