Monday, March 23, 2009

Vintage Isabelle

This photo of French goddess Isabelle Adjani (pictured left with Muriel Cathra) was taken 36 years ago... today! She was 3 months shy of her 18th birthday.


She seems quite pleased to be photographed... and why not? The future was bright. At the time she was doing television but her Oscar-nominated breakthrough The Story of Adele H was only two years away. That French film made her the youngest Best Actress nominee ever (a record she held until Keisha Castle-Hughes teared up in Whale Rider in 2003).

<-- Isabelle with Gael Garcia Bernal in 2003 @ Cannes

That's not her only claim to the history books. She is tied with Juliette Binoche and Simone Signoret for most Oscar nominations for a French actress (only two each --but that's more than Catherine Deneuve, Julie Delpy, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Devos, Ludivine Sagnier, Sylvie Testud, Jeanne Moreau and Emmanuelle Béart put together. sniffle). Another tie for the history books: Adjani is one of only four actresses (Sophia Loren, Liv Ullman, Penélope Cruz are the others) to have multiple nominations for performances IN a foreign language.

Highlights of Isabelle's career are many but these are the ones I think of first: She offered up the most exquisitely inviting neck in any vampire film (Nosferatu, 1979). She survived Ishtar ('87) and won an Oscar nomination for her very next film Camille Claudel ('89) and she gave birth to the first heir of Daniel Day-Lewis (Gabriel Kane Day-Lewis). On a more personal note... she also starred in one of only a handful of movies that yours truly has ever paid to see twice on opening weekend due to total in-the-moment euphoria (Queen Margot, 1994).


Rent one of her movies this week and drink up her beauty as hungrily as Nosferatu slurped from her alabaster neck.
*

26 comments:

John S. said...

Claudette Colbert was French or American?

Anonymous said...

I think her best performance was in Possession. Who has seen it never forgets one terrifying scene....

Guy said...

Love Isabelle Adjani. I mean, the name alone ... c'mon.

I remember being completely dazzled by her when I was 12 and we had to study "Camille Claudel" in French class ... though in retrospect the film is yet another overwrought tortured-artist bio, I have a lot of affection for it.

Also, I hate to be 'that guy,' but Simone Signoret has two nominations, and deservedly so.

Kent said...

In my opinion, she should've been the first Oscar winning french actress for THE STORY OF ADELE H in 1975.

Any suggestions as to what French film of hers I should revisit first?

brianmaru said...

How odd...just watched Nosferatu last night.

NATHANIEL R said...

Guy. well I was counting Signoret as German (due to place of birth) but perhaps that's wrong.

I realized another tie for Oscar claim to fame and updated the post.

hcu said...

The tie for multiple nominations for performances in a foreign language should include Sophia Loren too.

hcu said...

... and Liv Ullmann.

Guy said...

Nat: You're right, my bad. Signoret is indeed German-born, though I think one of her parents was French. I just think of her as such a quintessentially French icon.

As for multiple nods for foreign-language perfs, shouldn't Liv Ullmann and Sophia Loren also go on the list? (Isn't "Marriage Italian Style" in Italian, or am I misremembering the movie?)

Guy said...

Oops, I see HCU beat me to it.

NATHANIEL R said...

f***. this post turned out so much more complicated than I'd planned. The corrrections have been made. Oopsie for me for not fact checking.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I've only seen that version of Nosferatu once, eleven years ago, but every image still haunts me. Those rats... She was easily the most beautiful Mina put to film.

Q said...

OT, but will we be seeing anymore Dollhouse opinion pieces? I hope so.

MRRIPLEY said...

NAT!!! would adjani be in your 89 best actress nominees she is amongst mine with pfeiffer,ryan,macdowell & field

MrW said...

Just this weekend, I saw her most recent performance, a TV film named 'La journée de la jupe' (think 'Dangerous Minds' meets 'Falling Down' starring Isabelle in the Michelle Douglas role).

She still has it.

NATHANIEL R said...

MrW... that's good to hear. I haven't seen her in anything in so long.

MrRipley... i'd have to revisit.

Q ... hopefully tonight. I know i'm lagging ;)

Anonymous said...

my Isabelle favorite top 5

1) THE STORY OF ADELE H.
one of the best performances from the '70...still one of Isabelle's bests...

2) POSSESSION
daring, compelling, brave...Adjani worked just once with Zulawski (I really miss him!!!), but it was un unforgettable one...and btw...what a bold Cannes jury we had that particular yeat, that they delivered Best Actress Prize to Adjani, we know that it's not easy for this kind of perf to be rewarded...

3) NOSFERATU
Werner Herzog's remake of Murnau's classic is a wonderful film per se...and Isabelle gives a riveting contribution as Lucy (and not Mina) Harker

4) CAMILLE CLAUDEL
actually I don't think this movie is so interesting if it wasn't for the heart-rending Isabelle's portrait of the artiste maudit...

5) QUEEN MARGOT
not Isabelle's greatest perf, but this movie is so outstanding that I couldn't possibly let it outside the top 5!!!

mirko s.

Anonymous said...

my Isabelle favorite top 5

1) THE STORY OF ADELE H.
one of the best performances from the '70...still one of Isabelle's bests...

2) POSSESSION
daring, compelling, brave...Adjani worked just once with Zulawski (I really miss him!!!), but it was un unforgettable one...and btw...what a bold Cannes jury we had that particular yeat, that they delivered Best Actress Prize to Adjani, we know that it's not easy for this kind of perf to be rewarded...

3) NOSFERATU
Werner Herzog's remake of Murnau's classic is a wonderful film per se...and Isabelle gives a riveting contribution as Lucy (and not Mina) Harker

4) CAMILLE CLAUDEL
actually I don't think this movie is so interesting if it wasn't for the heart-rending Isabelle's portrait of the artiste maudit...

5) QUEEN MARGOT
not Isabelle's greatest perf, but this movie is so outstanding that I couldn't possibly let it outside the top 5!!!

mirko s.

Christine said...

I just read the "La journee de la jupe" overview on IMDB. I hope it gets released in the US. No living actress does over-the-edge, crazy, characters better than Isabelle Adjani. She was even good in that terrible U.S. remake of Diabolique.

NATHANIEL R said...

John S --Claudette was French but I didn't really think she counted as a foreign actress. She moved to the States when she was 3 years-old and only worked in Hollywood.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Perhaps I am blinded by my untempered love of "The Story of Adele H." (isn't it obvious that it is one of the great films? why is it forgotten? who could forget it? it's Francois freaking Truffaut!), but to me Adele Hugo is comfortably up there with Joan of Arc and Scarlett O'Hara and Stanley Kowalski and Cabiria among the greatest performances of all time.

Alex said...

La Journée de la Jupe screened at the Berlin Film Festival. It will be released in theaters in France.

I read somewhere that Adjani was also in New York, I love you, but she's not listed on imdb.

Christine said...

Alex,
She is in "New York, I Love You." The preview clip is on youtube. I don't know why it's not on IMDB.

Bryan said...

Isabelle has always been my favorite actress, thanks Nathaniel for mentioning her in your blog, she's so overlooked compared to other French actress while she the only French actress to have received historic 4 Ceasar wins. She is also one of the few who speaks perfect English. Yes, I totally agree that she should have been the first French actress to have won an Oscar for The story of Ahdel H. Also for Camille Claudel. I recommend revisting "One Deadly Summer", her second Ceasar award win, a great performance that seldom get mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Well Nath, Simone Signoret is German like Nicole Kidman is American. Both were born in two differents places that their nationalities. But their parents are french and australian (Respectly) and return to their countries a few years later.

Simone was born in Wiesbaden but her parents are french (In fact Signoret is her mother's last name) and she returned to France when she was three years old and was raised in Paris. And most of her iconic films are french. So she's the first french actress who won the lead Oscar. The irony is Signoret was nominted (And won) for English-language roles.

fredjani said...

Skirt day soon in Us ...(for christine)
Thanks for all what you said on my favorite actress

http://isabelleadjani.blogspot.com/