Sunday, May 4, 2008

Emmanuelle Seigner: Hot, Talented, And Did I Mention Hot?

The hotness of Emmanuelle Seigner, whose cheekbones are almost heavenly enough to make me reconsider my agnosticism, is something I've been meaning to address here for ages, but I keep getting sidetracked by various and sundry hotnesses (there was Kerry Washington, there was Emmanuelle Béart, there was Eva Mendes, there was Charlotte Rampling, there was matzo -- and those are just the women/delicious flatbreads I've had time to mention over the last several months. Once I really get going, we could be here for ages) and bullshit things like work and sleep and family obligations. This week marked the DVD release of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, one of the best films of 2007, so it seemed the perfect time to pay tribute to Seigner, the model-turned-actress and wife of Roman Polanski.

Polanski directed Seigner in one of her earliest films, Frantic (that's the one where we're expected to believe that Betty Buckley gets kidnapped and her husband, played by Harrison Ford, a) actually notices that she's gone and b) wants to get her back), and it wasn't the kind of performance that hinted she had untapped depths as an actress. But Seigner continued to hone her craft, turning Kristin Scott Thomas's head in Bitter Moon (again directed by Polanski) and playing a hyper-critical wife in Yvan Attal's Happily Ever After. A turning point came in 2005, when she was cast as an enigmatic, manipulative pop star in Emmanuelle Bercot's Backstage. Seigner's Madonna-esque character takes in an obsessed young fan, played by the ferociously talented Isild Le Besco. The two meet when Seigner is dispatched to the teen's house for a surprise TV appearance, and the lesbian overtones are both immediate and hypnotic.

Seigner, whose sexuality had been dark and occasionally cartoonish early in her career, was now, in her middle age, blonde and earthy. Her acting, too, had acquired a new richness, and in 2007 she gave two of the most emotionally astute supporting performances of the year, as a prostitute who cares for a young Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, and as the estranged partner of Mathieu Amalric's Jean-Dominique Bauby in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. (The Butterfly scene in which Seigner must facilitate a phone conversation between the paralyzed Bauby, who is unable to speak, and the woman he left her for, is as beautifully played as anything you'll ever see in a movie.) IMDb shows that her next two credits are expected to be a Danièle Thompson comedy costarring Marina Hands* and Dario Argento's Giallo, but I look forward to seeing her in more -- and more sizable -- dramatic roles in the future.

* Hands, in a bit of useless movie trivia, played the "woman he left her for" in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and also turned Kristin Scott Thomas's head in a movie: they played a boring married couple in the recent French thriller Tell No One.

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