Wednesday 19 December 2012

My Top 10 Female Performances

       Continuing the third anniversary celebrations of this blog, I list for your pleasure, my favourite female performances. They are in random order, save the last one who is my number one.

Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

From all the films with corsets and period settings, a character like Clementine would be the last thing one would expect Winslet to tackle. However, when she did, she ended up giving her best performance to date. Winslet completely transforms into this impulsive, free, complicated, lovely woman.
Favourite scene- Her (second) first meeting with Joel in the train.

Marion Cotillard in La Vie en rose

I usually have a soft spot for biopics. I like it when famous actors become someone else. However in the case of Cotillard's Edith Piaf, it was quite the opposite because I had no idea who she was and was shocked to see how different (and utterly gorgeous) she was in real life. This just goes to show her total immersion into this character in all the stages of her adult life. 
Favourite scene- Singing on the stage of the music hall for the first time.

Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher

One of the most powerful and silent performances that I have ever seen. This film's soul lies in the face of Huppert, which just tells everything without really changing. Because Erika Kahut is not a woman who speaks loudly of her desires.
Favourite scene- When Walter plays Schubert in his auditions and the camera focuses on her face and we just know that by the end of the piece, she is a woman in love.

Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional

Possibly my favourite performance by a child actor. Portman's Mathilda is a troubled child and that's what leads her to form a very strong and unconventional bond with an assassin. She is like a grown-up trapped in a child's body- so worldly and bold.
Favourite scene- Mathilda impersonates many famous personalities for Leon.

Nicole Kidman in To Die For

It is a gargantuan task to get a role like Suzanne Stone and not make a complete caricature of it. Kidman makes someone as beautifully ugly as Stone real. She is hilarious and repulsive at the same time. It's awesome.
Favourite scene- Every time Suzanne talks to her "audience".

Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There

Unlike Cotillard, I was very much aware of who Cate Blanchett and Bob Dylan were, and it seemed ridiculous that a stunner like Blanchett could ever play a man. However once Jude Quinn makes his appearance, all such thoughts disappear, just how Blanchett disappears into this version of Dylan, arguably his most well-recognised. The mannerisms, the way she talks and sings- it is all freaking fantastic!
Favourite scene- Mr. Jones interviews Jude.

Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves

This wasn't even supposed to be her role, but once Watson comes onscreen as Beth, you can't even fathom anyone else in her place. You almost start to feel that this is her in real- no one can be a character like Beth just like that. The balance between the childlike innocence mixed with all the incredibly courageous things that her character does is plain remarkable.
Favourite scene- Her last conversation with God, in the movie.

Juliette Binoche in Three Colours: Blue

I can only imagine the pain Binoche's character goes through when she loses all her family at one go. She becomes completely empty and emotionless, or atleast she tries to. But life has other plans. To see Binoche tackling such a conflicting reality is a joy indeed. She is magnificent in this.
Favourite scene- Discovering a nest of new-born mice in her wardrobe.

Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire

It is particularly tragic to think that someone like Leigh played Blanche DuBois, but then who else could have? Even Elia Kazan, in spite of all their differences, said that she had "the greatest determination to excel of any actress I've known. She'd have crawled over broken glass if she thought it would help her performance."
Favourite scene- "I have always depended upon the kindness of others."

And my favourite female performance is-
Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns

I kind of have a tendency to idealise crazy, bold, weird, awesome women in films and I think it all started when I first saw Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. After being shown as a loser in her office and by extension her whole life, Kyle's personality goes a drastic change after the first of her nine lives is taken by her boss. Then we see this outrageous, black leather-loving goddess of mayhem come out.
Pfeiffer's Catwoman is as sexy as she is forlorn. Out to take her revenge in the world of men, she falls for the greatest protector of them all. Even at her most deranged and dangerous, Pfeiffer manages to make Catwoman someone tragic and lost. I think of her more as an anti-hero than a villain because she is just trying to make right everything wrong done to her.
Favourite scene- The transformation of Selina Kyle into Catwoman. Break all the doll houses!


  1. Oh wow, great list. I agree with every single one. Especially Vivien Leigh! Plus, I love that Michelle Pfeiffer is your number one. I loved her in that film. Selina Kyle seems to be a great role!

    1. Thanks! Leigh is spectacular.
      Selina Kyle is definitely awesome.

  2. Great list! I really admire every actress and movie!

  3. We're on the same wavelength because I'm sure Michelle would be my number one if I made a similar list, although I would be torn between her Susie Diamond and Selina Kyle.

    Selina and her alter ego form one of Michelle’s darkest and complex characters, an amazing amalgam of anger, sadness, humour, sex appeal and raw physical power. Selina’s transformation from mousy secretary to furious feline is one of Pfeiffer’s finest hours. Michelle is Catwoman, hear her roar!

    P.S. Kudos for including Nicole Kidman, she's spellbinding in To Die For

    1. Good to know. She is definitely Catwoman- ROOAAARRR!!

      Kidman is spellbinding indeed.

  4. Great list! This is full of wonderful performances. And we both have Binoche, Watson, and Cotillard! :)

  5. With the exception of A Streetcar Named Desire which I haven't seen, I totally applaud this list. It's awesome. All of these performances are amazing.

  6. Another wonderful list. All powerful performances. Cate Blanchett could make an entire list by herself.

  7. Holy hell, I love this list. So cool that we picked some of the same performances. Pfeiffer as your number 1 is epic shit. Well done!

  8. This is another great list! LOVE your number 1 - that transformation should really be on my scene of the week feature, I really need to start screencaping that thing :) Love to see Huppert here too, it's such an incredible performance.

    1. Thanks. My number 1 is awesome, haha. Also get screencaping now!

  9. Nice list! Emily Watson is brilliant in Breaking the Waves. I'd add Charlize Theron for Monster. Unbelievable performance! Maybe Jodie Foster for Silence of the Lambs and The Accused too.

    1. Thank you!
      She is amazing, and Theron and Foster were in my shortlist.

  10. Harder to judge than the male list, as there are five of these that I haven't seen, but I agree with all the others. Kate Winslet is so much more than a period actress, although those are the movies in which I love her the most.
    Your favourite performance makes me want to watch the Batman series, the only one I've seen is The Dark Knight...

    1. Well, you should definitely try out the ones you haven't seen. Winslet is definitely much more than a period actress, but she does get recignised for them more.
      You should!!

  11. There are more performances here that I haven't seen, including your favourite, than I have but guessing from those I have, I am sure that they are all worth it because Binoche, Kate Winslet, Vivien Leigh and Huppert sure as hell are worth every bit of praise they get for their roles. I have been meaning to check La Vie En Rose for a long time, maybe this will push me for it. Great List !!

    1. Yes do check them out. I hope you like them :) Thanks!