Nov 16, 2010

24FPS Top 100: No. 69

Click the title below for a trailer.

69: ANNA M. [2007]
DIR: Michel Spinosa
Why is it on the list?
Ideas, at least as far as movies go, often seem to come in pairs; think of DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON or VOLCANO and DANTE’S PEAK. While they weren’t released in the same year it does seem strange that there would be, in relatively quick succession, two French films about female erotomaniacs who become obsessed with their doctors, and further that both should feature Isabelle Carre in a prominent role. In HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT (which is a rather lighter film, at least to begin with, than this one) Carre plays the wife of the doctor with whom Audrey Tautou becomes obsessed, but in ANNA M. she takes centre stage.

As good as the film around her is, the reason ANNA M. succeeds the way it does, the reason it’s on this list, is Isabelle Carre. Sadly only a few of he films have been granted a UK release, but Carre is reliably a highlight of anything she’s in and, aside from the fact that she has a very particular look; a sharp, but delicate and down to earth beauty, and an instantly recognisable smile, she’s a real chameleon. I’ve seen most of what’s available of her work, and she’s never the same twice, always vanishing into her characters, and that’s never been more true than it is here.

Carre’s Anna is a complex creation, drawn not with broad brush strokes but small, detailed work, some of which reveals its significance only when you rewatch the film. The tiny changes of expression in her first meetings with Dr. Zanevsky (Gilbert Melki), the way you see her take certain things as coded cues that lead to her obsession, these things only become clear on a second viewing, and it’s then that you see just how extraordinary, and just how complete, Carre’s performance is. She’s not afraid to go all out either; it’s a viscerally physical performance at times, most notably in the palpably painful moment when Anna smacks her head repeatedly against a lamppost. As damaged and as dangerous as Anna is, neither Carre nor the film judge her, and it’s this that allows you to if not empathise then certainly to sympathise with her.

Director Michel Spinosa did a lot of research into the clinical process of erotomania before writing ANNA M. and it shows. The film is a character study of both Anna, who seems like she’d ordinarily be a nice, if quiet, young woman and of her illness. Documenting it through several stages, captioned things like; Illumination, Hope and Hate, Spinosa shows the increasing effect that Anna’s obsession has on her. There are elements of a horror film here; in the scenes where Anna stalks Zanevsky, and especially in a later scene in which she is alone in his apartment, but this isn’t SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, it never becomes overblown. What really resonates is the blink and you’ll miss it significance of Spinosa’s final shot. On this viewing I began to wonder how real the last three or four minutes of the film are supposed to be, because the sun drenched countryside in which they take place seems almost dreamlike compared to the rather grey rendering Paris is given in the rest of the film, but either way, it’s a haunting moment that you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for.

I’d pretty much always recommend that you see any film starring Isabelle Carre, she’s just that good, but in ANNA M. she’s leagues better than that, it’s work that shames most Oscar winning performances, and elevates an already very strong film to this list.

Standout Scenes
The first moment that Anna becomes obsessed by Dr. Zanevsky is beautifully subtly rendered, with a silent serenity from Carre.

Anna’s desperation as she asks for just one memento of Zanevsky is at once hugely manipulative and absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

Checking Out
Anna's interview as she leaves psychiatric care; an acting masterclass from Carre that operates on multiple levels.

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