Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Simone Signoret in Room at the Top

International star Simone Signoret received her first Best Actress nomination and a surprise win for playing Alice Aisgill, a lonely and bitter married actress, who begins an affair with a younger man in the movie Room at the Top. It's really a miracle that Signoret was able to win the Oscar for this performance. Not because she was bad, but Room at the top is a rather small British movie and also two of Hollywood's greatest stars were expected to win the coveted award. Eventually they both went home empty-handed, while Signoret won the award and got another nomination six years later.

Room at the Top is a good English free cinema movie, which I liked very much for the first time, but now I felt extremely bored sometimes, though there were things about this movie that I liked much more this time around. Also, the ending was not very satisfying. One of those things is the performance of Laurence Harvey, who in my opinion was superb, despite the things people say about his talent. In this movie, he rocks and probably even deserved the Oscar (though I'm not sure whether he gets my vote over Jack Lemmon's legendary performance, time will tell). Also there were things I was truly amazed last time, but now caused me minor disappointment.

If you don't understand the clues, I'll tell you. It was as much of a shock for me as it will be for you, but it was Simone Signoret. Last time I wrote a review about this movie I could not stop hailing Singoret's performance, but this time my love has cooled a bit. She's no longer in my Top 10, I'm afraid. I do NOT want to suggest though that she was bad or mediocore, I just felt that she was a bit underwhelming this time.

The part of Alice is not very baity, it has many opportunities to show Signoret's brilliance, but it's not the type of role that gets love from the Oscars. I can only compare her to Rachel Roberts in This Sporting Life: they become victims in the end and they are the characters you feel sorry for eventually. I must also say that just like in the case of Roberts, I cannot really imagine anyone play Alice with the passion and deep understanding which Signoret used in this movie. Sometimes I even identified Signoret with Alice.

Signoret was an actress with a unique and (I even dare to say) odd talent, whose presence is nearly magnetic and you cannot take your eyes off her. Her inner beauty and radiant personality shine through the movie so much, that you are instantly amazed by her and do not really care about the others onscreen. She does not steal the scenes, not at all, in fact she makes the scenes and everyone else pales in comparision with her. When she's there, it's her an nobody else. I also must mention that her weird accent in this movie adds so much mistery to this character about whom we don't know much, yet we feel everything she went through in her life, all the disappointments and all the hurtful moments.

Alice is an unhappy, lonely woman, who longs for a bit of happiness, which she finds on the side of a man much younger than her. Because of the way her husband treated her she became bitter and deeply devasted. Alice does not expect much from life, yet Signoret shows us how desperately she wants to find some joy in her life. The first time she meets Joe (the character Harvey play) we do not feel that anything's going to happen between them and their relationship begins from being friends eventually ending up being a fatal affair.

And once she finds happiness, Alice does everything possible to keep it. She never lets Joe treat her like her husband did, but we can easily see how vulnerable and unstable she is in fact. Because of Joe's greed, Alice has to lose everything, which meant happiness and comfort to Alice later. She has to be unhappy again and she's too weak and broken-down to put up with this state.

The scene where she says goodbye to Joe is almost heartbreaking: she (along with the audience) knows that it is the end of their relationship despite the fact that Joe always say "this is just the beginning". Alice breaks down and desperately wants to get her happiness back. What used to mean her whole life is gone in a second and she cannot accept it. Signoret brilliantly portrays this emotions on-screen and sometimes this much pain is unbearable to watch.

So to sum up, I think Simone Signoret is one of the greatest actresses ever and in Room at the Top she was able to put on an amazing performance, which I liked much more for the first time, but it was still fantastic to watch. A very unusually heartbreaking performance and now understand all the love and criticism it gets. But I can't really deny how fantastic she really is, so ironically, her original rating almost remained here. Magnificent work by an extraordinary talent.
So what do you think? This is the last opportunity to share your predictions with me, which I accept (you can still predict next time, but it would be to easy to find out then).


Fritz said...

Mmh, I was sure you give her your number 1 spot, but now I feel different. My predictions:

1. Katharine Hepburn
2. Audrey Hepburn
3. Simone Signoret
4. Elizabeth Taylor
5. Doris Day

This would be just like my ranking but I am not sure about the Top3...maybe you will put Simone above Audrey...and who knows, maybe you'll love Doris so much that she will be your number 1! :-)

Louis Morgan said...

I saw her once and I felt she was incredibly good. The film itself I felt was interesting enough but I would imagine I would find it more boring if I watched it again. Maybe I would like her less too, but I am not sure. I would change my prediction but it would probably just be Fritz's.

dinasztie said...

You can change it Louis if you want to.

joe burns said...

I really liked her- Such a subtle, sad performance which is the best thing in the film.

dinasztie said...

Hi Joe! Good that you're back, hope you had a good time.

Celso said...

I hope she still win! Wonderful performance!
Do you had problem with her screentime? Too small to be considered a leading?

dinasztie said...

Not at all. Actually I did not have that problem. She was leading and that's it for me.