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Sunday, January 06, 2008


Supporting Actress Blogathon: Marie-Josée Croze

This post is part of the Supporting Actress Blogathon, being hosted and coordinated today by the lovely, talented, and sexy Stinkylulu.

Before I ladle on the praise for my chosen Actress, let me first give a quick mention to her comrades, who I've no doubt will be covered by other participants. I think the best performance of 2007, lead OR supporting, is hardly in doubt -- Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, as the ModFab Cinema Jury rightfully honored last week. But I also loved the work by Marisa Tomei (Before The Devil Knows You're Dead), Ruby Dee (American Gangster), Jennifer Garner (Juno), Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray), and Lili Taylor (Starting Out in the Evening), among others.

But if any supporting performance really grabbed my attention this year, it was Marie-Josée Croze, the Montreal-born, Paris-based actress who lit up the screen in Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. As Henriette Durand, a determined yet delicate nurse struggling to find a way for her patient to communicate (with his eyelid!), she has one of the most difficult tasks in any movie this year: to circumvent the sentimental pathos of the moment without losing the emotional core of her patient's experience. She balances this in stunning ways: she is demanding, then despondent, then wise, then naive. Even more astonishing is the fact that Henriette (who has maybe half an hour of screen time) is a fully realized character, made all the more stunning when we realize that Croze had no story crutches to lean on...the screenplay tells us next to nothing about Henriette's private life, or even what happens to her beyond the constrictive walls of the patient's room. Brilliant, unshowy work.

You have to have been watching closely to notice Croze's quietly powerful career trajectory; for me, I first became aware of her ability in back-to-back turns in Ararat and The Barbarian Invasions five years ago (she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Barbarian Invasions). Americans probably know her best as the assassin Jeanette in Munich, but I'm hoping that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly will change all of that. Think of her as Juliette Binoche: The Next Generation, or a more commercial Emmanuel Beart. Or think of her as her own spectacular creation; Marie-Josée Croze is a stunningly talented actress rapidly approaching her prime, who has everything needed to be a major international star...except the leading role she so clearly deserves.

Clip: Marie-Josée Croze in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (no subtitles)
Video: Marie-Josée Croze interview, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

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Blogger David S. said...

I was also impressed by Jennifer Garner in Juno. In fact, she surprised me. Glad to see someone else felt similarly.

1/6/08, 5:32 AM  
Blogger Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Yay! Another Garner fan. Seriously, though. I'm glad somebody recognized how great Croze was in this movie. And in Barbarian Invasions! I didn't think anybody else had seen that movie.

1/6/08, 5:48 PM  
Blogger DL said...

For some reason, I wasn't even aware of her presence in this movie, but now I just have to see it. Her work in The Barbarian Invasions was absolutely spectacular, and I'm very excited to see what else she can do.

1/6/08, 7:03 PM  
Blogger Vance said...

I haven't seen Diving Bell yet but I guess as a CDN we always take ownership of our own, so its been great seeing the rise of M-J C from Quebec actress to international actress to lets hope star!

On a side note, I totally agree with the Garner comments. I knew she had it in her and glad to see her take a smaller part in a smaller movie to help showcase that she is actually a good actress!

1/6/08, 8:38 PM  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Loved this write-up, and count me in anyway among the Croze fans and the Garner fans. Marie-Josée's debut (or maybe just her breakout, I don't remember) was a wacko Canadian movie called Maëlstrom that is narrated, I kid you not, by a dying lamprey on somebody's butcher block. Worth a rental, for even more reasons than that.

1/7/08, 2:24 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Heilman said...

Great performance & great write-up.

1/10/08, 9:55 PM  

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