Thursday, March 4, 2010
(My) Best of 09: Actress.
5. Giovanna Mezzogiorno in "Vincere" (read my review)
Love is the devil for Ida Dalser (Mezzogiorno), her devotion to Benito Mussolini is such that she sells her goods to support his newspaper and when he refuses to acknowledge the existence of their son and sends her to a mental institution she assumes he's just testing her love.
Few actresses would convince us this insane looking behavior would be real and Mezzogiorno does so with enough inspiration that we even find her plea romantic sometimes.
Her eventual realization that the man of her life might be the monster the rest of the world thought him to be is heartbreaking as few things you've seen.
4. Charlotte Gainsbourg in "Antichrist" (read my review)
Seeing how she plays an archetype more than an actual character, it's remarkable to see what Charlotte Gainsbourg does in "Antichrist".
As a woman grieving the loss of her young son she embodies some of the most heart wrenching pain put on screen (watching her physical reactions to sadness makes your blood cold and punches your gut).
And when she goes all von Trier on Willem Dafoe's ass-and genitals-in the controversial ginocyde chapter she is so convincing that we can't just judge her for her actions.
Few actors commit themselves so fully to their performances in the way Gainsbourg does in this film. Despite the horrors she subjects herself to her work is a thing of beauty.
3. Penélope Cruz in "Broken Embraces" (read my review)
As the obscure object of desire in Pedro Almodóvar's "Broken Embraces", Penélope Cruz gives the most mature performance of her surprising career.
She plays Lena a secretary/actress/mistress/lover/muse that sets the film's labyrinthine plot in motion. Considering how she represents something different to almost every character in the movie, Cruz's ability to maintain a definite personality for Lena is magical.
Pedro often concentrates on her beauty and her look in the movie has often been compared to Audrey Hepburn. However the essence of her performance here is owed to another classic beauty, the great Ingrid Bergman who the movie refers to more subtly than Hepburn, but in the end becomes the moral, aesthetic and emotional axis for Lena.
2. Tilda Swinton in "Julia" (read my review)
Once every couple of years comes a performance with the kind of raw energy that the movie around them becomes elevated to the point where it makes the film seem much better than it actually is.
In 2009, awards groups decided to acknowledge this element to the more conventional choices and have all shown unanimous marvel for the work of Sandra Bullock and Mo'Nique.
Sadly it's the thunderous work of Tilda Swinton in "Julia" that should have gotten this recognition. Unlike Bullock's one note performance-and probable one time awards opportunity-we already knew Swinton could act, the only surprise here being that she could push herself even further and use genre in her favor.
And unlike Mo'Nique who made a big deal about the ugliness of her character, Swinton's Julia is the kind of monster that's never merely a prop like something out of a Spielberg blockbuster, but an actual human being who happens to lack any morality and sense of decency.
It's a shame her performance went by so unsung but Julia probably wouldn't give a damn about what others thought of her.
1. Abbie Cornish in "Bright Star" (read my review)
If you have never been in love you will want to have the kind Fanny Brawne (Cornish) has in "Bright Star", tragic ending and all.
And if you have been, you'll doubt the nature of your own feeling upon seeing the intensity of the one Ms. Brawne has for John Keats (Ben Whishaw).
She has the kind of movie love that doesn't even require physical intimacy but still convinces us of its overwhelming spirit.
But perhaps more marvelous than her love for Keats, is Fanny's love for herself. Cornish plays her like a free soul ages ahead of her time-the kind which Jane Campion has always specialized at-but the actress makes Fanny appropriate for her time as well.
There is not a single anachronistic detail in her revolutionary methods; her clothes, her designs, the forward way in which she addresses people she dislikes, her equality with John...all are time specific yet timeless.
It helps of course that Cornish has the ability to make harshness seem delicate and part of Fanny's charm is how she sees herself as more mature than she actually is. But Cornish succeeds in all the unexpected moments, she pulls off a butterfly sequence with enough innocence and airiness to make us sigh with her and later in the film she provides a moment of grief with emotional pain that overflows into the physical.
Abbie Cornish gives in to Fanny's romantic whims with such conviction that you never doubt she inspired Keats.