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CANNES — The line between life and art and dreams and life get a thorough working over in “Actresses,” which, as the title promises, takes you into the world of a most neurotic profession. The film’s director, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, is herself an actress. Indeed she stars in this film she has also written with co-star Noemie Lvovksy. So when they portray actors as borderline nut cases you can only take them at their word.
The film’s most inspired moments are comedic or consist of whimsical apparitions that appear to living beings. The moments that try to plumb the psychological depths of the film’s protagonist, who is, of course, an actress, feel superficial. Either way, the film isn’t terribly significant. It’s an amusing riff on the perils of an actor taking her role too seriously, but is unlikely to play to a crowd much beyond festivals, French-speaking markets and perhaps European art houses.
Marcelline (Bruni Tedeschi) is an actress struggling with her role of Nathalia Petrovna in Turgenev’s classic play “A Month in the Country.” This is a role, the press notes say, the director herself once struggled with in real life only to be replaced by the director’s assistant. See how art imitates life?
The director (Mathieu Amalric) is an insecure jerk who is nevertheless determined to shows the world his brilliance. His assistant Nathalie (Lvovsky) once studied acting with Marcelline but now must stand in her shadow. You think she might be jealous?
Marcelline’s Italian mother (Marisa Borini, who indeed is the star’s mother) and aunt (Simona Marchini) are “colorful” without really being characters — or at least not ones you want to get to know. The truly interesting characters though are those that do not exist.
You see, Marcelline is about to turn 40 and her prospects for motherhood grow dimmer by the day. That’s the crux of the matter for this overly emotional actress. So she begins to chat with her late father, whom she discovers occupying his favorite couch. Then her first love, who is also dead, turns up one night perched on her window.
So many opportunities to explore the meaning of life seem to have gotten away from her, these ghosts imply. These ghosts and problems with the role have turned Marcelline’s world into a nightmare, both real and metaphorically. Incidentally, the film’s original title just before debuting in Cannes in Un Certain Regard was “Dream of the Night Before.”
The movie cuts nicely back and forth between the play, both in rehearsal and production, and the actress’ real-life problems where the emotions of scenes from both worlds play off one another and sometimes, perhaps, even fuel the woman’s art.
Then Nathalia Petrovna (Valeria Golino) herself appears to Marcelline. So this would be a fictional character appearing to a character that is equally as fictional but meant to be real in this context. Now where is Pirandello when you could really use him?
It’s all a bit precious, but a few scenes spark genuine comedy and the actors do fine jobs of maneuvering among the levels of reality. Also, any film with two versions of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” can’t be all bad.
Fidelite Films in association with Virtual Films and Wild Bunch
Director: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Screenwriters: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Noemie Lvovksy
Producers: Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Director of photography: Jeanne Lapoirie
Production designer: Emmanuelle Duplay
Costume designer: Caroline De Vivaise
Editor: Anne Weil
Marcelline: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Nathalie: Noemie Lvovsky
Denis: Mathieu Amalric
Eric: Louis Garrel
Mother: Marisa Borini
Nathalia Petrovna: Valerie Golino
Father: Maurice Garrel
Running time — 110 minutes
No MPAA rating
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