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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

 

Fabulousity: Kristin Scott Thomas

When it comes to the blogosphere's deification of iconic actresses, I'm a total lightweight. The grand vizier of actress worship, Stinkylulu, has championed women in film, TV and theatre for years; The Film Experience has even built his own idiosyncratic vocabulary around the subject (The Bening, La Pfeiffer, etc.). But despite my vastly inferior ability, I have to jump into the deep end, and pledge my unswerving love to an unsung heroine of the (sub)genre. For although I love Streep, Winslet, Close, Bassett, and many others, I now pledge my love and fidelity, now and forever, to the undisputed queen of 2008...Kristin Scott Thomas.

Although I'd noticed Thomas in early-career turns (Under The Cherry Moon, Richard III), I, like many other fans, fell madly in love with her in Anthony Minghella's The English Patient. As the conflicted adulteress Katharine Clifton, Thomas evoked old-Hollywood glamour while brutally breaking her own heart. The performance garnered Thomas her only Oscar nomination to date, an all-too-shocking crime when one looks at the contours of her career -- thankless support for an entire ensemble in Gosford Park, dramatic verve in Angels and Insects, better-than-the-material work in Up at the Villa and Random Hearts.

In 2008, Thomas has delivered a trio of triumphs to American audiences that, if there is a benevolent deity hovering above us, should earn her widespread adoration. The first is Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One), Guillaume Canet's sublime French thriller from 2006 that only this summer enjoyed a domestic release. It's easily one of the best films of the year, and among its charms is Thomas, playing the lesbian friend of the mysterious widower at the center of the plot. In suprising scene after surprising scene, Thomas refuses to diminish the complexity of her supporting role, mining the text for every rich vein of meaning. And did I mention that she speaks fluent French?

Her French linguistic skills are again on display in this year's Oscar bait, Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (I've Loved You So Long). Here, Thomas has the leading role in a slowly-unraveling mystery; she plays Juliette Fontaine, a recent-released prisoner whose crime was apparently heinous enough to freak out her family, friends and acquaintances. But watching this sublime actress integrate her character back into society, utilizing a minimum of text and a slow-burn intensity, is one of the more exhilarating experiences to be had in a cinema this year. After 12 years, it's time for that second Oscar nomination.

If this double-header wasn't enough, New Yorkers can now see Thomas in the flesh; she's brought her acclaimed West End revival of The Seagull to Broadway for a limited run. The production, to be completely honest, isn't extraordinary...director Ian Rickson (who will soon lead Mary-Louise Parker through her paces as Hedda Gabler) has stripped the complexity out of Chekhov's nuanced masterpiece, making Ibsen's play feel less like a banquet and more like drama-for-dummies. But Thomas, as the vainglorious aging actress Madame Arkadina, shines through the bleakness surrounding her. Rarely, if ever, has Arkadina's fragile self-image been more delicately constructed; Dianne Wiest attempted the same role Off-Broadway last spring, with far less successful results. After a seemingly endless string of failed Broadway debuts in recent seasons -- including bad reviews for Julia Roberts, Frances McDormand, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, and more -- it's magical to see a success like Kristin's. That sound you hear is me, heaving a contented sigh like a schoolboy with a crush on the most talented girl in the school.

With six films in the can waiting for release next year (and three more months of performances on Broadway), Kristin Scott Thomas isn't disappearing anytime soon. Which for me, now and forever her publicly adoring gay loveslave, is the best news of all.
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4 Comments:

Blogger par3182 said...

surely you first fell in love with her in four weddings and a funeral?

i could never understand how hugh grant's character could be in love with the bland andie macdowell when the luminous ktistin was right there in front of him

11/18/08, 3:36 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Nope, didn't love FOUR WEDDINGS very much. (The gay character dies an unrealistically noble death. Ugh.) But boy, that death scene in ENGLISH PATIENT? I was sold completely.

11/18/08, 12:33 PM  
Blogger thombeau said...

LOVE HER LOVE HER LOVE HER! Especially in "Angels & Insects". And everything else!

11/18/08, 6:15 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I totally, completely love her. And you MUST check out A HANDFUL OF DUST from the late 80s. She is brilliant in it.

And I completely agree about her performance in Tell No One. She is doing nuanced, powerful work. I can't wait to see the new one.

11/19/08, 12:25 AM  

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