Mark's Best Actress Challenge

…In relentless pursuit of all performances nominated and won!

Isabelle Adjani in “The Story of Adèle H.” (nomination, 1975)

If ever there were a stalker in the truest sense of the word, it may have been Adèle Hugo – the daughter of famed French writer and poet, Victor Hugo.  Or so this film, based upon Adèle’s private diaries, seems to suggest.  Beautiful Isabelle Adjani is perfectly cast in the title role, earning her first Oscar nomination in 1975.

The story begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Adèle has sailed from the Guernsey Islands (where her father and mother are currently in exile) in pursuit of an unrequited love.  She has been romanced by a British lieutenant, Lieutenant Pinson (Bruce Robinson), who eventually scorned her affections and went off to duty in North America (during the American Civil War).  Oblivious to his disinterest, Adèle doggedly follows him and while taking up residence in Halifax, takes on the assumed name of Adèle Lewly.  As she inquires into the lieutenant’s whereabouts among the town’s citizens, she spins differing tales about her connection to him, never once admitting she was his lover.  She also confesses to a sad melancholy and suffers frequent nightmares over the drowning death of her older sister, Leopoldine.  When Pinson continues to scorn her passionate advances, Adèle takes drastic measures to destroy his life – including visiting the father of his fiance and telling him she is married to Pinson and carrying his child.  When Pinson and the British troops are transferred to Barbados, a bedraggled Adèle – sure enough – follows behind, and quite literally loses her wits and goes mad in the streets.  When Pinson tries to make a final confrontation with her, she simply passes him by, a glazed look upon her face.  A native woman finally accompanies Adèle home to her father, where she lives out the rest of her days, first in a mental institution and later on her own.

Adèle Hugo’s tale of blind obsession provides an intriguing premise for a movie, and yet by the end of it, her crazed pursuit of a man so obviously not interested in her grows a tad bit tiresome.  Still, the film is wonderful to watch, guided by the expert hand of esteemed director François Truffaut.  The costumes and settings are perfect, and Isabelle Adjani was clearly born to play Adèle.  Her beauty and polish in the role make us pity, at moments, Adele’s futility. There isn’t a moment in the film where she isn’t believable.

It wasn’t often that Hollywood bestowed an Academy Award nomination on an actress in a foreign film (much less awarding the actress, as they had done with Sophia Loren in 1961’s Two Women), so it was quite a feat for Adjani to gain this much deserved recognition.  Louise Fletcher won the Oscar in 1975 for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but Adjani would go on to score yet another nomination in 1989’s Camille Claudel.

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This entry was posted on June 1, 2010 by .
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