best film: Irène Jacob has not one, but two masterpieces where she is front and center (as far as lead actors go) to choose from for this category. Forced to pick, Three Colours: Red may win out – but The Double Life of Véronique is essentially tied for that top position. In Three Colours: Red, Irene Jacob plays Valentine (yep, the color red again, and Krzysztof Kieślowski is not shy about it) – a genuinely good person (shown by Kieślowski as the only three in the trilogy to help the woman with the glass in the recycling). Valentine helps a dog and that leads her to a retired judge (played by the great Jean-Louis Trintignant). They form a beautiful platonic friendship. The film is the warmest of Kieślowski’s trilogy and his entire career – both emotionally (the color means fraternity here and that is certainly a match) and visually. It is a brilliant work on its own, but also a fitting finale (with a short coda attached) to the trilogy. For Kieslowski, he ends his career on a high note. He would pass away in 1996 (at age 54) – but he had announced his retirement with this project and film.
best performance: The Double Life of Véronique but again there is a very thin layer separating Jacobs’ two best films and performances. Jacob would win the best actress award at Cannes in 1991 for her work here. Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Véronique is so enigmatic and lyrical – it almost makes his previous films seem like prose and this is his first attempt at poetry (more description than praise or a critique). This has a melodic tone – and it is not just because Veronique and Veronika are musicians. This is Kieślowski’s second masterpiece (depending on how you categorize A Short Film About Killing/Dekalog) and would place him solidly as one of the greatest filmmakers on the planet in 1991. It does not have the stylistically/visually quiet moments we see in a few episodes of Dekalog or surely his work before. There are 40-50 jaw-dropping sequences, shots, and frames in the short 98 minute running time here.
stylistic innovations/traits: The French-Swiss actress was cast by Louis Malle in 1987 at the age of twenty-one (21) in her true debut – Au revoir les enfants. Jacob’s acting style can best be described as internalized – often cerebral and understated. Her work never reaches the level of Juliette Binoche in Three Colours: Blue (and how could one not compare them as they both worked with Kieślowski during this same stretch in the early 1990s?). Still, Jacob has two of these big Kieślowski vehicle films – not one. Jacob is stunningly beautiful yes – but undoubtedly, and importantly for this list, she can really carry out that inner moral struggle that Kieślowski demands from his lead model (a specific word choice here – Kieślowski asks her to do more than a Robert Bresson lead – but certainly less than like Michelangelo Antonioni asked of Monica Vitti) or protagonist. Few female actors period can claim to be lead in two masterpieces – but that resume is terribly light and unquestionably, quite a few actors could have been cast in her spot in these Kieślowski films without much fear of sacrificing the quality of the film.
directors worked with: Krzysztof Kieślowski (2), Louis Malle (1)
top five performances:
- The Double Life of Véronique
- Three Colours: Red
- Au revoir les enfants
|1987- Au revoir les enfants
|1991- The Double Life of Veronique
|1994- Three Colours: Red