Film Actresses & Global Classics
In this series I offer my reflections on actresses and their most compelling performances in (mostly) classics of global cinema.
ISABELLE ADJANI ACTRESS 1: INTRODUCTION
Isabelle Adjani with a portrait of her father | Photo: Banier
Isabelle Adjani, ‘La Passion Amoureuse’ | Photo: André Rau
Of the outstanding actress from the mid-sixties to today, the ones who move me most are the ones who have the feu sacré, that magical alliance of talent and intensity that, beyond making a performance compelling, carries it into the sublime. I’m thinking of Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, Liv Ullmann and Margit Carstensen, Isabelle Huppert and Nicole Kidman, and above all, Isabelle Adjani. Why Adjani above all? Simply because of her incandescence in walking the knife-edge of the feminine, finding resonances between her life and her roles that make her heroines luminous. Never power without vulnerability, never experience without innocence, never achievement without challenge: with these intuitions her acting is infused, and when she uses them to portray a woman in love, she is, as an actress, untouchable. Love, the feminine, acting—these are the themes I will address in this post on Isabelle Adjani and The Story of Adèle H. (François Truffaut, 1975), Adolphe (Benoit Jacquot, 2002) and Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981).
Isabelle Adjani | Photo: Karl Lagerfeld
An art form yields the fullness of its potential only when the artist plays to the form’s distinctive traits. Thus painting is most painterly when it renounces illustration, literature is most literary when it pushes toward the origin of language, and architecture, as Peter Eisenman has said, ‘only begins once all the functions have been fulfilled’. What, then, of acting? An actress’ medium is her body/voice. She is most effective when, maintaining a tension between meaning and the mysterious, she uses her body/voice to connect with the spectator’s fears and desires. As she is both herself and another, she will at once attract and repel as she conjures the uncanny. And since she is an interpreter, she will work with a director to embody a text. Her art thus lies at one remove from the director and at two from the writer: she can deliver its full potential only when both writer and director are sufficiently challenging. The writers and directors of the films in question meet this criterion, so I include their contribution when I speak of Adjani’s acting.
By Richard Jonathan | © Mara Marietta Culture Blog, 2019 | All rights reserved