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French Twist

A visit with Chiara Mastroianni.

NEW YORK — Though she’s a star in France and has paparazzi bulbs there flashing overtime, Chiara Mastroianni glides among the late morning cappuccino drinkers in the lobby of the Hudson Hotel causing little more than a passing glance.

While the actress is the daughter of the screen legends Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, few in the United States — and certainly no one in the Hudson this morning — seem familiar with her work. In France she has been a successful actress for more than 10 years, working with such directors as Claude Lelouch, André Techiné, Manoel de Oliveira and Raoul Ruiz (she portrays Albertine in the latter’s adaptation of Proust’s “Time Regained”). Recently, Mastroianni came to New York to fulfill her role as the international face of Jean Patou Paris’s perfume Enjoy.

Of course, in France Mastroianni is as famous for her iconic lineage as she is her acting. At her wedding in 2002, where she wore a simple dress by Prada, Mastroianni and her husband, musician Benjamin Biolay, officially became one of Paris’ chicest couples. The two have a six-month-old daughter, Anna, and Mastroianni has a 7-year-old son, Milo, whose father is sculptor Pierre Torreton.

Playing a small part as Kim Basinger’s assistant in “Prêt-à-Porter” gave Mastroianni some momentum in Hollywood, but she has resisted the temptation to cross over à la Audrey Tautou or Ludivine Sagnier. (She also had roles in Gregg Araki’s “Nowhere” and Mike Figgis’ “Hotel.”) “I love the English and American cinema,” she explains. “But I love it like a member of the audience.”

Most recently, she appeared in the French film “Carnage,” which has been touring U.S. film festivals and art-house theaters since March. Appropriately enough, she plays an actress, one of many characters linked by the remains of a slaughtered bull. “It’s a bit surreal but you have to accept it,” she says. “It’s not a macabre film, though. It’s funny.”

“Carnage” marks a departure for Mastroianni, who usually chooses dramatic roles. “Usually in a funny scene, I would always be the one who comes and breaks the fun,” she says. “But I would love to do another comedy — it’s just difficult to find a good one.”

Mastroianni, who has worked with both her parents, split her childhood years between France, where she lived with her mother, and Italy, where she spent summers in Rome or on film sets with her father. Deneuve famously discouraged her daughter from acting, and, Mastroianni insists, established a completely normal home, much like the one Mastroianni lives in with her family today. “Her job seemed normal to me, it didn’t seem exceptional at all,” she says. “She really didn’t talk much about work.”

Mastroianni takes an equally laid-back approach to her New York trip. “I go to toy stores, mostly,” she says. “Otherwise I like to hang around, have a cup of coffee somewhere and just enjoy the scenery.”

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