best film: Isabelle Adjani stands out as the bespectacled Stella in Roman Polanski’s The Tenant. This, the middle film in Polanski’s apartment trilogy, is a proud film for any actor to have as their singular best even if Adjani’s role is rather small. Possession from Andrzej Żuławski might be as good as The Tenant and Adjani does much more of the heavy lifting in the 1981 breakup horror masterpiece. Żuławski’s film is a stylistic tour-de-force with unrelenting camera movement and masterful color design. Admirers of The Shining – should seek out, appreciate, and study Possession.
best performance: Adjani plays both Anna and a secondary doppelgänger role as Helen – Bob’s (the child of Anna and Sam Neill’s Mark character) teacher in Possession. This category, unlike the category above, is an easy choice. Anna is both a dream role for any actor – and at the same time – a role that would scare off many. If the film is not brilliant (and, surely, it is) the actor playing Anna could be left looking foolish as she makes love to a special effects monster and thrashes about alone in an abandoned subway throwing produce against the wall and losing her damn mind. Thankfully, Adjani took the plunge and the role – and the results are clear – this lands as one of the best single acting performances of the 1980s.
stylistic innovations/traits: From 1975 to 1981 French actor Isabelle Adjani put together an extraordinary stretch of work. What stands out most is just how dark and challenging these many of these films are (the best three films she is in are The Tenant, Nosferatu the Vampyre and Possession) and in retrospect she has said these films and this era in her career (Possession in particular) took a lot out of her. She won the best actress at Cannes in 1981, has two (2) Oscar nominations, a whopping nine (9) César Awards nominations with five (5) wins.
directors worked with: François Truffaut (1), Roman Polanski (1), Werner Herzog (1), and James Ivory (1)
top five performances:
- The Story of Adele H
- Nosferatu the Vampyre
- The Driver
|1975- The Story of Adele H|
|1976- The Tenant|
|1978- The Driver|
|1979- Nosferatu the Vampyre|
Drake what is your rating of possession?
@Big chungus – masterpiece – very happy it was finally made available
Damn! Im surprised. Personally not the biggest fan but ill have to rewatch at some point… im very excited for your new top 500, there should he alot of exciting new placements and rerankings. Is that next after this series or are you revamping best male actors list?
@Big chungus- after the best actress list project I have a few other one-off pages I want to do and then the plan is to do the male actors list and update those before finally updating the top 500 (and moving it to 1000). But I’m hoping I can go much faster on the male actor side. I had to take some time away from the website in 2022 and that slowed things down a little.
I didn’t expect this one! I mean I saw a couple years ago that someone told you (Drake) if you had seen Possession and the answer was a no, so yeah, pretty cool you finally got to see it. Great ranking.
@Ywen – Thank you for visiting the site and the comment Ywen- good to hear from you.
Adjani is one of my favorite actresses , post 1981 i would reconmend One Deadly Summer (1983) at turns both stunningly sexual heartbreaking a vunerable , Subway (1985) cool as f*** , Camille Claudel (1988) magnificent and infuriating .
@marco- Thank you for the recommendations
Did only catching Possession a week or 2 ago, with the list already being so far along affect her ranking?
@Matthew- I’ve had the outline or rough draft of the list completed for some time. It was fairly easy to slide Adjani in where she belongs and bump some others back one slot
You said that you had problems with Shelley Duvall’s performance in The Shining. I think Adjani would be the PERFECT choice for that role. Adjani would knock it out of the park. Because the actress playing that character needs to go over the top and Adjani can go over the top and maintain a balance. (Look at her image from Nosferatu above, I cannot not think that the same face can’t belong to The Shining)
What do you think?
@M*A*S*H- Very interesting- I’m not sure I’m willing to recast it sight unseen- but I’d like to see the version with Adjani
Can you picture Adjani in any one of Fassbinder movies? She’s not only part German but has also acted (excellently) in a Herzog movie. She’d be too young for Veronika Voss. Lola perhaps?
@M*A*S*H- I can picture it. Good call- wish it had happened.
So you can picture her as Lola. I too can.
No Veronika Voss as Adjani would be 27 in 1982. Too young.
What about Maria Braun?
Can you picture Adjani as Maria Braun?
@M*A*S*H- Sorry- I wanted to think about this a little and just never got back around to answering. I’m definitely not recasting Maria Braun- but seeing Possession makes me think Adjani might be able to do an adequate job. What do you think?
I’m not recasting Maria Braun as well, just lamenting for a Fassbinder-Adjani collaboration.
I think Adjani would be as good as Schygulla if not better. Different though.
What about Lola I think she’ll be be perfect as Lola, don’t you think?
@MASH- I’d need another look at Lola here- but I like that idea. Good thinking.
A lot has changed @Drake on ur site. It’s been so long since I hv been here. Loving it!
It’s a curious question that @MASH u ask about Adjani playing Maria Braun. I don’t think so. Hanna Schygulla is a better actress allover. Capable of much more. Her work just cuts deeper.
@Ric- Fair enough. Can’t argue with any praise bestowed upon Schygulla. I just want an Adjani-Fassbinder collaboration to exist. It’s a desire of mine.
@MASH and @Drake can u guys say that Hanna Schygulla can play Anna & Helen in Possession? Interesting idea!
@Ric- I don’t know. I’ll wait for @Drake’s response to argue or agree with your idea.
Thinking of Schygulla there’s pretty much nothing she can’t do. I’d NOT AT ALL be worried about emotional stuff required. Schygulla CAN pull the emotional stuff off. Idk.
@Drake, your thoughts please!