Scott Feinberg‘s Hollywood Reporter interview with Best Actress nominee Emmanuelle Riva has prompted a fresh assessment. I’m as moved by her acting in Amour as the next guy and I respect her body of work. I’ve always felt mesmerized by her erotic aura in Alain Resnais‘s Hiroshima Mon Amour, and I love the idea of an 85 year-old trooper not only being nominated but being spoken of as a possible winner. That, at least, would be a surprise in a ceremony that seems all too predictable right now.
But someone has to speak candidly about Riva’s acting in Amour. She gives a fine, unvarnished, honest-feeling performance, but what is it really? She’s playing a woman of her age going through — sadly, infuriatingly — what almost every 80-something or 90-something person goes through, and therefore in a certain sense she’s just skillfully and honestly delivering what she knows. Which is a bold and true thing. I just don’t find it levitational. To me her performance is a 7.5 or an 8.
What her character, Anne, goes through in Amour naturally invites profound sympathy (we all feel for our parents and grandparents going through similar trials) but Riva’s task is basically about conveying resignation and melancholia and, toward the end, pain, anger, humiliation and resolve.
Boil it down and praise for her performance is essentially a response to the fact that we all personally relate in this or that way, and the likely fact that Riva clearly knows whereof she acts and may quite possibly “be” Anne in this or that respect. (Though I hope not too much.)
I’m not trying to diminish her performance. It’s quite strong and impossible to dismiss. I’m just assessing it from a realistic perspective.