Sunday, August 24, 2014

EVA GREEN: AN ACTRESS TO KILL FOR

Original caricature by Jeff York of Eva Green in SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. (copyright 2014)
SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR may have come up short at the box office this past weekend with only $6.48 million, but that’s not Eva Green’s fault. Blame the sequel arriving nine long years after the original. Green, on the other hand, got rave reviews for her performance as the title character. Now, she just needs to find a big screen vehicle that matches her incredible talents.

That may be harder than you’d think, as she is quite an actress. In fact, she imbued her femme fatale character with something that I’m not sure Frank Miller put on his original pages about Ava Lord – genuine sympathy. There was something a little sad in her eyes, even though they’re impossibly large and were tinted animalistic green in Robert Rodriguez’ stylish film noir. (Or was it just a visual play on the actress’ name?) It made the inevitable conclusion of her character's story arc a bit unpredictable, which is a credit to Green and her ability to keep us involved beyond the simplistic narrative.

Green’s Ava Lord is a man-eater, most assuredly, but she invested the stares and pauses of her character with a backstory that suggests her bad girl might have become that way because of a bad man. When she tells a detective lies about her old boyfriend Dwight (Josh Brolin) strangling her and knocking her to the ground, it’s not the truth of the moment. But it may have been at some point in this woman’s past, as Green’s trembling voice makes it clear how painful it is for her character to even utter such words.


The 34 year-old British actress is having quite a golden year with starring turns on film (this sequel as well as that of 300) and television (the Showtime series PENNY DREADFUL). American audiences become familiar with her after turns in THE DREAMERS (2003) and CASINO ROYALE (2006). The clip above introduces us to Green's Vesper character and she quickly was hailed as the best Bond girl in three decades. Her first line in the movie? "I'm the money." Damn right about that. And worth every penny. 

And she’s certainly been the best thing in most everything she’s done since. There wasn’t much to recommend Tim Burton’s ill-conceived spoof on DARK SHADOWS in 2012, but Green seemed to be the only one in it who brought even a modicum of fright to the comic frightener. She spins a lot of gold out of so much straw.

And in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, as the villainess, she even managed to out-steel the intrepid Lena Headey. In fact, Green has quickly become one of those actresses you cannot take your eyes off of when she’s on screen. Even when she’s acting with huge talents such as Johnny Depp and Michael Sheen, she manages to burn up the place with her smoldering sensuality or her indomitable will.

Her best role to date is in the frightening PENNY DREADFUL that premiered this past winter. That freshman show had its fits and starts during the eight-episode launch, but once Green’s Vanessa Ives channeled a demon at the séance in the second episode, it became her show. She thrashed about, spoke in tongues, and conjured up so much terror that surely afterwards, show creator John Logan realized that no vampire, wolfman or Frankenstein’s monster could possibly hope to be as scary or as compelling as she was. He seemed to start shaping the rest of the season around her.
Vanessa possessed in PENNY DREADFUL.
Green is a fearless actress, as she was in that seance scene, as she is in so many scenes, unafraid to really put it all on the line. She’s utterly daring, challenging the audience to watch her, to understand her even when she is hideous or abominable. For such a beauty, she’s truly a sight to see when her eyes bug out in madness, and her petite frame writhes with abandon.

And in an age when nudity has turned half of Hollywood's actresses into prudes, and the other half into paparazzi playthings, Green has managed to make appearing nude meaningful. It helps of course, that she’s got a gorgeous figure. But more importantly, Green uses her body to tell us about her characters, be it positive or negative.

In the 300 sequel, she uses her sensual maneuvers as another weapon in her arsenal to try to conquer the susceptible war commander played by Sullivan Stapleton. In PENNY DREADFUL, her nakedness demonstrated just how far the devil had gone in his seduction of her. First he inhabited her body, mind and soul; then he turned her into a bruised toy.
Green and Sullivan Stapleton in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE.
She’s completely unclothed twice in the SIN CITY sequel, and both times it’s intended to take the breath away of both Dwight and the audience at large. First, she waits for him in bed, no sheets demurely covering her up, and the visage promises a tryst with a goddess. And in the last five minutes of her story, she emerges from the pool as naked as a Jaybird and you wonder for a moment or two if her old lover will kill her or take her back. 
Green rises from the pool in SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR.
Despite her feminine wiles, Green rarely acts girlish, purrs or talks soft in any of her roles. She’s always strong, often strident, and speaks with a clipped diction even when demons course through her blood. Green might not yet have the career of Jennifer Lawrence or Amy Adams, but she’s one big film away from being the most formidable and exciting actress in the business. 

Lucky her. Lucky us.

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