Film Forum

On Marion Cotillard, an International Star

From La Môme Marion (the kid Marion) to the little sparrow, Marion Cotillard has mesmerized audiences across the globe as one of the most prolific french actresses of the 21st century. From her American debut and breakthrough performance as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose” to her stunning portrayal as a paraplegic orca trainer in “Rust and Bone”, Cotillard has immersed herself in a career unparalleled by her modern counterparts.

For the first time, Fresno Filmworks debuts Academy-Award winner Marion Cotillard in her Oscar-nominated performance as Sandra in “Two Days, One Night” on March 13. But before we have the opportunity to see Cotillard in her next international hit, let us first take a look back at who, and what made the beautiful and talented Marion that American audiences have come to appreciate and contemplate today.

Early Films- La Môme Marion

As the daughter of two french actors, Cotillard grew up in Orleans, a city near Paris where she made her film debut. Two of her most acclaimed early works from Paris include Taxi in 1998 and Pretty Things in 2001. Although featured in only a few scenes in Taxi as the girlfriend of Marseilles cab driver Samy Naceri, the success of the film in Paris made Cotillard an overnight star.  She reprised her role twice in the French trilogy.

In Pretty Things, Marion plays opposing twin sisters Lucie and Marie. Adapted from the work of feminist writer Virginie Despentes, Cotillard portrays both the stylish, sexual, extroverted Lucie and the quiet, austere Marie. When one sister commits suicide, the other is left to reprise her role in order to make a living, find fame, and struggle to stay alive. A serious character piece, Cotillard was nominated for a César Award for Most Promising Actress for her performance in the role.

“A Very Long Engagement”- Introducing “Le Magnifique Marion”

Cotillard was nominated once again for a Cesar for best supporting actress in A Very Long Engagement”. “Engagement”, starring Audrey Tautou, tells the story of a young woman’s relentless search for her fiancé who has disappeared from the trenches of the Somme during World War One. Cotillard costars as a woman searching for the person responsible for the death of her own lover. Variety magazine singled out Cotillard’s performance saying that she “handily stole this handsome WWI melodrama right out from under its ostensible star, Audrey Tautou.”

Roger Ebert wrote that “Her means of revenge are so unspeakably ingenious that Edgar Allan Poe would twitch in envy.” When left to be executed at the end of the film for the murder of  the man responsible for her lover’s death, Cotillard speaks that the only thing she regrets from her crime: her hair.

“La Vie En Rose”- The Little Sparrow

Cotillard gave her seminal performance as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose“. Director Olivier Dahan took a chance on Cotillard, casting her against the wishes of the distributor who felt that Cotillard wasn’t “bankable” enough. Dahan suffered a reduction in the budget due of his insistance on keeping Cotillard, which he stated was because of her eyes. The spirit and life behind them were the same that Piaf had many years ago.

In an interview with Telegraph, Cotillard speaks of her naturalistic approach and performance as Piaf:  ‘I wanted to build something inside me, and hoped that from the inside the outside would come naturally.’

She won her first Academy Award for Best Actress along with a César, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe, making her the only other actress to win an acting Oscar for a performance in a language other than English besides Sophia Loren In “Two Women”, and the first Oscar in history for a french-speaking film. Stephen Holden of the New York Times writes of her performance as being “the most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another I’ve ever encountered in a film.”

“Rust and Bone”

When French orca trainer Stephanie  loses her legs in a freak accident at a local marine tourist park, she descends into despair. Through her relationship with Ali, an unemployed father in his mid 20s with a passion for boxing, she must learn to trust and rely upon one another for solace, hope, and the will to fight and live once again.  Cotillard gives an extensive, rigorous physical performance in a female tour de force.

“There’s a virile authority to her acting, and at the same time she exudes sexuality,” writes Director Jacques Audiard of Cotillard’s performance. “She’s very seductive. There’s another reason: I’m not forgetting that she’s extremely famous. And that fame adds to the fiction.When her legs are amputated, it’s a cinematic convention: we know it’s a famous actress playing a role. She’s a princess, a princess who falls from on high.”

Speaking about her own performance, Marion writes “What matters is the flesh, bones, sexual, violent physicality. When there’s nothing left, it’s just you, your soul, and what’s deep inside of you. Will you be able to face it or will you be too afraid to face it? We see the encounter of two naked souls who surrender to this nudity. That’s the beauty of this story and these people.”

Global Superstar

Cotillard is not only a singer, songwriter, and actor, but also a partner, a mother, and an activist for Greenpeace. She has been the face of Lady Dior handbags since 2008, and in 2014, Cotillard was named “The Most Bankable French Actress of the 21st Century”, her films accumulating more than 37 million in ticket sales in France from 2001 to 2014.

For her next film, “Two Days, One Night“, Cotillard examines the role of labor on community solidarity as her character Sandra asks herself: who am I? Am I useful? Do I have meaning, a purpose?

“When I was a kid, my dream was to be an actress and to be able to jump from one world to another, to disappear into roles, that people wouldn’t recognize me from one movie to another. So I feel very lucky that I have the opportunity to live that dream. I didn’t expect to live that any bigger than I had thought. Do I have a purpose, right? And of course you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be on Earth. I really strongly believe that if we’re here, it’s for a reason.”

See Marion’s reason, presented by Fresno Filmworks, March 13 at the Tower Theatre.

Megan Ginise studies journalism and public relations at Fresno State. She currently serves as the Filmworks marketing intern.

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.