As both an actor and a director, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is an original. Her unique gift is an ability to blend humor and pathos, shifting from one to the other, full out, within a single gesture or sentence. In her second feature, Actresses (an instantly forgettable title that doesn’t begin to encompass what the film is about), she stars as a 40-year-old woman in crisis: her biological clock is issuing wake-up calls at the same time that she is in rehearsals for Turgenev’s A Month in the Country as Natalia Petrovna, a killer role with which she can’t come to grips. Stanislavsky’s most useful instruction to actors was that they should behave as if they were the character rather than trying to become the character. On stage or in front of the camera, behaving as if you were someone else is liberating. Behaving that way in real life can be a disaster or lead to the kinds of comic incongruities that had the Cannes audience howling with laughter at the premiere of Actresses: Bruni-Tedeschi, cradling an infant and offering it her bare breast, as if she expected milk to come pouring out, much to the horror of the baby’s mother who thinks she’s a lunatic; or Mathieu Amalric, playing the director of the troubled Turgenev production, wrestling his leading lady to the floor of her dressing room as if in the grip of uncontrollable passion, although he and everyone else knows he is unshakably gay. Actresses is a comedy of errors that beggars description. The fabulously appealing cast also includes Louis Garrel and Noemie Lvovsky, who co-wrote the film and is a talented director in her own right. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, I love you madly. May you make a dozen more movies and star in all of them, and may all of them be released on screens in the U.S.
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