Actresses: When art imitates life
by Vitor Pinto
19/05/2007 - Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi has officially entered that exquisite category of actresses who play actresses on the big screen. The difference between her and so many others (Betty Davis, Gena Rowlands, Marisa Paredes) is that she chose to do so in a very personal project that she also directed, entitled not surprisingly Actresses [trailer]. The film had its world premiere today, in Cannes' Un Certain Regard.
Just as in her directorial debut It¹s Easier for a Camel [trailer], the Italian-French actress-turned-filmmaker decided to flirt with reality and incorporated several aspects of her own life in a film about a 40-year old actress, still single and childless, who finds it hard to enter the skin of Natalia Petrovna, the lead role of Turgenev¹s play A Month in the Country.
Bruni-Tedeschi thus returns to the role she already played on stage, before being replaced just like in the film by the director's assistant. "For [co-scriptwriter] Noémie Lvovsky, as for me, it seemed obvious that this could be an interesting dramatic basis for a script someone taking the place of another person".
The script follows the difficulties of the rehearsals while simultaneously revealing several daily aspects of its leading actress: her desire to become a mother, her hallucinations and dreams, her mother (played by the director's real-life mother), who seems happier in her old age than her daughter has ever been, and her attraction to the young actor who plays Petrovna's love interest on stage. Life imitates theatre and cinema imitates life.
Exploring some of the obsessions already present in her directorial debut, Bruni-Tedeschi seems to have made the film to avoid Prozac, just like her character who decides to tell her dream to a gynaecologist rather than psychologist. Her camera is most probably her analyst's couch and the result of this possible therapy is a hilarious parade of tragicomic events, presented with preciously refined irony.