Saturday, July 3, 2010

Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room

Charming French actress Leslie Caron received her second Best Actress nomination exactly 10 years after her first one for playing a lonely, pregnant young French woman in Bryan Forbes' black and white kitchen sink drama, The L-Shaped Room. She also received the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama (over a LOT of other nominees check it out). Although she received the prestigeous award, I don't think that she was a big contender for the Oscar (or was she, someone should tell me who's the front-runner that year) as the race was probably among the three American nominees.

The L-Shaped Room is a bit watered, but still harrowing (and typical) kitchen sink drama set in Britain in the 1960s and it focuses on the miseries of simple, working-class people, showing complex relationships and also offering great performances by the actors (and boy I just love these films). Brock Peters probably (not probably, definitely) should have received a nomination for playing the neighbour of Lesile Caron, but we should not ignore the others either as they gave magnificent, strong and memorable performances.

However, nearly all the credit goes down to the brilliant Leslie Caron, who completely holds the movie together with her subtle (very-very subtle) brilliance and charm. Even in her first scenes, we can nearly touch her inconfidence and doubts about her future and life in general. However only we are shown of her upcoming brilliance (and boy that's something) when she considers abortion for the first time. That scene alone is so heartwrenching that you instantly feel sympathy for this poor young girl, but she also mercilessly shows the mistakes and flaws of this woman.

And after she's getting less and less isolated and makes some friends, her performance is just getting better and better. She gets to know a young, unsuccessful writer, Toby with whom she starts a very odd type of relationship, with lots of tension and conflicts. The scene after the party when they are kissing, I literally felt the lips of Caron, it was unbelievable.But even with the development of the character, Jane's still inconfident and does not have much confidence in anyone. When she meets the father of her unborn child, Caron creates an emotionally insanely intense scene, where she reveals that her virginity bothered her so much that it's the only reason she slept with him. She'sthe most subtle dynamite.

And the scene, where she gets to the hospital for the first time is just the icing on the cake (but also the highlight of her whole performance and the movie). That scene almost killed me, and right then I had no doubt how many Meryls I'm going to give to Caron. There are not many performances which are so subtle and yet they get under your skin and impress you immensely. I can only think of Dame Edith Evans in The Whisperers (another Bryan Forbes movie, so it's no co-incidence) as such an actress, who amazes you with such (I dare to say) repressed acting. And their characters have a lot in common: both are lonely, isolated, but they both share a deep desire for a better life. The character of Dame Edith finds it in her fantasies and memories, however life was not that merciful on Caron's Jane. She's a perfectly realistic person still longing for something better, which she cannot have. And this is the heartbreaking truth that completely elevates both the performance of Caron and the movie itself.

So to sum up, this is not performance with a nice packing and absolutely no content in it (I can say numerous hailed performances lacking content), this is hundred per cent reality. Brutally real, brutally heartbreaking. One of the truly great achievemnents I've ever seen. This is Acting with capital A. This rating sytem has officially failed.

Watch The L-Shaped Room (and do so please) here and then I hope we can discuss this performance and your opinion in many comments.


Louis Morgan said...

Seems like she'll be first. I am not sure who was the favorite. I just watched her in Lili and this performance could not be more different than that one. She certainly is interesting although I am not sure what I would give her.

Anonymous said...

She's perfect in this, what a wonderful performance! I had my doubts on her talents as an actress but now I can say she's incredibly talented. She really should have won over Neal's ridiculously underwhelming performance.