I’ve stumbled rather late onto a cinema meme where people write about their twenty favourite actresses. I first read about it here. It’s the perfect topic for me to write about because I am rather obsessed and I spend a lot of time scouring the SBS guide for films featuring my favourites, which are listed here in no particular order. I have expanded on the meme by listing the films that have informed my choices like this example.
Juliette Binoche – achingly beautiful in her early films Mauvais Sang and Rendez-vous. Unforgettable in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Astonishing in Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Trois couleurs Bleu, Damage and The English Patient. Wonderfully funny in the otherwise average Décalage horaire. Recent films Breaking and Entering, Dan in Real Life and Quelques jours en Septembre demonstrate how cool and verstile she is.
Romane Bohringer – the first film I saw her in was Les Nuits Fauves and it remains a special favourite. She’s intense, unsettling and histrionic. She’s delightful in L’Accompagnatrice, Mina Tannenbaum and L’Appartement. Superb in the intriguing Total Eclipse and hysterically funny in He Died with a Felafel in His Hand.
Audrey Tautou – before Le Fabuleux destin d’Amèlie Poulain I was enchanted by her in Le Libertin and Vénus beauté (institut). She’s wonderful in Voyous Voyelles, Le Battement d’ailes du Papillon, Dieu est grand, je suis toute Petite, Dirty Pretty Things and Un long Dimanche de Fiançailles and witty in Hors de Prix.
Isabelle Huppert – specialises in transgressive sex and cold intensity. Famous for La Pianiste and frightening in Ma Mére. Very funny in I Heart Huckabees and 8 Femmes. Perfect in Après l’Amour and La Sèparation.
Isabelle Adjani – does everything from comedy in Bon voyage to blood, lots of blood, in Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht and La Reine Margot. Wonderful in the biographical Camille Claudel and the ridiculous Subway. Fucks a very young Sam Neill as he turns into a lizard in Possession.
Helena Bonham Carter – my favourite pixie goth princess. Became known for costume dramas due to her exquisite performance in A Room with a View, but she also played a messy contemporary young woman around the same time in Getting it Right. Intense and engaging in Fight Club and Novocaine. Adorable in Conversations with other Women.
Emily Mortimer – subtle and tender in some complicated and confronting roles. Fantastic in Lovely and Amazing, Bright Young Things, Young Adam (particularly the custard scene) and Lars and the Real Girl.
Kristin Scott Thomas – great comic timing and dramatic style. Watch Bitter Moon and Four Weddings and a Funeral back to back to see what I mean. Heartbreaking in The English Patient. Glamorously decadent in Gosford Park and Arséne Lupin.
Natsassja Kinski – the star of the 1980s. Amazing language skills – speaks English, French, Italian and German. Wonderful in the tragic Tess. Gentle in Maria’s Lovers. Infinitely sexy in Cat People. Mesmerising in La Lune dans le Caniveau, Paris, Texas, Il Sole anche di Notte and One Night Stand. Sweet and funny in The Hotel New Hampshire and Terminal Velocity.
Penélope Cruz – delectable in Jamón, Jamón and Belle Epoque. At her best in Pedro Almodóvar’s Todo sobre mi madre, Carne trémula and Volver. Excellent in Blow, La Niña de tus ojos and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Monica Bellucci – seductive as a vampire in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a Vatican assassin in Le Pacte des Loups. Stunning in L’ Appartement and deliciously tart in Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre. Brave in the tragic Malèna and the traumatic Irréversible.
Valeria Golino – known for small parts in many American films, her best work is in Italian, including Respiro. In English, see Torrents of Spring, Immortal Beloved and Year of the Gun. She’s briefly in 36 Quai des Orfèvres. I’ve seen more of her earlier Italian films on SBS (Australian television station that specialises in foreign content) but I can’t remember their names. She’s fabulous.