Sunday, January 3, 2010

Le bal des actrices (The Actress' Ball)

Being a movie enthusiast can be depressing for women, especially when "majors" believe they only adore romantic films and, to a lesser extent, comedies. Despite a few plot holes, Le bal des actrices is worth your time. In fact, the film tries - by taking the form of a documentary - its best to address the difficulties that actresses face in the movie industry.

A female movie director (Maïwenn Le Besco) is making a documentary about what it means to be an actress in France with an HDV camera. In the process, Maïwenn conducts interviews actresses that are either well-known, more or less known and unknown.

Mélanie Doutey, a blockbuster actress, receives a lot of script to read, clothes/jewels from fashion companies (ex: Chanel) to wear at big-shot events and deals from magazines that want to put her face (note from the editor: and what a lovely one!) on their cover. Besides, she wants to take a break.

Karin Viard, a winner of two César Awards, has achieved great popularity in France. This is why she feels ready to head to Hollywood and hires a coach to learn English (and also the North American, British and Irish accents).

Marina Foïs is sick of being stuck with a label the same way George Reeves was sick of being always associated with Superman. Besides, she believes that in order to fit in the movie industry, she has to cope with some surgeries whether she likes it or not.

Linh-Dan Pham, who won the César Award for best young female hope with Indochine, knows that she wants to make a living with acting. However, her Vietnamese parents are a little bit ashamed of her because they have no esteem (thanks to their Vietnamese upbringing) for actors and actress as a whole.

Karole Rocher nabs an acting offer from time to time. However, she has to work part-time as a waitress and stand an insufferable acting coach from a workshop.

Estelle Lefébure is aware that she got in the movie industry because she was a model. However, she works as hard as possible to display a talent to be reckoned with.

Romane Bohringer, a winner of a César Award, always wonder if she'll get some work (film, television or advertisements). She thinks that producers, directors and execs will not want her because she's either "too famous" or "not famous enough".

Muriel Robin thinks that she's spent a lot of time in the movie industry and tries to find some work on stage. However, she believes that the latter industry is rough on women.

Julie Dépardieu wonders what it's like to have a child.

Jeanne Balibar is a prima donna.

Charlotte Rampling tries to deal as serenely as possible with ageing while trying to find some work.

With this film (or should I say fake documentary), you no longer need to read some testimonies of actresses in magazines to know how hard it is to be a woman working in the movie industry. While the film explores some interesting facets of life as an actress, Le bal des actrices learns us nothing new about the pressure from the industry to get some surgeries (the segments with Marina Foïs), the necessity to take a break (Mélanie Doutey) or the bad temper of some actresses (Jeanne Balibar). However, for the very fascinating parts, the film only stays on the surface with the segments featuring Linh-Dan Pham, Romane Bohringer, Muriel Robin, Karole Rocher, Estelle Lefébure and Karin Viard. In fact, by refusing to thoroughly interview these actresses as if they were real human beings going through any specific situations, we have the feeling that Le bal des actrices keeps us at an arm's length. For instance, when Linh-Dan Pham's parents said that acting is a job for buffoons, I'd have liked to see their reaction when told that movies, in Vietnam, is a popular form of mainstream entertainment just like anywhere else in the world.

Finally, Le bal des actrices is far to be a perfect film. However, what saves this film is definitely the natural performance of all the actresses. Besides, even though it stays on the surface on certain matters, Le bal des actrices has the merit of avoiding any complacent depiction of the relation between women and the movie industry.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:France (2009)
Length:105 minutes
Screenplay:Maïwenn Le Besco
Director:Maïwenn Le Besco
Maïwenn Le Besco, Julie Dépardieu, Jeanne Balibar, Charlotte Rampling, Mélanie Doutey, Marina Foïs, Muriel Robin, Linh-Dan Pham, Romane Bohringer, Estelle Lefébure, Karin Viard, Joey Starr, Nicolas Briançon and Yvan Attal

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