Friday, August 20, 2010

la petite bujold: four key roles from genevieve bujold

I suppose I'll kick things off with a spotlight post on one of my all-time favorite actresses, the devastatingly underrated Genevieve Bujold. Genevieve has worked with some of the leading lights of international cinema (Alain Resnais and Louis Malle come to mind), yet she never seems to get the respect she deserves. With that in mind, here's a quick look at four key roles from Montreal's finest export.
Charlotte in The Thief of Paris (1967): It's almost impossible to obtain a copy of this film here in the States (unless you happen to own a multi-region DVD player!), so naturally it's become something of a hidden gem. I would love for Criterion to get their hands on it, because it really deserves to be seen by a wider audience. I wouldn't go so far as to say that The Thief of Paris is Louis Malle's best film, but it's certainly better than Viva Maria or A Very Private Affair. The plot itself is fairly simple (Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a thief in turn-of-the-century Paris who falls in love with Genevieve's character), but the movie is a pure delight from beginning to end. And while Belmondo usually steals every film he's in, Genevieve somehow manages to outshine him in The Thief of Paris. She's insanely charming as Charlotte, and it's not hard to see why she nabbed the Prix Suzanne Bianchetti for 1968's most promising young actress.

Coquelicot in King of Hearts (1966): Genevieve-as-Coquelicot should be listed next to the "adorable" entry in the Oxford English dictionary. Even though Coquelicot is a WWI-era nuthouse inmate/tightrope walker who never changes out of her yellow tutu, Genevieve never ventures too far into quirky-French-girl territory. She somehow manages to balance Coquelicot's pixie qualities with an almost aching vulnerability, and the result is striking. It's one of Genevieve's finest hours.

Anne Boleyn in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969): This is probably Genevieve's signature role--and with good reason. In fact, I think it might be my favorite female performance in all of cinema. I'm something of an Anne Boleyn junkie, and Genevieve's portrayal of Anne is always true to life, even when the script strays from the historical record. She manages to capture every nuance of the real Anne's personality--the temper, the passion, the ambition--without making her look like a cold-hearted shrew. That's a hell of a balancing act, but Genevieve makes it seem effortless. She positively wipes the floor with Richard Burton's Henry, and the fact that Maggie Smith won the Oscar that year still keeps me awake at night. Note to Dame Maggie: Go ahead and give one of your Oscars to Genevieve, because she hit it out of the ballpark in '69.

Genevieve in Entre la mer et l'eau douce (1967): I really don't have much to say about Genevieve's role in this film, as it's one of those performances that quietly sneaks up on you and just gets stuck in your head. It's not really something that can be described. In any case, Genevieve plays a greasy-spoon waitress who falls in love with Claude Gauthier's character, and she's so sweet that it practically breaks your heart. You don't see it coming at all, but Genevieve once again manages to pack a wallop.