Wednesday, March 7, 2007
I must admit to having had the biggest crush on Rachel Weisz since I first saw her in Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty 11 years ago. I often wonder if the sigh I let out, when she first came on the screen, was audible to the people around me. One of the most beautiful women I have ever seen has developed into one of my all time favorite actresses in the past decade.
Rachel is a combination of the greatest attributes the best actresses have carried throughout the years. She possesses the grace of our most classic actresses from Audrey Hepburn to Grace Kelly but also the intensity of a Liv Ullmann or Jessica Lange.
Armed with the most disarming smile since Romy Schneider, the London born Weisz has for the past decade excelled in everything from light comedy to heavy drama, Hollywood blockbusters to low budget indies, period pieces to futuristic science fiction. This most diverse of all of our modern actresses more than deserved the academy award she received for 2005's The Constant Gardener and with six films on the horizon in the next two years she doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
Arguably Weisz's first great role came in 1998's I Want You but she really began to hit her stride at the beginning of the decade with scene stealing roles in the underrated war film Enemy at The Gates and the justly acclaimed About A Boy.
Her finest performance, for me, remains her vicious turn in Neil Labute's The Shape Of Things. Along with Fight Club this film's surprising twist caught me off guard and affected me for days after viewing it. Weisz is magnificent in the film and gives a performance that makes Labute's film more terrifying than most great horror films. Rarely has an actor been able to tap into cruelty like Weisz does in this role. It's still a performance that catches me off guard and Elvis Costello's bitter acidic songs that Labute scored the film with have become inseparable, for me, from Rachel's demonic turn in this film.
She has often been underused but films like Runaway Jury and Confidence are notable in her filmography just for the opportunity they gave her to work with legends like Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman.
The Constant Gardener gave her one of her finest roles and, even with the stiff competition of Junebug's great Amy Adams and Brokeback Mountain's Michelle Williams, she more than earned the Oscar.
Last years The Fountain was her best work since The Shape Of Things and it marked her first collaboration with her husband Darron Aronofsky. I will write more on this film when the dvd arrives and I can re-view it. I will say that it is rare for a modern film backed by a major studio to have so much to say about life, love and death. The Fountain is an ambitiously personal vision made by someone obviously in love, people can complain about the film all they want but they can't say it isn't among one of the most sincere films of the decade.
Most notable of her upcoming projects are two new Wong Kar Wai films, My Blueberry Nights and the already controversial remake of The Lady From Shanghai.
I'm very drawn to this woman and her unique screen presence. Some of it has to do with finding out that I wasn't the worlds biggest Elvis fan (check the necklace in the picture) but a lot of it, I think, resides in the sincerity and dignity that she brings to her work. These are two qualities I find greatly lacking from most of our modern actors. I hope modern cinema doesn't let her down, to quote Paul Simon she reminds me of why God made the movies.