Monday, January 22, 2007

The Great Ones Vol.1 (Side B Track 3)

The IMDB has very little to say about Marina Pierro. It lists her as just having ten credits, that she was born in 1960,although a specific date and location aren't given, and when you click on contact information it shows you a blank. There is no trivia concerning her or photographs. Do an Internet search and you will turn up little else. You might find some sites listing her as appearing in Argento's SUSPIRIA or Bido's WATCH ME WHEN I KILL but good luck locating her in either one of those films.
Marina Pierro becomes even more mysterious when you start looking at that filmography. Her first three roles, including one with Visconti, were just bit parts supporting more well known people like Stefania Casini and Laura Antonelli, which leaves us with just seven credits left. Why should you care about an obscure actress with only seven roles credited to her that hasn't been heard of since 1990? I'm not totally sure if I can answer that but I know that I have seen, and continue to see, something truly incredible and unique in her that would cause me to call her one of the great ones.

I have often wondered how Walerian Borowczyk and Marina Pierro met. I am sure this is recounted somewhere but I have never read of it. I have wondered if Borowczyk knew right away, the way Godard must have felt the first time he saw Anna Karina or Pabst when he layed eyes on Louise Brooks.
Borowczyk is the only director that Pierro would work with, one exception will be discussed later, and it's their collaboration that continues to stick with me. Pierro was only 17 when she first worked with the 54 year old Borowczyk yet something clicked. I have started a series on this blog focusing on artists and muses because it seems to be something that is increasingly misunderstood and undervalued. There is an equality in these rare relationships until finally the line is blurred and they are both the artist seeking and finding answers in their discovery. Pierro's stare is just as important as Borowczyk's images, just as PANDORA'S BOX belongs to Louise Brooks as much as Pabst. A true muse is an artist.
Pierro thrived in Borowczyk's period settings, looking impossibly beautiful and almost alien like. Her astonishing face seemed tailor made for his obsessive painterly framing. She is so alive in these early period pieces like BEHIND CONVENT WALLS and THREE IMMORAL WOMEN that you almost forget you are watching a film, it's almost like you are watching some strange documented time capsule. It's only when she is placed in modern roles that her mystery begins to fail, her brutal fetishistic performance in her final feature LOVE RITES is as difficult to watch as it is engrossing.

Borowczyk wasn't the first director to take her out of the past, Jean Rollin would do that with his disturbing THE LIVING DEAD GIRL. Rollin, in his commentaries for LIVING DEAD GIRL speaks of how honored he was to work with her but it's in his fantasy that strips Pierro of her magic. Separated from Borowczyk she was capable of giving a good performance but, much like Irene Jacob away from Kieslowski, something was missing. Marina Pierro is literally torn apart at the end of Rollin's film and in a way she never recovered.

Borowczyk would make one more period feature with her, the beautiful ART OF LOVE, but even here Borowczyk would add an odd coda set in the present. The dream was over and LOVE RIGHTS would mark the final feature for each of them. The TV series that followed, SERIE ROSE, is the final mark in both their filmographies.
I have left out one film. The greatness of Browczyk and Pierro is evident in all of their work together but it is 1981's DOCTEUR JEKYL AND HIS WOMEN (Bloodlust) that stands as their greatest achievement.
Borowczyk's surreal take on the Stevenson novella is one of the great films of the 80s and one of the finest works of his influential career. He would pair Marina with another one of cinema's greatest faces, Udo Kier. Borowczyk creates the only film I have ever seen that feels like an hallucination. I have watched it many times and I still can't shake it's strange dreamlike quality. Watching it is like that moment right before sleep, when everything is almost as it should be but isn't. Borowczyk's cutting back and forth between close ups of Pierro and Kier's faces in the film's final moments literally feels like they are breaking the film apart. It's a film I can't shake and, like Anger's LUCIFER RISING or Roeg's BAD TIMING, even repeated viewings can't take away it's mystery and magic.
Watching these films today I always find myself wondering where Pierro is. I wonder if she is aware, or cares, that some of these films are finally getting DVD releases and some respect. I wonder what her thoughts were when Borowczyk passed away almost a year ago, had they kept in touch or had she disappeared from his life too? I wonder in her 47th year what she looks like, I can't imagine that she has lost much of her beauty. I can imagine her face is as before and her stare could still dismantle not only any camera filming her but any audience watching.

A kind soul left a comment pointing that Marina has an official website, and I urge everyone to check it out. It's a nicely designed site with some of the most beautiful photos you will find on the web, and shots of Marina in Argento's SSUSPIRIA so that mystery is solved for me.
It's so nice to see that she apparently has fond memories of her film career and I'm glad to see she is involved in stage work. She still retains all of her mystery and I am really thankful to have had this site pointed out to me.


Anonymous said...

Check out her official site!

Jeremy Richey said...

Thank you so much for that link. I can't believe I have never come across this. You;ve made my day.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome.

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Dylan Hodge said...

It's 6 years later, but I just wanted to thank you for this post. There's next to nothing online about Marina Pierro, but there is your article. And I appreciate you writing it.

That final scene in Dr Jekyll & his Women...the overwhelming atmosphere of's truly Borowczyk's greatest cinematic achievement. And it's Marina's blood-smeared stare (along with the score) that gives that final scene it's dark power.

Thanks for appreciating her as I do.