Saturday, January 28, 2017

R.I.P. Emmanuelle Riva (1927-2017)

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
On January 27, 2017, actress Emmanuelle Riva died at the age of 89 in Paris, France from cancer. The French actress had a lengthy career full of great performances. She is most likely going to be remembered for her role in director Michel Haneke's Amour, in which she played a dying woman opposite Jean-Louis Trintignant. Her career featured several astounding performances that played to her strengths and helped solidify her as a unique talent. She leaves behind an impressive body of work the likes of which cannot be matched. 

Riva was born Paulette Germain Riva on February 24, 1927 in Chenimenil, France. She performed in plays at her local theater when she was young. Like her mother before her, she worked as a seamstress during this time. It was a newspaper article that convinced her to move to Paris for acting school, of which her parents objected to. At 27 she made her debut on stage in a production of George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man. Three years later she made her TV acting debut in Enigmes de l'histoire. At 32, she starred in Hiroshima mon amour as a woman who fell in love with a Japanese architect in Hiroshima; for which she received a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Actress.

Along with a continuing career in theater, she starred in several films including work with Jean-Pierre Melville, Julie Delpy, and Krzsztof Kieslowski. In 2012, she starred in the critically acclaimed film Amour, for which she won a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She went on to make Oscar history with her Best Actress nomination. At the age of 85, she became the oldest person nominated in the category; and the second oldest actress nominated behind Gloria Stuart, who received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Titanic. She attended the ceremony, which happened to fall on her 86th birthday. She would inevitably lose to Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook).

Riva lived a private life without a husband or family. Her partner died in 1999. She lived in a fourth-floor walk up apartment for over 50 years. Even with little known about her, she still left behind an impressive body of work that leaves an awe-inspiring set of films that explored the value of life through several charismatic performances. It is reassuring to know that even in old age she continued to impress with powerful performances that shook audiences and made them feel deeper inexplicable emotions. Even then, her work as a whole will continue to live on as an inspiration for generations to come.

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