Category: general discussion

general discussion

La Reine Adjani

Isabelle Adjani in The Story of Adele H.What’s this? A post about someone other than Vivien Leigh or Laurence Olivier? Yes, you read that right. Whenever I’ve highlighted other celebrities on this site it’s usually because they were somehow related to the Oliviers. This post differs in that respect. Today I have decided to dedicate this space to someone completely unrelated to the subjects of this website, and, to top it all off, she’s a modern actress. Yet, as I will explain, she is fully deserving of the spotlight.

I’m talking about Isabelle Adjani, the two-time Oscar nominee and winner of the most Caesar Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars) for acting in cinema history. I first saw Isabelle on screen about three years ago when I watched Roman Polanski’s thriller The Tenant for the first time. But it wasn’t until last year when I wrote a paper about Werner Herzog’s remake of F.W. Murnau’s silent vampire classic Nosferatu for a film class that I really became aware of her. As Lucy Harker, her stunning beauty contrasted brilliantly with Klaus Kinski’s monstrous visage.

Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, she was one of France’s biggest stars, working with many of the greatest directors of European cinema including Roman Polanski (The Tenant), Herzog (Nosferatu the Vampyre), Andrezj Zulawski (Possession), Francois Truffaut (L’Historie d’Adele H.) and Luc Besson (Subway, and the music video for her pop hit Pull Marine). She was renowned for a combination of looks and exceptional acting talent, and although now 55 and admittedly a fan of anti-aging remedies such as botox, she  beat out the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Ava Gardner, Catherine Deneuve and even Vivien Leigh to top an LA Times Magazine list of the “most beautiful women in film” earlier this year.

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Adjani as Adele Hugo in L’Historie d’Adele H.

I recently “rediscovered” Adjani in the 1975 costume drama/biopic L’Historie d’Adele H. (The Story of Adele H.) and was blown away by her performance (so much so that I reviewed the film for YAM Magazine). She plays Adele Hugo, youngest daughter of Les Miserables author Victor Hugo, whose obsessive, unrequited love for British soldier Albert Pinson drives her to madness. Only 20 when this film was made, she picked up an Oscar nomination that validated her promise as a rising talent (she lost out to Louise Fletcher for her chilling performance as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). As Kimberly Lindbergs at Cinebeats aptly pointed out, it would have been easy for Adjani to make a name for herself based on looks alone, but instead of accepting a string of glamorous roles, she chose to broaden her horizons and play characters that offered her the chance to display her acting skills. Many of the women she portrays–Anna in Possession, Marguerite de Valois in La Reine Margot, Camille Claudel in Camille Claudel–combine enchanting beauty and sexuality with madness, and she holds nothing back. The results are often jarring and somewhat disturbing. You actually believe that she is being rather than acting and she projects a palpable intensity that makes it difficult to pay attention to anyone else sharing a scene with her.

Isabelle AdjaniIn many ways, Adjani reminds me very much of Vivien Leigh and that’s probably partly why I think she’s so amazing. In fact, we were having a discussion over at the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Facebook page about how if a biopic had been made about Vivien 30 years ago, she would have been a great choice to “step into” Scarlett O’Hara’s shoes. Born in France to a German mother and Algerian father, Isabelle Adjani definitely had the right look. She is also trilingual and has performed in French, German and English. Like Vivien, Adjani has refused to be typecast, and has interspersed her film career with performances on stage (including several plays at the Comedie Francais). Like Vivien, she had a face that was suitable for costume dramas and has starred in many period films. She even played Marguerite Gautier in a stage version of Alexandre Dumas fils’ Le Dame aux camélias. Behold, the gorgeousness!

Isabelle Adjani as Adele Hugo

Isabelle Adjani and Roman Polanski in The Tenant
Isabelle Adjani in The Tenant
Isabelle Adjani in Nosferatu

Isabelle Adjani as Emily Bronte

Isabelle Adjani

Isabelle Adjani in Possession

Isabelle Adjani as Camille Claudel

Isabelle Adjani in La Reine Margot

I would definitely recommend watching some of Isabelle Adjani’s films. She is truly a tour de force on screen and has quickly shot up to the top of my list of favorite modern actresses (of which there aren’t many).

Check out these clips if this post hasn’t quite persuaded you:

Isabelle Adjani as Adele Hugo in L’Historie d’Adele H.
Isabelle Adjani as Anna in Possession
Isabelle Adjani as Stella in The Tenant
Isabelle Adjani as Queen Margot in La Reine Margot

*Some screencaps by the Isabelle Adjani Blog | gif by rhera

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The Mysterious Mrs. Danvers: Queer Subtext in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca

This post is part of the Queer Film Blogathon currently being hosted by Caroline at Garbo Laughs to celebrate gay pride month. The aim of the blogathon is to examine films that feature “lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or otherwise non-heterosexual, non-gender-binary depictions or personages in film.” For an overview of queer film theory, click here.

The film I’d like to focus on is David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca (1940). Many scholars of queer film theory have written of the relationship between Manderley’s mysterious and frightening Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) and the ghostly but ever-present Rebecca. Rhona J. Berenstien notes that the horror genre is “a primary arena for sexualities and practices that fall outside the purview of patriarchal culture, and the subgeneric tropes of the unseen, the ghost and the haunted house…Portraying lesbians as ghosts in Hollywood movies is, then, directly linked to cultural attitudes and anxieties about homosexuality. The lesbian is a paradoxical figure; she is an invisible–yet representational–threat.”

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Kindred Spirits

There are few things that give me as much pleasure as meeting kindred classic film-loving spirits. And I don’t just mean classic films in general (although, don’t get me wrong, that’s always amazing!), I mean people who share my enthusiasm for Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier specifically. I love blogging and maintaining this website because I’ve “met” a lot of really awesome people with whom I can talk about these things via email, facebook, twitter, etc. But the number of people I’ve met outside of the internet who really get it can be counted on one hand. Most people just can’t be bothered, and because I know this, a lot of times I feel shy or nervous about talking about it for fear of being laughed at or dismissed as a “crazy fan”. Yes, this is technically considered “fandom” and I know it’s looked down upon, at least within the film studies community (although, that’s not always the case, as I discovered after a chat with one of my film tutors last semester). But sometimes I tell myself, “Hey, at least I’m passionate about it, and I take it seriously while still having fun with it. Isn’t that all that matters?” I think that is all that matters.

Something extraordinary happened this week: I met not one, but two fellow fans right here in London!

Yesterday I had coffee near Holborn with Sameera, a lovely British girl who is working on her own epic project about Vivien Leigh. She got in touch with me via, we met over skinny lattes and ended up chatting about all things Larry and Vivien for hours! It was fabulous. I can’t wait to see the awesome things she’s cooking up!

Last Sunday, I met up with another fan of the site. Lena B., a gorgeous lady from Sweden has been sharing photos from her Vivien Leigh collection with the site since it launched back in 2007. You’ve probably seen them in the gallery! She was in London on holiday and we met in Covent Garden and had a lovely discussion about Larry and Vivien over croissants and coffee at Paul, my favorite  patisserie. Lena had an amazing gift for me: pretty much her entire collection of vintage Vivien Leigh magazines!

Can you believe it?! Seriously, how nice is that? I am still a bit overwhelmed by her generosity. I am not worthy! Lena thought I probably had most of them, but it turns out that I didn’t, and I didn’t even know some of them existed! I do already own some, so it’s likely you may see a few of these lovely publications pop up as contest prizes here on! They are definitely in good hands, and will be extremely useful for my dissertation, which I’m starting on as soon as I finish my current school assignments (which I would be more enthusiastic about if I wasn’t home sick with whatever nasty virus is going around right now). Thanks a million for being so kind, Lena!

It warms my heart that there are people who admire Larry and Vivien as much as I do, and who are eager to help spread the love! I am getting really excited about the meet up next month! I’m really curious to know: have you met other fans (of Larry or Vivien, Gone with the Wind, etc.) in real life? If so, where and what was it like? Tell us about it!

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Larry, Vivien and the Rumor Mill

As of late, there has been much debate/discussion on the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Facebook page regarding Laurence Olivier’s sexual orientation. There have been many rumors about both Larry and Vivien for as long as anyone can remember. Just recently a book called Damn You, Scarlett O’Hara was published that’s overflowing with them. But the main rumor that’s pervaded the scene since Donald Spoto published his biography of Laurence Olivier is that Larry was bisexual. The subject of sex and famous people’s sex lives is the hot ticket, especially in this day and age. I don’t focus on this topic here at very often, if at all, but since it keeps popping up elsewhere, and since it was pointed out yesterday that I “have virtually ignored [the subject] in my research as hearsay”, I decided it might be best to just put my two cents here, and simply refer people to it when asked so as not to have to keep repeating myself in long-winded arguments.

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Vivien Leigh and Bipolar Disorder

April 11-17 marks Depression Awareness Week in the UK. The week-long event is organized by the Depression Alliance UK in effort to raise funds for mental health research and provide education in the hopes of reducing the stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses.

As I’m sure most visitors know, Vivien Leigh was a victim of bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, understanding and treatment of major mental illnesses was crude in Vivien’s time. This post is not meant to be a definitive manual on what it’s like living with bipolar disorder. I’m not a psychologist and don’t claim to be any sort of expert. Rather, my goal with this post is to use medical information as well as reports from those close to Vivien to piece something together in hopes of better understanding what Vivien went through. I also hope it sheds light on the  difficulties Laurence Olivier had in coping with Vivien’s illness, which eventually played a large part in the disintegration of their marriage.

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