Sunday, January 29, 2012

CineCritical Spotlight: Kristin Scott Thomas

Recently I discovered that a colleague at work shares my love of foreign cinema. We have a shared passion for Pedro Almodóvar. But I was amazed when she told me that she had not seen two films that are near and dear to my heart: Guillaume Canet's 2007 thriller Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) and Phillippe Claudel's 2008's drama I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime). What do both of these French films have in common? Kristin Scott Thomas.

Kristin Scott Thomas was born in England in 1960, but has lived in France since she was 19. She was made a chevalier of the French Légion d'honneur in 2005. Kristin Scott Thomas first gained the attention of international audiences in 1994 with her appearance in Mike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral. Scott Thomas was awarded a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for the film. But it was two years later that she made a real name for herself in Hollywood. Anthony Minghella's The English Patient won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Kristin Scott Thomas was nominated for her only Oscar, for Best Actress, losing to Frances McDormand in Fargo (with my personal favourite Brenda Blethyn also nominated). The English Patient may be overlong, but Kristin Scott Thomas is incredible.

Besides a small role in the film adaptation of Mission Impossible (1996), Kristin Scott Thomas' major film roles post-Oscar nomination included Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer (1998), Sydney Pollack's panned Random Hearts (1999) and Robert Altman's brilliant Gosford Park (2001), for which she received a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

But I am here to talk about two films in particular.

Kristin Scott Thomas does not have a very large role in Guillaume Canet's Tell No One. Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) is getting his life back together after his wife Margot was murdered eight years prior. One day he receives an email from an unknown sender with a video link showing surveillance footage of Margot. Alex also finds himself implicated in a double homicide. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Alexandre's only close friend, Hélène.

The film is directed by Guillaume Canet, a French actor best known for his role in the film Love Me If You Dare (Jeux d'enfants, 2003) and for being the partner of French actress Marion Cotillard, his costar in the film. Canet won a César Award for Best Director for Tell No One.

Tell No One is an intense thriller. It is a murder mystery with an edge. François Cluzet gives a breathtaking performance as a man desperate to clear his name and more desperate to find his wife. The film is perfectly paced and directed by Guillaume Canet. There is an incredible chase scene in the film that can rival all other chase scenes.

The film is based on a mystery novel by American author Harlan Coben. The film is so expertly adapted by Guillaume Canet and Phillippe Lefebvre that you would have no idea that the original story was written in English for an American audience. I do wonder, with an American adaptation in the works, whether it will be as successful.

Kristin Scott Thomas was absolute robbed of an Oscar nomination for her work in I've Loved You So Long. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama, losing to Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road. Winslet was not even nominated for the Oscar! (Though she won in the same category that year for The Reader.) Worse yet, Scott Thomas lost the César Award to Yolande Moreau in Séraphine (which also took home the top prize).

I've Loved You So Long is Kristin Scott Thomas' best work as an actress. The performance is absolute heartbreaking and it is impossible to watch the film without breaking into tears at least once. Her character, Juliette Fontaine, is not always likeable, but Scott Thomas is able to find the truth and honesty inside of this woman to make her empathetic. It is a beautifully dramatic film that left me feeling wounded.

In 2009 I ranked I've Loved You So Long tenth on my list of favourite films. The film is a credit to Kristin Scott Thomas' understated talents as an actress. She was flawless.

Kristin Scott Thomas has parlayed this career renaissance into some late-career success. She received praise for her performances in Nowhere Boy (2010), a film about John Lennon's youth, Leaving (Partir, 2009), a French film about a woman who gives everything up for new passion, and Sarah's Key (2011), which also garnered Scott Thomas a César Award nominaiton.

Look for Kristin Scott Thomas in 2012 in Bel Ami, an adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's 1885 novel, and in the French thriller Dans la maison.

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