Saturday, April 04, 2009

Signatures: Chloë Sevigny

Adam of Club Silencio here with another look at my favorite actresses and their distinguishing claims to fame.

Many actresses say the secret to an interesting career is working with great directors who know how to use their strengths. Chloë Sevigny's career has been dominated by work with some of filmmaking's finest, but even they don't always know quite what to do with her. Take the envious line-up of collaborators like Lars von Trier, Woody Allen, Harmony Korine, Jim Jarmusch, Olivier Assayas, and (still to come) Werner Herzog, and you understand why Chloë's a cinema-lover's darling. But then you also have to wonder why she's often relegated to the table scraps of screen time, and why her best role to date is only available once you contact your local cable provider.

Chloë Sevigny truly knows the weight of a secret.

Her Oscar-nominated breakthrough as Lana in Boys Don't Cry remains Chloë's most rewarding cinematic role to date; a sensitive Midwest beauty with her share of sensuality and secrets. Lana's dreams of being a karaoke superstar having mellowed in the local dive bars of drunk, deadbeat friends, until an even more secretive stranger, Brandon, stirs her passions once again. Lana carries the load of star-crossed first love and stifled small town idealism, with the added burden of Brandon's gender identity being tragically taboo in her one-note town. All that horror, heart, and eventual hope is captured in Chloë's quiet concern.

As if we weren't concerned enough after her disturbing debut as Jenny in Kids; traipsing across town, traumatized with the negative news that she's HIV-positive and that her infector's still on the prowl. Even by the film's scarring finale, Chloë's kept her inner turmoil to herself.

But I'll let you in on something... Chloë's haunting turn as Daisy in The Brown Bunny IS the film's secret -- the reason we've been watching Vincent Gallo drive around depressed for seventy minutes meeting girls named after flowers. His character's crux and (literal) climax all come back to Chloë. Her presence alone gives the film its momentary warmth, momentary bit of hardcore, and a final painful blow that justifies and replenishes all the lingered longing that's come before.

Which seems to have all been leading up to her tightly wound turn as Nikki Grant on HBO's Big Love -- Chloë's finest hour. Secrets are being ripped open left and right; the very least of which is her following the whole "married to one man and two (sometimes three) women" thing. Somewhere buried deep inside Chloë are so many untapped layers and mysteries just waiting to be unleashed -- if her filmmaking friends would just find the time to delve. Can't you just imagine reading that diary?!

Even if Chloë's keeping mum, you can still spill your own sociopathic secrets in the comments!


Adam said...

I failed to mention "The Last Days of Disco" and feel sore about it. There's some great stuff including Chlöe getting another STD after her first time, only naturally it's less dire than in "Kids." A weird coincidence there, and in the first pairing between Chlöe and her "Big Love" brother, Alby.

Noecito said...

I loved her in Dogville, mainly because I love mean characters who become sweet (even when they go back to pure evil before the film ends).

mrripley said...

i never got why she was nommed for boys dont cry i felt she was a weak leak.


This post gave me new appreciation for her. so thank you. Like those filmmakers you mention i sometimes shove her to the sidelines as well but when she's on, she's really really on.

too often though i think with the wrong roles and the lack of attentino from fimlmakers her secretive persona can come off as hazily vacant (see: Zodiac... only the first example that springs to mind)

but again. agreed that she is under or wrongly used.

Anonymous said...

She's the one that blew Vincent Gallo in that movie right?


Paul Outlaw said...

Don't forget HBO's If These Walls Could Talk 2. She's very "appealing" and "butch" in that, which are not two of her usual adjectives.

Adam said...

Your point about hazy vacancy is totally fair and sometimes totally accurate, Nathaniel. I think that's what she's left with in so many of her lesser roles. Zodiac's a good example because it really gives her nothing to work with, and I too would be hazy and vacant in the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal.


I would be two adjectives in the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal. But not those two.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nate, what is you 90s line-up for the acting catagtories? It'd be awesome to know! ;)