Emmanuelle Riva

Emmanuelle Riva Hiroshima

Michael Haneke’s much-lauded Amour, which won Best Foreign Language Film last night at the Oscars, has at its center two powerhouses of modern European art cinema: Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, the oldest woman ever to be nominated for an acting Oscar. The two central faces of Amour, here aged and frail, have graced screens realized by the visions of master filmmakers like Alain Resnais, Eric Rohmer, Costa-Gavras, Krysztof Keislowski, Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Franju, and Bernardo Bertolucci among others. It’s fitting that Haneke picked Trintignant and Riva to make a film about aging, for these are two performers that can be seen aging and changing on celluloid through decades of incredible work. In some ways, it’s hard to imagine European art cinema, in its many transformations, without these two faces. Here are a few of their key performances in The Criterion Collection…


Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 6.27.36 PM

There are two main rivalries in the 2013 Best Actress race. There’s a head-to-head showdown between Silver Linings Playbook’s Jennifer Lawrence and Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain. These ladies even have a supposed rivalry brewing between them. By all accounts, they are the ones to beat. There’s also that oldest versus youngest match-up between Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva [oldest] and Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis [youngest]. And then there’s The Impossible’s Naomi Watts. Hopefully there will be an upset so this Oscars 2013 don’t prove to be too boring. Though the Oscars do lean toward the predictable… Will any of these actresses go down in history with a bombastic speech, featuring a line akin to “You like me! You really like me!” or suffer some sort of horrendous wardrobe malfunction on the red carpet? Will there be a deluge of tears that goes down in history? Only time will tell. Hopefully the chosen lady is somewhat well-deserving of her award and at least has a good stylist. Here are the nominees with my predicted winner is in red:


The Skin I Live In

The Academy Awards are not always the best place to look for fresh faces, and this year is no different. The list is full of perennial nominees, to the point of occasional absurdity. The Best Supporting Actor race is the most obvious example, all five actors having won before. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Guys like John Williams and Steven Spielberg, with five and three Oscars respectively, seem like obligatory nominations. There are others who still haven’t won, but find themselves nominated over and over again anyway, like Thomas Newman and Roger Deakins. Some categories are easier to break into than others, but on the whole, the Academy loves recognizing their favorites. This makes it all the more exciting when the elusive first nomination does happen. Whatever you think about the provenance of her performance, it’s going to be neat to see Quvenzhané Wallis on the red carpet. However, I think it’s even more thrilling when long-neglected talent is recognized at last. Gary Oldman’s nod for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy last year was by far my favorite, if only because I thought it would never happen. After someone has gone so long without getting the attention, it seems almost impossible. In that spirit, here are my five favorite first-time nominations of the 85th Academy Awards, with a look back at some of the work that somehow got overlooked in the past.


Amour Movie

Amour is a very difficult movie. I would go so far as to say it’s the toughest, most painful Best Picture nominee in an awfully long time. It’s so heartbreaking and uncomfortable that I was somewhat taken aback when it pulled five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Sure, Emmanuelle Riva seemed like a good bet and it was certainly going to be ahead of the pack in the Foreign Film category, but that top-tier nomination? Only eight foreign language films have been nominated for Best Picture in the past, and only one of them (Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers) is as profoundly upsetting as Michael Haneke’s blunt portrait of love and death. It just didn’t seem likely. Obviously, I was wrong. Let’s hope that isn’t the theme of the season. In hindsight, the impressive crop of nominations for Amour makes a ton of sense. It makes so much sense that I think it has a very good shot at winning three Oscars. Here’s the case:



The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves the French. The nation has racked up 36 nominations for Best Foreign Language Film over the years, which is more than half the number of times the Academy has given the award. French-language films regularly appear outside of that category as well – the very first nomination for a foreign film was a nod for Best Art Direction to À Nous la Liberté in 1932. Oscar has been a Francophile since the very beginning, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get sick of them any time soon. As far as I’m concerned, this leaves a single burning question about this year’s race. Yes, I suppose one could wonder in great detail about Amour’s Best Picture and Best Director chances, but at this point I think it definitely gets both. The real fun is in the Best Actress category. (Isn’t it always?) Both Emmanuelle Riva and Marion Cotillard are serious contenders, enormously talented actors who have delivered some of their best work in some this year’s most-lauded French-language films. However, is it possible for two French actresses to make it in the same category? How much cachet do they really have?



Editor’s note: With Haneke’s latest masterwork finally hitting limited release this week, please fall in love with our AFI FEST review all over again, originally published on November 4, 2012. In Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are an older couple who have clearly been together for years, but their loving glances and compliments prove that, despite the years, the love they feel for one another has never faded. Their life together now is one of simple pursuits – a night out here or there, but mainly spending time with one another making meals or reading together in their Paris apartment. At first glance, this may seem like just another couple living out their later years with each other, but when Anne suffers a minor stroke at the breakfast table one morning, the extent and depth of their love is truly put to the test. After an operation to prevent any future strokes fails, Anne is released home, where she makes Georges promise her that he will not let her go back to the hospital. Georges sets about to make their life as comfortable and normal as possible, despite the fact that Anne is now confined to a wheelchair and needs to sleep in a separate, mechanical bed — but one that Georges keeps pushed up against his own.

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published: 01.24.2015
published: 01.24.2015
published: 01.24.2015
published: 01.23.2015

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