Kristin Scott Thomas received her first (and to date only) Best Actress nomination for playing Katharine Clifton, a woman commiting adultery with a Hungarian count in the Best Picture winner of 1996, The English Patient. No matter how popular The English Patient was, Kristin Scott Thomas didn't have much chance of winning the Oscar that year. There were more popular and bigger performances that equal an Oscar win. Still, I think Scott Thomas was ahead of Diane Keaton and managed to become fourth. I guess if she had been nominated supporting, she wouldn't have had more chance. Had she been nominated there, Lauren Bacall would be an Oscar winner and Juliette Binoche wouldn't have won, I think because they would have split votes.
The English Patient is a movie I should really like, I suppose but I'm not that crazy about it. The fact that it beat Fargo and Secrets and Lies for Best Picture makes me really baffled. Sure, The English Patient is beautifully made and all the technical wins were worthy, I just didn't feel that it was the Best Picture of that great year. To tell the truth, sometimes I even find this movie pathetic. And truth to be told, it's incredibly boring sometimes. Juliette Binoche was a big upset winner beating the way overdue Lauren Bacall. While I haven't seen Bacall, I think Binoche was really worthy of the Oscar. Ralph Fieness is quite good but a win would have been too much.
Kristin Scott Thomas is a very good actress, in my opinion. Her subtle, dignified presence and elegant beauty shine through her roles and therefore all of them are special in a way. I'm thinking about Keeping Mum where she played the unhappy, sarcastic wife of a reverend and the daughter of the adorable murderer played by Maggie Smith. There's a kind of sarcastic edge in that performance and that's what I love the most about her. She's sarcastic and yet she never loses her dignity.
The English Patient is not a very typical performance of hers, so it's quite unusual that she was recognised for something unlike her. However, this is also a very typical Kristin Scott Thomas performance, especially at the very beginning, when we get to know Katharine Clifton as a very cold, sarcastic and unlikeable person. I know that this sounds very awkward and stupid but I really felt this way. Her performance consists of two very separate parts: one before the affair and one after the affair. I, actually, preferred the first one, probably because that showed all the qualities of Kristin Scott Thomas that I really admire.
To those who haven't seen The English Patient I give a later role of Ms. Scott Thomas as an example, namely Sylvia McCordle in Gosford Park. Both ladies are quite unlikeable, bored and snobbish. Kristin Scott Thomas shows all of these qualities so entertainingly and delciously that I just cannot resist her. However, unlike Sylvia, Katharine is actually quite passionate inside and I loved the way Kristin showed this. That's why I'm really happy that Anthony Minghella insisted that she should play Katharine instead of a superstar.
There are small and quite significant parts that underline the most important characteristics of Katharine. For instance, I loved when she was sitting in the desert alone, smoking and then count Almásy came to her.
The weaker part comes when the affair between Katharine and the count begins. The whole performance of Kristin becomes quite uneven and the movie is to blame for it. To tell the truth, 65% of The English Patient is useless for the story and the director wanted way-way to much. As a result, only Juliette Binoche's storyline worked out completely. There were to many things and it was impossible to concentrate on Katharine anymore. I wasn't impressed because I lost my interest gradually. The love affair should have been the main storyline and instead of telling everything about it, the movie says useless things about that guy whose thumbs were cut. What was the purpuse of that character? In the end, her didn't do anything. These stupid things got the spotlight instead of Kristin Scott Thomas who could have been just as brilliant as she was at the beginning. Her movie actually stood in her way of becoming amazing. There were some great scenes (like the ones in the cave) but I was never totally blown away.
So, I have really mixed feelings about Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient. I loved the beginning and the way she showed Katharine's behaviour but from the middle, this performance becomes painfully insignificant. Yes, it's 100% the movie's fault and yet the performance suffers from it unfortunately. Too bad as Kristin had the potential of becoming fantastic here.
What do you think?