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18.1.05

Whatever Happened to Anne Parillaud?

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Luc Besson, La Femme Nikita, starring Anne Parillaud (1990)
I like spy pictures, and I still think that one of the best spy movies ever made was Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita (1990), starring Anne Parillaud in an amazing breakout performance. (Don't even talk to me about the coprolithic American remake or television series.) An article by Isabelle Regnier (Anne Parillaud, dans le vif de l'écran, January 14) in Le Monde brought me up to date on what has happened to Parillaud's career since then (my translation):
In 1990, when Anne Parillaud became Nikita, she was 30 years old. She had been acting since she was 15 and had been noticed in several films, costarring Alain Delon, in particular. No big thing. But for this role of a junkie taken prisoner by the government, who becomes the sexiest cinema secret agent since Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka (1939), she worked as she never had before. She slept underneath bridges, learned to handle firearms, at which she became so skilled that she won shooting prizes. She became a star, picked up a César [the French Oscar], and then disappeared, as quickly as she had appeared.

At the whim of chance and her choices, for a long time drawn by roles featuring marginal women, she found herself in Hollywood before returning to France. She really came back to our attention only in 2002, with Catherine Breillat's Sex Is Comedy. Today she is starring in Amos Gitaï's Terre promise. The experience remains one of the most transforming in her life. In the film, her character, Anne, exists only through her actions, those of a pimp, a trafficker in modern-day slaves who passes around bodies like merchandise. A total scoundrel whom she interprets masterfully, allowing us to glimpse, under a mask of hard-edged malice, a human presence, almost a fragility. Anne Parillaud doesn't know what to think about this role. She never imagined playing it. In the script, she was a victim, partly at least, a former prostitute always under the thumb of a pimp who deprives her of liberty.
The director ended up abandoning the planned scenario (not really a script) during filming, leaving the actors to improvise a story that fitted them better. In one scene, she auctions off girls as if she were dealing with animals.
The scene was filmed at night, in the desert. Anne Parillaud set foot in Israel for the first time in her life and was led directly to the set. On location, Gitaï's assistant informed her that she would start shooting that very night: "There are eight Russian girls. You have to sell them." The scene was not written down at all, no one had been told anything. Nothing about the desert or about the attitude of the director, who speaks to the actors only during shooting.
What has she done since Nikita? She mentions John Landis's Innocent Blood and Adam Coleman Howard's Dead Girl, which was never distributed. In that film, she played the role of a dead woman involved in a love affair with a living man. She also listed Diane Kurys A la folie (1994), Claude Lelouch's Une pour toutes (1999), and Olivier Marchal's Gangsters (2002), none of which I have heard of or seen. She was also in a film called Cœur de métisse, largely unknown, for which she prepared by living for three weeks on an Indian reservation in Canada. There is more about her latest film, Amos Gitaï's Terre promise, in an article by Jean-Luc Douin ("Terre promise" : Amos Gitaï filme la traite des corps en Israël, January 11) in Le Monde.

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