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Anicée (ALVINA) Shahmanesh: France's Sex Icon of the 1970's


Report from Paris FRANCE by Darius KADIVAR


Anicée (ALVINA) Shahmanesh


The beautiful and talented actress Anicée Shahmanesh (****), was born on the 28th of January 1954 to a French mother and Persian Father at Boulogne -sur-Seine in Paris FRANCE. She had a short career which nevertheless left a mark in French nouveau or avant-gardist movies. It was thanks to her impeccable sensuous forms that the very young Anicée caught the eyes of French moviegoers who immediately saw her as the new French sex bomb. A reputation that was to subsequently hurt her otherwise promising career...




The music score for Friends composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin (insert) was to launch Elton's career as King of Pop Music of the 70's.  The music score was an immediate international Hit and ironically launched French born Anicée Alvina's film career in France. Alvina was to do a sequel to the Love Story of Friends several years later in Paul and Michelle.



The political upheaval of May 1968 that failed to overthrow President Charles De Gaulle and the French institutions was yet to have a deep cultural impact and particularly in films. The French New Wave pioneers had already expressed their solidarity with the Workers movement during the Cannes Film festival, which they virtually paralyzed. However Truffaut, and Goddard were by then joined by newcomers such as Claude Lelouche, Alain Robbe-Grillet, or Claude Berri. The sexual content in films was to become more explicit and graphically detailed as opposed to most conventional films and particularly Hollywood productions.




Paul and Michelle a sequel to the 1971 Paramount hit Friends in which the young couple were to face the sometimes harsh realities of adulthood also starring Sean Bury as Paul and Keir Dullea  (actor of Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey 2001) as Garry. © Paramount Studios.






Amongst the égeries of this era, Anicée Shahmanesh became known as the only sex bomb with Catherine Deneuve to rival Brigitte Bardot or Claudia Cardinal. She reached stardom under the screen name Anicée Alvina, playing a French girl in a British film hit called Friends, the music score of which propelled British Pop Star Elton John (**) as King of Pop. A story on two young lovers who decide to bring up their baby against social prejudices and conventions the film became emblematic for a whole generation. The film was followed by a sequel under the title Paul and Michelle (***) with equal success bringing the attention of French directors on the new French Star. After doing a small intrusion on the TV screens in a small role as a courtesan to Princess Sherazad in "A Thousand and One Nights", she was to work under the direction of Alain Robbe-Grillet (an author who launched the "Nouveau Roman" literary movement in France) who was to turn her into the new sex icon of the 70's in such films as Glissements Progressifs du Désir or Le Jeu avec le Feu (aka Playing with Fire) semi erotic films in the context of the seventies, for which the sensual forms of Anicée were once again put into contribution. Nevertheless Anicée proved that her body was not to be taken for granted and through a subtle performance, she marvelously manages to render some coherence in the movie director's extravagant script.




Égérie of nouveau roman author/director Alain Robbe-Grillet, actress Anicée Shahmanesh better known as Anicée Alvina was to play a major part as France's post 68 sexual revolution icon. ©Photo composition Darius Kadivar



Unfortunately like for another talented actress Sylvia Kristel (Star of Emmanuelle) or more recently Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct) such films typecast her in one-dimensional role's taking more advantage of her undeniable physical beauty but undermining her image as a fully potential actress. She was also to take on a courageous Lesbian role in the screen adaptation of Françoise Mallet-Jorris' novel Le Rempart des Béguines. (*)

She also played opposite Hollywood Star Robert Stack in the directorial début of Claude Chabrol's favorite actor Gérard Blain ( Le beau Serge ) with Un Second Souffle in what seemed like a title tribute to Goddard's A Bout de Souffle aka Breathless.


Subsequently Anicée attempted several more artistically ambitious movies like in Frank Cassenti's L'Affiche Rouge which received the Prestigious Jean Vigo Prize in 1976. A film on the unsung heroes of the French Resistance who were of foreign nationalities, often immigrants and whose heroic accomplishments were never quite acknowledged in History books. This was the case of the Misak Manouchian groupe composed of Armenians, Persians (*****) or Jews who having fought in the Spanish Civil War were to be amongst the first to bravely attack the Nazi occupiers. Many were arrested and killed under torture or executed. The Manouchian groupe were presented as Terrorists by the Vichy Collaborators and a Red Poster of the groupe became the new slogan of the Nazi occupiers ...



L'Affiche Rouge aka The Red Poster: A film on the Foreigners who participated in the French Resistance in Nazi Occupied France and who were executed by the Gestapo. The film was to confront the actors to real life survivors of the dismantled resistance group with testimonies of their torture.  The poster was used by the Nazis occupiers to present the Manouchian (He was Armenian) as a groupe as terrorists.





The film released in 1976 was shot in an original and experimental way was to confront the major actors of the movie, a theater band, with the real survivors of the Manouchian groupe. They were to recreate their tragic story as a filmed theater performance.


One of the last films made by Anicée Alvina and her screen mentor director/Actor Gérard Blain: Ainsi soit-il was to win the Léopard D'Or at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. The Same film festival that was to reveal the Iranian filmmaker Abbas  Kiarostami to the Western Media before he won the 1997 Palme D'Or in Cannes.


During the 1990's Anicée, did some musical performances, and played roles in TV dramas, the most successful being a Comedy called Les 400 Coups de Virginie before making a comeback in a film directed by her old friend Gérard Blain in a critically acclaimed film Ainsi Soit-il which won the Léopard D'Or at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland.


Authors Notes:


(*)French writer Françoise Mallet Jorris' known for her feminist writings was to compose the famous poem "Je veux pleurer comme Soraya" aka "I want to cry like Soraya" in tribute to Princess Soraya of Iran who was officially  "repudiated" more or less by the Shah for not being able to give a heir to the Peacock Throne.


 (**) During Elton John's most commercially successful period, between 1970 and 1975, he was also at his most prolific. Usually producing two albums a year, he also knocked off a dozen or so non-LP B-sides, a handful of demos for other artists, and even a soundtrack album for a film Friends

Elton John and Bernie Taupin composed the lyrics for several songs in Friends: ( see Lyrics ) "Michelle's Song", "Honey Roll", "Can I Put You On", "I Meant To Do My Work Today",  "Four Moods"

The songs can be found on the Rare Masters album can be bought on

(***) And full review of Friends and Paul and Michelle.

(****) See Anicée Alvina's entire filmography

(*****)It should be noted that the late Prime Minister of Iran's Imperial Regime Shapour Bakhtiar and subsequently head of the Iranian National Party was a member of the French Resistance and served in the French Bataillon d'Orléans during WWII. His was married to a French citizen with whom he had several children.


About the Author : Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist and Film Historian. 

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