Hot Thespian Action


Write what you know: In his debut film, writer-director Yvan Attal plays Yvan, whose wife is an actress named Charlotte, played by Attal’s wife, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. The leading lady, whose most famous turn remains her pubescent duet with dad Serge on the 1984 family-values standby “Lemon Incest,” is no stranger to queasy collisions of art and home life. But Gainsbourg is virtually incidental to her mate’s screeching navel-serenade, which maintains a stranglehold on the declarative first-person mode of its title. The subject of My Wife Is an Actress is neither marriage nor performance, but rather the easily pricked self-confidence of Attal’s Parisian sportswriter schmo. Equal parts Griffin Dunne and Woody Allen, he spits up one-liners as if perpetually sickened by the absurdity that surrounds him: He’s dejected when fans want a snapshot with his star spouse, affronted by her ability to nab a restaurant reservation on short notice, annoyed by the constant demands of her bladder (“Ten gallons of water a day for her figure,” Yvan laments). Charlotte herself remains a puzzling, exotic creature—a blank stage for Yvan’s theater of solipsism. Hesitantly drawn to the awkward advances of her faintly desiccated current co-star (Terence Stamp), she blames Yvan for putting the idea into her head. So even her desire is not her own—help, we’re trapped in a Laura Mulvey essay!

My Wife Is an Actress is allegedly a comedy, the evidence including a grossly belabored set piece unveiling a butt-naked film crew and an utterly pointless circumcision subplot (the latter facilitating more Allen-ish angst with paranoid-Jew jokes). Attal’s idea of soundtrack wit is to blast “London Calling” when Yvan boards the Chunnel to see Charlotte on set, and then do it again for visit No. 2. Covering all his bases, Attal doses his movie with fatuous reassurances about Yvan’s misplaced insecurities: cue a circling close-up of Charlotte’s face in the throes of marital sexual ecstasy, or the fawning attentions of Yvan’s nubile classmates when he takes an acting class on a lark (he’s talented!). For all Yvan’s hand-wringing and eye-rolling, his wife seems down-to-earth and exceedingly patient. If she had foibles or flaws, one supposes, it might reflect badly on our Everyman, and anyway there’s only room for one face in this mirror.

Comediennes and the poor saps who love them also figure prominently in BAMcinématek’s brief series of new French film. In Philippe Garrel’s irony-soaked Wild Innocence, a fledgling director (Mehdi Belhaj Kacem), still pining for his dead lover, finances his “anti-heroin movie” via a heroin deal and casts his present girlfriend (Julia Faure) as his smack-casualty ex; the Method muse one-ups his incipient Vertigo by acquiring a nasty habit of her own. Shot in glittering black-and-white by frequent Godard cinematographer Raoul Coutard and in cool command of its Hitchcockian echoes, Wild Innocence collapses (literally) under the weight of its symmetries with a grimly glib punchline.

Another brand of morbid attachment drives the entertainingly ridiculous La Répétition, which tracks the suffocatingly intimate on-and-off friendship between a stage actress (Emmanuelle Béart) and her doormat disciple (Pascale Bussières). Catherine Corsini’s psychodrama boasts occasional insight about both the solace and the claustrophobia inherent in platonic symbiosis, but mostly it’s a near bloodless Single White Female revamp, with a drunk scene grafted from Opening Night and a little Mulholland-style Hot Lesbian Action.

The titular real-life killer of Roberto Succo is also a professional actor of sorts, haphazardly assuming different identities while romancing an ever credulous schoolgirl (Isild Le Besco) and terrorizing the south of France with apparently motive-free kidnappings and murders. Lead Stefano Cassetti’s distracting resemblance to Vincent Gallo notwithstanding, Cédric Kahn’s scoreless, reticent film—half psychological inquiry, half policier—is a bracingly cold-blooded meditation on sociopathy.