Actors I discovered in the 2007/2008 season

June 3, 2008 at 12:34 am

Every new season at the movies brings encounters with actors whom I come across for a first time and who impress me such to an extent that I am interested in seeking out other films where they appear in (and wishing them successful high profile careers). Thinking of this past season, there were probably four actors that I felt I wanted to see more of. What they have in common, I realize, is the intensity of facial features, a quality that cannot be registered in a photograph but only appears when they talk or smile. Yes, they are all very good looking. Their real charisma, however, only comes about in the context of the moving image — in the way they would lift an eyebrow or smack their lips.

First of all, there was the Indian actor and film director Charu Roy (1890-1971), whom I discovered in the role of Prince Ranjit while watching Franz Osten’s German-Indian silent fairy tale A Throw of Dice/ Prapancha Pash (1929), recently restored and released in a brilliant DVD transfer by the BFI, with a specially commissioned new musical score by Nitin Sawhney. Having started his career as an actor in the 1920s, later on Roy directed a dozen of films in the 1930s. The fact that the actor was long dead at the time I was first watching him certainly gave me a strange feeling. Yet I could not help admiring his good looks and persuasive presence.

Then there was the young French actress Hafsia Herzi, born in 1987 of Algerian-Tunesian parentage in the South of France, a girl of sexual appeal that Asia Argento can only dream for. For her role as the decisive teenager Rym who knows how to capitalize on her sexuality in Abdellatif Kechiche’s La Graine et le mulet (2007), she received several awards, among which are a Cesar for best newcomer, and the Marcello Mastroianni award at the Venice IFF. She is now in the lead role in Francaise, a film by Souad El-Bouhati, just released and not yet even listed on the IMDb. Definitely, she has already been noticed, at least in Europe. I hope she gets a good choice of further offers; she could have a great acting career ahead, but I fear that in France she may end up being typecast and confined to roles within the ‘beur’ genre of migrant cinema, which is an appreciated line of work but still gets a very limited exposure.

Japanese Takuya Kimura (a.k.a. 木村 拓哉 and Kimutaku), born 1972, is already an established star with a huge fan following. A blog on Asian culture described this androginous heartthrob (and father of two) as ‘arguably the most popular and influential Japanese artist, both in Japan and Asia for the past 10-12 years.’ This is probably a correct statement. I first saw Kimutaku in the film Hero (2007), a sequel to a hugely popular TV series, which was not distributed in the West but became a tremendous blockbuster all over Asia. Like many other Asian stars, Kimutaku is also a pop idol (member of the group SMAP), and one can see him on television in Japan on a weekly basis. While visiting Tokyo his presence was unavoidable: his face is all over the city, on giant billboards promoting cell phones and cosmetics. In fashion district Haradjuku outfits were being advertised with pictures of Kumitaku wearing the same clothes. Having taken over Asia by storm, it would not be long before Kimutaku becomes a household name for Western teenagers as well, I believe. For now, in the West he can only be seen in the role of the Japanese boyfriend in Wong Kar Wai’s 2046(2004).

And last but not least, the young Kazakh actress Ayanat Ksenbai (a.k.a. Ayana Yesmagambetova), who was in Volker Schlöndorff’s Ulzhan (2007) and in the Kazakh epic Nomad (2005). A natural beauty, the two international features that she appeared in have not scored very high marks, yet they have already given her an international exposure that she needs to be noticed and invited for further roles.

© Dina Iordanova
3 June 2008