Actress Screen 22 articles



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  • Greene adds mood music and slo-mo, plus rather strained talk of how we're all playing "roles" in our daily lives anyway, but the voyeuristic element that gives documentaries their secret buzz is inevitably missing, since Brandy is complicit in a pre-packaged story (instead there's the rather academic pursuit of trying to figure out if she's crying or 'crying' when she watches the video of her daughter's birthday party)...

  • The lines between feigned and genuine emotion are so blurred that it’s tempting to wonder—as someone asked at the Q&A—whether the film was intended as a sort of demo tape. Not exactly: Greene’s interest is in parsing various modes of acting. Actress ponders the extent to which Burre’s life is itself a kind of starring role, as well as the degree to which the power of performance can help her work through a tough situation.

  • One can't help but be reminded of This Is Not a Film, when director Jafar Panahi, under house arrest, cycles through his films, switching discs and narrating, realizing that he will likely never be able to create so freely again. In these moments, art becomes personal home video, replete with nostalgia for moments in time that can only be glimpsed by representation; of course, these representations mask what happens off screen—mainly, the sustaining passions of the artists involved.

  • Routine gestures or tasks are charged with the manifest desire to invest them with great portent, suppressed performative energies making their way out by any means necessary. Actress asks how it’s possible to discern between unconsciously self-presentational performance vs. guileless, unmediated self-disclosure with someone prone to routine dramatization.

  • Even aside from these techniques and devices, Greene’s unpredictable film would be noteworthy if only for spotlighting a woman in her late thirties who feels unfulfilled and makes life choices that could easily draw reproach. Her open ambivalence and some alert and perceptive camerawork by Greene (Fake It So Real, Kati with an I) are at least as interesting as the film’s conceptual underpinnings about the construction of roles in daily life.

  • One of the most striking things about Actress is the way in which it internalizes and blends different techniques, from the archetypal vérité follow-around camera to the sit-down interview, into a multifaceted approach that never comes across as dry or academic, but instead seems to change shape along with its subject.

  • Greene is canny enough to foreground his intention by placing Brandy's repeated take toward the beginning, encouraging us to question the authenticity of everything that follows (and, by implication, the very notion of documentary "authenticity" itself). Nonetheless, I feel like the film has a serious Tim Problem, which grows more and more significant as the dissolution of that relationship becomes the dominant narrative arc, swamping Brandy's tentative efforts to revive her acting career.

  • One of the things that makes the [Actress] so revelatory is the fact that it never settles into a familiar groove... Actress dares us not to find Brandy narcissistic and self-involved, and this direct challenge to judge is heightened, quite consciously, by Burre's performance. As we learn more about her life, what she has given (and given up) for her family and for the love of her children, we fully understand the fragmented plane upon which Greene has built this Cubist portrait.

  • Actress mixes melodrama and documentary to create a focused and intensely personal film... Greene wisely opens the film with slow-motion shots of Burre applying makeup, acknowledging the manipulation that’s at play in the film and his aim of teasing out a kind of everyday theatricality. This... means there’s never a sense that Greene is seeking any other “truth” than his subject’s, and even that keeps slipping all over the place.

  • ...Greene’s charged direction (marked by bold shifts in color and dramatic uses of music) evokes narrative cinema more often than documentary... Greene’s dizzying mix of fiction and documentary suggests a distant offshoot of Abbas Kiaorstami’s Close-Up...

  • Greene’s charged direction (marked by bold shifts in color and dramatic uses of music) evokes narrative cinema more often than documentary... By the end of Actress, it becomes clear that Greene’s true subject is the nature of performing and that he’s recruited Burre as a co-creator in the filmmaking process.

  • Greene is well aware that Brandy is a star, and lights her like one, interrupting the handheld camera of daily life with vignettes of delicate soft focus close-ups, an upstate New York Von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich. Brandy is stumbling her way through a life she is trying to get out of, with empathy and fragility, turning herself into her own crowning performance.

  • Beyond simply observing the struggles women face in their desires for career and family, the film explores the nature of performance. Blending melodrama and cinema vérité to perfection, Greene delivers a film that under all its theater, is just like its actress, raw and intimate.

  • It’s a testament to Greene’s skill that this movie about a woman who likes to break things holds together so smartly, but it’s equally true that it takes its cues from its subject in this regard: above all else, the film resonates as a portrait of a woman remaking herself in her own image.

  • Greene's always found humanity where others would have found mere objects or figureheads, and Actress hums and shakes with it... Actress is the non-fiction film of the decade, a gauntlet thrown at anyone looking to tell the truth with a camera. Cinema, like Burre, is staring into its future.

  • Greene seems fascinated by the contradictory identities — each a kind of real-life performance — that Burre endeavors to reconcile, and he is profoundly sensitive to the emotional truth these performances describe.

  • For Burre, artistic and erotic desire are fused; she sees her life as a series of roles—mom conflicts with actress, partner with lover—and her struggle for fulfillment links creative work with economic independence. Her story is the stuff of classic melodrama, and that’s how Greene, astonishingly, films it: his images, with their shrieking colors and vertiginous geometry, suggest the intimate grandeur and bitter irony of a Douglas Sirk romance come to life.

  • Let Actress in, and it will fuck your mind forever... Greene’s pixelated, un-sleek images have a surprising glow to them; he captures both the warmth and the fragility of that thing we call home, as if it could all be wiped away in a heartbeat.

  • It’s an overused line in celebrity journalism that the most challenging role any actor faces in their career is that of him or herself. Few films, however, have presented the notion of self-performance as perceptively or provocatively as Robert Greene’s extraordinary “Actress” — a documentary portrait of character actress and mother-of-two Brandy Burre in which even the most intimate domestic exchanges bear a compelling hint of artifice.

  • The presence of the camera as an attentive enabler of self-examination and perhaps even histrionics creates an intriguing hall of mirrors that respects that grand, existential questions are just as much the domain of the domestic.

  • Whatever the case, ACTRESS is a film of uncommon emotional power: Brandy's late revelation about falling out of love with Tim over his indifference to installing a diaper-changing station in his restaurant bathroom feels more intimate--and electrifying--than any scripted scene from any film I saw last year.

  • These roles [Burre is] complicit in perpetuating are not only liberating, but also circumscribing, as they lead others to view her as a broad type. Brilliantly, Green coaxes the viewer to make similar assumptions with his elliptical editing, sometimes withholding significant narrative information in order to purposefully misdirect the viewer’s assumptions.

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