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The Essential Charlotte Gainsbourg

In honor of the US theatrical release of 'Nymphomaniac: Vol. I', we've compiled a list of Charlotte Gainsbourg's most unmissable work.

Embodying her mother's grace and her father's bad-assery, Charlotte Gainsbourg showed the world she didn't play by the rules long ago. Her film work shows great variation, with everything from romantic comedies to dramas to horror films. She's also a rockstar, and a style icon, so who says we can't have it all?

Join us as we look back at some of her best roles. 

L'effrontée (An Impudent Girl)

Role: Charlotte

Gainsbourg had previously done film acting (most notably a dramedy written, directed, and starring her father, Serge), but this role earned her "Most Promising Young Actress" at 1986's César awards. 

As Charlotte, Gainsbourg plays a 13-year-old girl who is growing up faster than her body. A much older man tries to catch her attention, but all she wants is to be adored by the piano prodigy, Clara. As everything spirals out of control, Charlotte sees dreams of her fantasy life slipping out of her fingers. Gainsbourg  plays expertly with rebellion and vulnerability in this coming-of-age story, showing the troubles of being young in a world of adults. 

La Bûche

Role: Milla

Christmas is the setting for this dyfunctional family comedy. After the death of her husband, Yvette invites her daughters (and their father) over for the holidays. Is there any possible way that could go this could go the right way?

As Milla, Gainsbourg garnered her second César, this time for Best Supporting Actress. In this film, her character struggles with loneliness; being faced with her recently widowed mother obviously doesn't help. Gainsbourg treads the line between affectation and overwhelming emotion in a performance that proves her place on the silverscreen. 

The Science of Sleep

Role: Stéphanie

Stéphanie is an artist and filmmaker who's in for a surprise when she meets her new neighbor. Soon the two are coming up with plans for a short film and spending their free time making props. Though she enjoys their friendship, Stéphanie's life is in the real world, a world with boundaries, and order. 

This is perhaps one of her most enjoyable roles, and proves she can handle the quirky worlds of indie film. She keeps the movie grounded (more so than Alain Chabat's crude but caring "Guy"), representing the realistic expectations of life. 

I Do (Prête-moi ta main)

Role: Emma

Luis' (Alain Chabat) family has been pestering him to get married for two decades, but he's happy as a bachelor. In order to get them off his back, he enlists Emma (Gainsbourg) to pose as his fiancée and then leave him at the altar on their "wedding day". When the plan goes awry, the "couple" tries everything possible to make sure they never have to say "I do." 

OK, so real talk: like most rom-coms, you either love this movie, or you don't. I, for one, adore it. Who can forget seeing Chabat in fishnets and stilettos? The two straight-faced actors were believably disdainful of each other, yet managed to have great chemistry. Some had thought Gainsbourg too serious before this movie, but with each offending line ("Have you considered your will, yet, Geneviève?") she branded her own sense of humor. She was rewarded with a César nomination for Best Actress. 


Role: She

A couple is still recovering from the death of their young son. The wife has just gotten out of the hospital, and her husband (a therapist) is convinced he can treat her. To escape it all, they take a trip to their house in the woods, but unimaginable things await them there. Soon, the line between human and animal is blurred, leaving them to decide where they stand. 

This is the film that started the professional relationship of controversial Danish director Lars von Trier and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and von Trier's "Trilogy of Depression". Gainsbourg pushes her limits as a woman who is endlessly tortured physically, mentally, and spiritually. The film was not well-received at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, but it marks a different caliber of auteur cinema for the talented actress. 


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