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The MacKintosh Man (1973), Dazed Digital
The MacKintosh Man (1973)via

Charting the style history of an unsung 70s heroine

To celebrate the remastering of one of her iconic films, we revisit cult actress Dominique Sanda’s best on-screen fashion moments

Dubbed the “French Garbo”, actress Dominique Sanda is one of cinema’s unsung style icons. Something of a boyish mix between Antonioni’s Monica Vitti and Cocteau’s Bardot, Sanda began her career in fashion, making her big-time debut on the cover of Vogue shot by Richard Avedon, before getting her cinematic break from New Wave legend Robert Bresson. To mark the stunning restoration of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis – the 1970 drama in which she had a show-stealing role – supported by Italian fashion house Antony Morato, we chart her top five on screen style moments.


Directed by the legend of French New Wave, Robert Bresson (called “the Dostoevsky of Nouvelle Vague” by Jean-Luc Godard), A Gentle Woman opens with a flowing curtain and a shot of a beautiful but lifeless Sanda, her character Elle having just committed suicide. Throughout the film, her distraught husband looks back on their marriage and the reasons for her decision, with Sanda epitomising Bresson’s idea of the unconventional woman. 


The Garden of the Finzi–Continis, winner of the 44th Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, was the first Italian feature movie Sanda took part in. A directorial success for cult Neorealist Vittorio De Sica, the film depicts a community of Jewish families as they face increasing persecution with the rise of Italian fascism. We see Sanda as the willful and beautiful Micol, the upper-class object of the protagonist’s unrequited affection, most often seen playing tennis in pristine whites. Her style even made its mark on the runways last year, inspiring Max Mara’s SS15 collection. 


In this political drama set in the 30s and directed by the expressionist Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris, The Dreamers), Sanda stars as Anna, the wayward daughter of a professor who gets involved with her father’s nemesis. In one famous scene, the young Anna swirls around a ballroom with (gasp!) another woman, clad in a white satin fishtail dress and gazing Sappho-like at her dance partner, much to the astonishment of the crowd.


Embarking on a journey around the world and eventually seeking avenge for her father’s murder,  in the 1973 spy thriller The Mackintosh Man Sanda takes up the role of Mrs Smith, a British intelligence agent (Angelina wasn’t the first). Despite her low-key belted trench looks, this femme fatale is not to be underestimated – as she proves to co-star Paul Newman by the time the credits roll.


Strolling down the streets of Paris in Une Chambre en Ville, Dominique Sanda’s heroine Edith is seeking an escape from her restrictive marriage, which she finds bumping into protgagonist François. Wearing only her luxurious fur coat and a coat of red nail polish, Sanda is the empowered woman Yves Saint Laurent created – something that’s now come full circle thanks to her appearance as his mother in the 2014 biopic).