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France’s Leading Male and Female Actors Deliver, Once Again, Memorable Characters

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By Roger Costa

MAMA WEED

There’s nothing Isabelle Huppert wouldn’t be able to perform with elegance and precise tone, even if circumstances wouldn’t allow it. She knows how to deeply devour and transform herself into a character, combining intelligence, sensuality and witty in a unique way. Think of Meryl Street with a little of Susan Sarandon and there you have it. Despite appearing in over 140 films, the Oscar-winning French diva has never repeated herself, or failed when in scene: her presence is strong, captivating, her charm is irresistible. She is also a lovely, humble and friendly person whom I had the pleasure to meet and photograph.

In her latest acting achievement, director Jean-Paul Salome’s delightfully entertaining crime comedy, Huppert plays Patience, a translator working for the Paris Police, who sees a chance to pay off her debts when she becomes involved with some dealers and ends up with a load of drugs. Desperate to pay her months-late rent and her mother’s expenses at a Care Facility, she starts a profitable net of trafficking, challenging her own colleagues, their duty and risking her freedom and reputation.

Huppert delivers the character with affecting style and highly efficient charm, entirely grabbing the audience by the heart.  Filled with wise dialogue, catchy phrases such as “talk doesn’t cook rice” or “underpaid Asians earning 2 Euros” (you’ll understand when you see it), and eccentric secondary characters, Salome conducts the material with brilliant comic pace, never getting offensive (the Arab world is observed from a criminal point of view) or vulgar, and also benefiting from its suspenseful atmosphere. Her interactions among nurses, Police partners and dealers, as well as a close relationship to her Chinese neighbor and a gifted dog, are executed with smart cynicism and freshness. Her disguise and strategies of business (planning phone calls or video game calls, choosing crowded places for exchanges and so on) are also unusually awkward and irreverent. Everything works fine, as the French star shines once again with a memorable performance.

(Brainstorm Media/Music Box Films. 7/16. Village East Cinemas.)

CASANOVA, LAST LOVE

As he sits down on his Librarian desk, penning his famous memoir, Casanova, the Bohemian bon-vivant infamously known for his appetite and skills for gambling and promiscuous sex is confronted by the memories of a last love, a young prostitute he became involved with while on exile in London.

Set in the 18th Century and anchored by a virtuoso, enigmatically melancholic and vulnerable leading performance by Vincent Lindon (whose birthday is on the 15th July), this sensual, elegant and gorgeously filmed historical drama fulfills all the requirements needed for a period-set sexually-charged love story. A womanizer who at first seems scandalized by London’s explicit habits, Casanova easily mingles with the Aristocrats and prostitutes alike, even lacking some English. He finds comfort after re-connecting to an Opera singer (Valeria Golino) and some members of the bourgeois, but it’s the mysterious sensuality of Marienne (Stacy Martin), a young prostitute serving all men in town, who attracts his fascination, raising the possibility for a complicated cat-and-mouse affair. She rapidly lures him into investing in her mother’s invention: she’s preparing an Elixir of Life. They develop an intense, emotionally dangerous romance, as she deeply drags him under her enchants, but always finds an excuse to escape the consummation of his uncontrollable desire.

An accomplished, Award-winning filmmaker, who helmed great films such as “Farewell My Queen”, “Sade” and “Diary of a Chambermaid”, Benoit Jacquot adds another timely character study to his curriculum, proving his usual commitment and perfectionism in the conception of visual, scenarios and storytelling. Actress Stacy Martin gives life to the young muse and object of desire of our hero (who also worked as a spy) with intensity and admirable charm, but it’s Lindon who turns everything upside down with his strong voice, gestures and silent anguish. His performance here is as engaging and powerful as his personifications of a swim instructor in “Welcome”, a silly husband in “The Moustache”, the compulsive painter “Rodin”, the tormented priest in “The Apparition” and his two finest: the security guard in the moral-challenging “The Measure of a Man”, and the revolutionary industrial worker of “At War”. Lindon has a unique, profoundly affecting acting style, making it impossible to look away from him. In this sensual and wondrous drama he confirms his star-power, scoring another top-notch performance.

(Cohen Media. 7/14. Quad Cinemas.)

 


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