A Conversation with Emmanuelle Beart

Unknown Premiere

U.K., France | 95 MINUTES | French |


In Kenneth Tynan's unforgettable words, "What, when drunk, one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober." The rapturously beautiful French actress Emmanuelle Béart has had a similarly intoxicating effect on filmgoers. With her Cocteau-painting eyes and her knowing smile, "she marries to a heartbreakingly perfect classical beauty," as one observer has aptly noted, "a subtle, questioning romanticism." Never content to rely solely on her looks, Béart has pushed herself to plumb the inmost depths of the characters she plays, summoning up a wry intelligence that their outer loveliness often conceals. Emmanuelle Béart was born not far from St. Tropez, the daughter of singer and poet Guy Béart, and an Italian-Greek mother. At 13, she saw Romy Schneider in Claude Sautet's Mado and decided she wanted to be an actress; ironically, Sautet would later direct her in two of her finest films. At drama school in Paris, she caught the eye of photographer/director David Hamilton, who gave her a part in Premiers Désirs in 1983, but it was three years before she rocketed to fame as an ethereal goatherd out to avenge the death of her father in the title role of Manon des Sources. Claude Berri's adaptation of Marcel Pagnol's tragic tale of greed, envy, and revenge in 1920s Provence was an immense hit, and Béart's turn opposite Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil earned her a César for Best Supporting Actress. The next few years saw her working with such skilled directors as Yannick Bellon (Les enfants du désordre), Ettore Scola (Il viaggio di Capitan Fracassa) and André Téchiné (J'embrasse pas). In Jacques Rivette's La belle noiseuse (1991) Béart portrayed the model and muse of an aging, termperamental artist (Michel Piccoli), refuting detractors who might have maintained her fame was based entirely on her physical attributes by delivering a remarkably intelligent and nuanced performance, all the while being in the nude for most of the film's four hours. The next year, she followed up with Sautet's Un coeur en hiver, taking violin lessons for a year to prepare for her part as a world-class musician. The film cast her once again opposite Daniel Auteuil, then her husband. Further memorable performances followed as she depicted a series of heroines trying to navigate life's romantic minefields in L'enfer (Claude Chabrol), Une femme francaise (Régis Wargnier) and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (Sautet). She even scaled Mount Hollywood, appearing as Tom Cruise's wife in Brian de Palma's Mission Impossible. In 1999, Raul Ruiz cast her as Proust's Gilberte in Le temps retrouvé, in a cast that included Catherine Deneuve as Odette and John Malkovich as Charlus. Anthony Lane aptly noted, "It is appropriate that Béart should play the child of Deneuve for both have the infuriating capacity –– a defining French gift –– of holding a movie together purely by gazing into the lens." The new century saw her working with Isabelle Huppert and Charles Berling in Olivier Assayas's Les destinées sentimentales (which earned her a sixth César nomination as Best Actress) and rejoining Deneuve and Huppert in François Ozon's 8 Femmes. The year 2003 was an especially productive one for Béart, with notable appearances in Jacques Rivette's Histoire de Marie et Julien, Anne Fontaine's Nathalie, and André Téchiné's Les egarés. The latter film – being released in the U.S. as Strayed – sees the increasingly versatile Béart in the role of a widowed schoolteacher who flees Paris with her young children as France collapses before the onslaught of Nazi troops. She has recently completed production on Marion Vernoux's comedy A boire opposite Edward Baer and Jackie Berroyer. In addition to her screen work, Béart is also known for social activism. She is an ambassador to UNICEF and has been a staunch defender of the rights of France's "sans-papiers" (illegal immigrants) and an opponent of anti-immigrant legislation. The Tribeca Film Festival is honored to have Emmanuelle Béart join us for what i