Monday, April 24, 2006

Depp, Gainsbourg and Attal

If there was any doubt that Johnny Depp is a great actor, it is dispelled in his virtually speechless performance in two scenes in Yvan Attal’s Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants (2004). He appears twice-once at the beginning in the scene at the Virgin Mega Store on the Champs-Elysée and again at the end of the film. He says very little in either scene and yet he steals both from Charlotte Gainsbourg. This is no mean trick because she is a terrific actress who in a matter of seconds in the scene with Depp shows us pain, happiness, loss, love and lust without uttering a word.

The silent Depp is simply the canvas upon which Gainsbourg paints all of her projections. He appears to us as vapid and unaware of the young woman’s desires. In this, I believe, Attal is quite perceptive. He knows that usually our fantasies of love are really directed to an ideal rather than to a person and the vapid and silent Depp, simply referred to in the credits as l’inconnu, underscores the capricious nature of human desire. I also believe that Depp in his sheer intelligence also understands Attal’s message and personifies in this memorable scene the unknowing unaware object.

This is the second full-length film written and directed by Attal and it proves that he is one of those self-conscious but wise observers of the human condition. Although his plots are somewhat predictable, his film contains sparks of genius. The two scenes with Depp and Gainsbourg illustrate Attal’s psychological depth and also predict a unique cinematic style.

For a clip in French:

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