Saturday, February 16, 2013

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour

Emmanuelle Riva received her first Oscar nomination for playing Anne, a slowly dying elderly lady whose sufferings are portrayed in Michael Haneke's masterpiece, Amour. Although Emmanuelle won over critics and filmmakers around the world, her performance was snubbed by both SAG and the Globes, which made her a long shot for an Oscar nomination. Fortunately, the Academy was more open to embracing the stunning performance of a French actress who's primarily known to cinephiles. From the long shot position, she quickly moved up to the status of a possible front-runner (?) thanks to a Bafta win and well, nothing else (definitely not campaiging), except for her exceptional work that speaks for itself.

As I said, Amour is a masterpiece and I hope it picks up as many awards at the Oscars as it possibly can. I did my wish-list of nominees right before the announcement and the ones concerning Amour all came true. While it could have been only Foreign Language Film, it also got in for Picture (!), Director (Ben who???) and Original Screenplay. Although I'm not revealing my picks for all the categories until Oscar Sunday, I must say I couldn't argue against any of those five nominations translating into Oscar gold. However, I'm still extremely pissed that Jean-Louis Trintignant wasn't nominated (I don't even dare mention Isabelle Huppert) who, in my opinion, gave the best male performance of the year. It seems that whenever a female co-star of his gets nominated, he gets overlooked by the Academy despite the fact that his character was just as crucial and his acting was just as fantastic.

Still, the snub doesn't make Emmanuelle Riva's any more pleasing. Recognition for this often overlooked, great actress was overdue, especially considering her marvelous, legendary turn in Hiroshima, mon amour. Somehow, I feel that it's no co-incidence that both movies have the word "amour" in the title. Emmannuelle is an incredibly expressive and sensitive actress whose performances contain an unbelievable amount of tenderness and nobility, which is so much like her fellow nominee, Jessica Chastain and her co-star Isabelle Huppert. Therefore, she's really an actress and woman to fall in love with. You completely understand why and how all these men in the films fell for her: her stunning beauty and shining personality grabs you and doesn't let you go.

Therefore, Emmanuelle's aura was perfect for Anne's character. At the beginning of the film, we see a happy, satisfied elderly intellectual lady, seemingly still in love with her husband after 60+ years. Emmanuelle almost overdoes the beauty of Anne and one just doesn't understand the whole purpose of this becomes clear after you see the slow and disturbing process of Anne dying: the idyllic beginning makes Anne's sufferings even more painful and effective.

I am still stunned by the fact that non of this years' nominees for Best Actress gave traditional Oscar performances. Even when the parts sound baity on paper, the unusual approach of the actress distinguishes it, just like in the case of Emmanuelle. The role of the dying old lady is something that awards' bodies usually eat up. However, Riva gets rid of the sentimentality attached to such characters and instead, she underlines the true effect of this state on Anne and her relationship with her husband.

Although this journey of Riva's character is both painful and draining, it doesn't go over a certain point and knows exactly well how much tha audience can take. This doesn't mean, of course, that she holds herself back in order to make it easier to take, she just knows the delicate balance between devastating reality and overbearing overacting overeverything. Make no mistake, it's incredibly difficult to witness Anne's decay and Riva's incredibly realistic interpretation, but Emmanuelle doesn't push to make it as horrible as possible. Instead, she focuses on the emotional connection with the audience, which is most definitely the reason many people can sympathise with her.

Riva's task is made even more difficult by the fact that the movie tones down the showiness of such a performance and doesn't let her have big scenes, let alone development. If anything, we see an almost low-key devolution of a lady we've cared for since the beginning of the film. And the way Riva embodies Anne, physically, mentally and spiritually, makes her performance a complete revelation. Although her acting is not calculating for a moment, she totally takes control of her character as well as also becoming her and (if you excuse my smobbish European attitude) it's something that's rarely seen in Hollywood. Emmanuelle is always in charge of Anne, not the other way around. She uses her own body as a tool which leads to amazing believability. Yes, this sounds incredibly clumsy but it was hard to believe that Riva herself didn't suffer a stroke.

And naturally, her chemistry with Jean-Louis Trintignant is just brilliant. I mentioned in my review of Jennifer Lawrence that Jen and Bradley Cooper were one of the two greatest duos on the screen last year. Well, surprise! The other two people are Riva's Anne and Trintignant's Georges. In one shared glance you see a lifetime of happiness and amour displayed without any side of cheesiness or sentimentality. It's a completely fascinating to watch these two geniouses interacting. And it's great to watch them for completely sentimental, selfish reasons: it's so great to see the European cinema of the 60s resurrecting in 2013. It's like one extra curtain call for these wonderful artists that we don't discuss as often as we should (haha, that's about to change on this blog!!!).

Overall, this performance is nothing like I've seen in the Best Actress category and comparing it to other Oscar nominees seems really weird as a result. She may not win the Oscar for this stunning, career-crowning achievement, her performance (and Jean-Louis Trintignant's) will go down in movie history, as it should be. A deeply haunting, disturbing, depressing, mesmerising and amazing performance by an often overlooked, great talent. 

What do you think?


joe burns said...

I really do agree, although I might like her just a tad less. A five from me though and I hope and think she will win. That BAFTA award really helps her, and I think Lawrence could become the next Gwyneth Paltrow if she doesn't win. However, I'm hearing some last minute buzz about Naomi Watts which is making me a little nervous. Could you do her next?

dinasztie said...

I was planning to review Naomi next. And no, she's not winning, IMO. Neither Naomi nor Emmanuelle. SLP is simply too loved by actors to ignore. Lots of people voted (as I read in articles) for SLP in every acting category and Jen is one of them, even if they ignore everybody else. Emmanuelle and Jessica are spilitting the cinephile votes, IMO.

Anyway, I'd be fine with any of the five winning so I'm not worried. :)

Michael555 said...

I'm afraid for Naomi, lol. I know you didn't like her in 21 Grams.

I personally didn't care for Amour that much. It felt a little too clinical for my tastes

mrripley said...

I love watts in 21 g never used to,but the quieter scenes have changed my mind,i am still not keen on all that amputee business but she is excellent.

Louis Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nic said...

She could teach Anne Hathaway a thing or two about dying with dignity and gaining sympathy and love of the audience without the big tears and screaming. Yes, I can't believe I just said that. She was so heartbreaking to watch.

I think she would be second after jennifer really. She was very good but I think she kinda got overshadowed by her co star. And to be honest she didn't have much to do as the movie progresses, while Jennifer's role was more emotionally complex. In comparison, Jennifer's perfomance feels more like a breathe of fresh air? or maybe its because i rewatched SLP recently...

I would have given Hugh Jackman's slot to Trintignant. The guy was fantastic, especially in the scene where he tried to make her drink water... subtle acting at it's finest. I like Hugh Jackman and I admit he put in alot of effort but overall Les Miserables didn't quite work for me despite his vigorous weight loss weight gain routine and singing. ..

For me it'd be:
1) JLaw
2) Emmanuelle riva
3) Naomi Watts
4) wallis
5) chastain

I think jessica chastain is a fantastic actress who should win an oscar one day. But this isn't the performance for it

Louis Morgan said...

She and Trintignant complement each other perfectly, and they are both great. Huppert did not impress me all that much though, I mean she fulfilled her role, but I did not find her work particularly memorable especially compared to the lead performances.

dinasztie said...

Nic, I totally agree on Anne and Jackman. Jackman was the best thing about his film. but Trintignant was better. Still, I think it was Denzel this time who "stole" the spot of Trintignant. He did nothing that's worthy of a nomination.

Michael555 said...

I agree. Denzel and that movie are overrated.

Carlos (The Final Oscar) said...

Riva's great, but I think I was looking for more. Not sure. She is extremely heartbreaking and realistic, but in a battle between her and Lawrence, Lawrence gets my vote, by a hair.

I think she'll be a very strong spoiler for Best Actress.

moviefilm said...

Washington didn't stole the nomination from Trintignant. He stole the nomination from Hawkes. I think Trintignant was seventh, or eighth.