New Stars in Lecce's Sky

in 10th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Christophe Chauville

The 10th European Cinema Festival’s competition in Lecce highlighted several great performances by young actresses coming from different countries and who are destined to shape the future of the “old world’s” cinema. Their characters, all involved in dramatic and complex family situations, reacted to life’s harshness in different ways, and provided them with a variety of occasions to flaunt their obvious acting qualities.

In young Italian director Christian Angeli’s first feature film, In the Flesh (In carne e ossa), Alba Caterina Rohrwacher plays Viola, a 25 year-old daughter who is on the brink of anorexia. Already emotionally unstable, the arrival of a psychoanalyst, a friend of her parents, adds to the upset of her world. Alba Rohrwacher’s portrayal is very impressive between weakness and strength, childhood and seduction, shyness and sexual attraction. She won the Best European Actor Award in Lecce, attributed by Italian film critics, hot on the heels of having been selected as one of the Shooting Stars at last February’s Berlin Film Festival. She’s certain to continue this success in the upcoming movies of Ferzan Ozpetek (Mine vaganti) and Luca Guadagnino (Io sono l’amore).

Another girl in pain is the main character’s daughter in Ina Weisse’s The Architect (Der Architekt), played by German actress Sandra Hüller. European cinephiles discovered her in Hans-Christian Schmid’s Requiem — an intense performance for a first feature and for which she won the Silver Berlin Bear in 2006. In The Architect, Reh Winter, a music student, learns the reality of adult life when her family falls apart: having idolized her father, the truth reveals that he is not the hero she thought he was. Shattered, she leaves for a remote mountain, a metaphor of her unknown future.

Junie in Christophe Honoré’s The Beautiful Person (La belle personne) is another notable fragile character. Having just lost her mother, Junie enters a new college where both a student and a teacher fall in love with her. Although close to 24 years old, Léa Seydoux plays a teenager and brings to her character a lot of mystery behind that classic China doll’s face with long dark hair. Just as heroines are depicted in French novels, it is no surprise that this movie is inspired by the famous Madame de La Fayette’s “La Princesse de Clèves”. Nominated for a César in Paris earlier this year for the Most Promising Actress prize, Léa Seydoux will soon appear in a string of career making international films: Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, Austrian director Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes and as the Princess Isabella in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.

Amongst all these new female talents however, the real treasure found in Lecce was undoubtedly Alexandra Tyuftey — a Russian actress playing her debut role in The Fly (Mukha), by Vladimir Kott. Vera Mukhina, nicknamed Mukha, finds her unknown father when her mother dies and refuses this unexpected return. Mirroring the struggles in her life, she takes up boxing in a boy’s club. This brave young woman can be compared to some kind of eastern cousin of Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Rosetta and this debutant actress represents a perfect incarnation of a new Russian generation: Alexandra Tyuftey deserves to find other challenging parts. Furthermore, this is where the importance of a film festival’s vocation lies.