Monday, May 31, 2010

Sylvie Testud -- no household name but one fab actress -- has her day in the sun at FIAF

Sylvie Testud -- that occasionally gamine-like, more often strong-as-
steel and always intelli-
gent and on-the-mark actress -- is about to be feted by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) in its usually terrific series of CinémaTuesdays, this one titled appropriately The Radiance and Wit of Sylvie Testud, during which FIAF will present five of the award-winning actress’s greatest performances. (There are literally so many from which to choose that these five are hardly representative.)

Each Tuesday starting tomorrow, June 1, through June 29, FIAF's Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, Manhattan (New York's premiere French cultural center!), will shine a light on someone that Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York called “the coolest widely unknown actor on the planet.” TrustMovies would agree with that assessment and hopes that, by the end of June, Ms Testud, while remaining cool, will be at least somewhat better known in the USA.

According to the press release that FIAF sent out, Testud traces her journey to the forefront of the French cinema scene back to a contemporary of hers, actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg (who was feted by FIAF only a few months ago). It was Gains-
bourg’s role in L’Effrontée (1985) that resonated so strongly with the teenage Testud that she began pursuing theater in her home-
town of Lyon, continuing on to attend the exclusive Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art Dramatique in Paris. The budding actress’ first roles in short and feature films in the mid-nineties soon attracted the attention of the industry. In 1997, her dedication earned her Germany’s highest film honor for best actress in Jenseits der Stille (also known as Beyond Silence, a still from which is shown above: That's Testud at left), a film for which she learned not only German, but also sign language and the clarinet.

Testud’s award was merely the first instance of a continued and widespread recognition of her many talents. In 1999 she garnered the first of four César Award nominations for the role of Béa in Karnaval, shown at right, the first film in the FIAF series. The following year, Testud was awarded a César for most promising actress in Murderous Maids, the series’ second film, in which she plays one of the infamous Papin sisters. Then, in 2003, the multi-talented Testud published her first novel, a humorous autobiographical account of her neurotic flair, “Il n'y a pas beaucoup d'étoiles ce soir.” She followed this success quickly with another César and a Prix Lumière for best actress as the star of  Fear and Trembling (2003, shown below), a film so good I wish that FIAF had included it in this series. (My review of it for GreenCine is here.) No matter: You can rent it from Netflix or Blockbuster, and it is definitely worth seeing.  Testud has most recently been seen on American screens in the role of Edith Piaf’s best friend, Momone, in La Vie en Rose (2007), and earlier this year in the leading role of the critically acclaimed, Lourdes (2009).

While all these film are worth a watch, three of them -- Jean-Pierre Denis' MURDEROUS MAIDS, Serge Bozon's LA FRANCE and Chantal Akerman's LA CAPTIVE (from which comes the still below -- that's Testud, at left, with Stanislas Merhar) have had theatrical releases and are available on DVD for sale -- or for rent via Netflix and Blockbuster.  So once you cotton on to this actress' particular flair and strengths, you can explore further. Two of the films, however, have never been released here and are not available on American-region DVD:  Thomas Vincent's KARNAVAL, and Diane Kurys' SAGAN (about famous French author Françoise Sagan).  This lack of access makes these two must-sees in my book.

Click here to find the entire program with films, dates and times -- and how to order tickets. Don't wait, order now if you're a Testud fan -- or want to take a chance on becoming one.  Bet you will.

CinémaTuesdays is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency. Special thanks to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chantal Akerman, Sylvie Testud, and Bénédicte Sacchi.

Admission: $10; $7 students; Free for FIAF Members
Tickets: | 212 307 4100
Information: | 212 355 6160
Transportation: Subway - 4, 5, 6, N, R and W to 59th Street & Lexington Avenue;
or the F train to 63rd Street & Lexington Avenue;
E to 53rd Street & 5th Avenue
By bus - M1, M2, M3, M4, Q31 to 59th St.; M5 to 58th St.

 Above: Ms Testud at right as Sagan, with Jeanne Balibar.


Jude said...

Testud is great. I never really knew her until recently. Thank you for the analysis.

TrustMovies said...

And thank YOU for the comment, Jude. Yes, she is really something! Not all of her films make it to these shores, but I understand that we will be seeing her 2010 movie The Round-Up over here in the months to come.