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The Kristin Factor

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Mark Kermode | 10:30 UK time, Tuesday, 2 August 2011

There's a new movie out this week called Sarah's Key starring Kristin Scott Thomas. She once again delivers a fine performance and confirms my feeling that she is one of the very best actors working today.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Hey doc, great hear to you saying something positive about a film don't stop here, i'll try and track down 'Sarah's key' in a cinema.Kristin Scott Thomas is an actress who understands that film is about the small subtle gestures rather than the big expreessions.

  • Comment number 2.

    Come on Mark, where's this Big Lebowski review?

  • Comment number 3.

    She inexplicably appeared in the Bruckheimer-produced CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC back in 2009, a film I only remember for how stunningly generic it was.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is the same Kristin Scott Thomas who was in Mission Impossible are you telling us that you enjoyed that film?

  • Comment number 5.

    Definitely an underated actor and to me the best one in the English Patient. Perhaps she could have been big in Hollywood following that films huge success and Four Weddings.

  • Comment number 6.

    Off-topic: Is it possible to have the webcam footage when listening to the Friday show on catch-up? Watching Mr Flappy Hands enhances the whole experience.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    I feel the same way about Gary Oldman - the best screen actor ever (De Niro and Brando can take a jump).

    He never let's you down ever. He's always the most interesting character on screen (remember how he effortlessly stole the show away from Sir Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta from behind a latex face in Hannibal?) With all respect to Ridley Scott - Oldman is only thing worthwhile in that movie.

    This is the thing about bankability - certain actors will always deliver and this gives a film an automatic legitimacy.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's a month now since 'Transformers 3 And The Truth About Blockbusters', Doc. Just saying...

  • Comment number 10.

    4 words... Under The Cherry Moon

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree she is a great actor with such a wide range, often overlooked. Just heard she's signed up for the Hangover part 3, or was it sex in the city 3, transformers 4?? Maybe not. I'd agree with the previous commentator that Gary Oldman is always brilliant with whatever he is given to do. Samantha Morton, Daniel Day Lewis and Philips Seymour Hoffman are a few of the others that you can take a blind bet on.
    Enjoy your holidays, looking forward to your appearance at Edinburgh Book festival. Cheers. Pete.

  • Comment number 12.

    Classy lady. She's never had an 'off day' in any of her films (even those that didn't quite hit the target). My obligatory "I loved her in" would have to be "Gosford Park" where she appeared with a number of other great actors/actresses like Kelly Macdonald, to whom I'm betting Dr. K could do a similar post for.*

    * Was that last line grammatically correct, Dr. K?

  • Comment number 13.

    I was lucky enough to see this film in February on a long-haul flight with a French airline. It was called 'Elle s'appelait Sarah' (Her Name Was Sarah). I came across it by accident - scrolling through the unappealing blockbusters and action movies, this film stood out as something different. It is a compelling and unsettling film. I agree that Kristin Scott Thomas's performance is excellent, but so is that of the young actress, Mélusine Mayance, who plays the title role. I subsequently tracked down the book on which the film it based - 'Sarah's Key' by Tatiana de Rosnay - and found it to be similarly compelling. I agree that there is a strangeness about how elements of the film's narrative are constructed, but I think this enhances the visceral urgency mixed with loss, which underpins the film as a whole. Definitely worth seeing.

  • Comment number 14.

    Whenever I hear Dr.K. talking so enthusiasticly about an actor, actress or director, I wonder how honest he can be about reviewing a film by that person... I meen, he sais he went into that movie knowing, that her performance will be gripping... but if you "know" something like that befor you have even seen the movie, I think it's very hard to stay objectiv (not about the movie itsself, but also about the performance of that perticular person in it).

    Of course, when he reviewed the new "Sherlock Holmes" by Guy Ritchie, he proofed, that he can stay objectiv to a movie even though he doesn't like the person involved in it.
    But does it also work the other way around?

  • Comment number 15.

    I always like Kristin Scott Thomas right from a 90's TV series Body and Soul which played a nun turned business woman. I also like in Polanski underrated film Bitter Moon.

  • Comment number 16.

    Mark, I don't know if you've seen her in the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's A Handful Of Dust... but there is a remarkable scene with her... that is one of the best pieces of acting I think I've ever seen committed to film.

  • Comment number 17.

    You didnt mention `Keeping Mum` !!! GO MANX!!
    Incidently my neighbour Liz`s hands doubled for Kristin Scott Thomas in that movie. You see i have movie trivia that non of you are party to !!

  • Comment number 18.

    I too have been an admirer of Kristin Scott Thomas for many years. She is a true natural beauty, like Catherine Deneuve. Any role she undertakes is always superb and she brings a sense of class and believeability to it. I will definitely see Sarah's Key when it comes to Oz.

    My favuorite roles that she has done, so far are:

    Richard III - with Sir Ian McKellan
    Life as a House - with Kevin Kline and the witty
    Easy Virtue - with Colin Firth.

    An actress with style, class and most of all, substance. As the good Dr says, you know the movie is going to be good, just because she is in it!

  • Comment number 19.

    I only really remember seeing her in "Bitter moon". I actually remember thinking I thought she was really good. Reminds me of what Terry Gilliam said about the way in which Madeleine Stowe acts, in that you "can't tell she's acting". She's good.

  • Comment number 20.

    Funny, I generally avoid anything she's in like the plague. I got my fill of her in The Horse Whisperer. Just because she spends most of her time doing edgy non-blockbuster fare doesn't mean that she does anything edgy in them. She's always just Kristin Scott Thomas looking at me lazily wondering why I'm not as intrigued by her half asleep gaze as I apparently ought to be.

  • Comment number 21.

    So much for not judging a film before you see it.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Dearest Alina, I sincerely apologise for the affect my recent single line comments have had on you; however Mark has been promising to re-view and re-review the Big Lebowski for approximately 12 years - most recently on this website: see post 10th June entitled "Building Bridges". Said viewing opportunity at the BFI occurred last month - so my recent comments (NB: post the BFI screening) appertain to whether Mark has finally re-viewed said film and an attempt to solicit his opinions. It may be a surprise to you, but I was assuming that there was unlikely to be a thread posted by Mark about his lack of comment on the subject; but, I thank you for making this thread an appropriate place to clarify my position on the subject. Whether my actions are a question of perseverance or perseveration is clearly open to debate, however as for your other aspersions... I’m surprised that you have the privilege to comment on this site.

  • Comment number 24.


    I feel the same whenever I hear Mark rant about Guillermo del Toro, Hertzog or Friedkin. I can't help thinking they could do a video diary of their bowel habits and Mark would probably call it a masterpiece. However when it comes to actors he likes - hello Jason Isaacs - I think he's far more honest.

    And btw...who is Kristin Scott Thomas? I've heard the name but cannot place the face.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hey I really don't feel Alina's comment was ill-intentioned. Just wanted to say that.

  • Comment number 26.

    This is the thing that always gets me about "screen acting" - the people who show up and churn it out always get overlooked because: "they're always good" but then a middle range actor looses or adds a load of weight or plays someone with a disability and everyone is supposed to be overly impressed by it and the awards get showered over them.

    I'd like to add that Gary Oldman has never been given an Oscar (further proof if any was needed that the Oscars are pointless).

  • Comment number 27.

    We are equally lucky that KST has found enough good roles, and that there are film-makers who have provided them. It's easy enough to take a pop at her for the paying-the-bills type roles, and with her great comic timing, she could have easily or lazily had a career in just the frosty-posh-bird type. In I've Loved You For So Long she plays a character that behaves very stoically in the face of hardship throughout much of the movie, but underpins it so well that you spend much of the time trying to work out how she has become this way, and when the cracks appear as her character grows, it is all the more devastating, a great performance. She's up there with Isabelle Hupert. Say what you like about the French, they're not afraid to make good films with great actresses, which probably won't attract scores of multiplex teenagers. That said, KST was equally great in Nowhere Boy.

  • Comment number 28.

    Scott Thomas is pretty underrated, and like most actors she has done roles that are both challanging and great for an actor and also by the number roles to pay the bills. The fact that she can not only speak, but act in a few other languages has helped her tremendously. She could've easily been shoed into roles that involved, as Brian pointed out, frosty-posh-bird type roles.

    Pretty amazing career for an actress who started out in a Prince vehicle.

  • Comment number 29.

    @ 23 elkoolio01. I hope that you get the review because I agree that it would interesting. But spamming probably isn't the best way to go about it. It's setting someone up for a "see you, Jimmy" showdown. If Mark finally posts the review then it looks like he's done it because he's been bullied by you. That makes him less inclined to post the review.

    Don't know whether this post will get through because it seems that the mods agree that I shouldn't have privilege to post on this site.

    Thanks, Shapphire77 for your comment.

  • Comment number 30.

    You're welcome, Alina.

  • Comment number 31.

    Totally agree with you, Dr. K, about Scott Thomas, surely one of the most underrated actresses currently working. I'm certainly going to try to get a hold of this film toot sweet, as our French cousins say. And, indeed, the cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But I digress...

    I wonder if you've yet had the opportunity to see the recent Mélanie Laurent/Jean Reno film, La Rafle, which deals with the very same subject matter as Sarah's Key? I'd be extremely interested, as ever, to hear your views on it and if you can shed any light as to whether we in the UK are likely to see it released here? Preferably in cinemas but I'd settle for DVD if needs must.

    Ade, Kilmarnock

  • Comment number 32.

    Whoa! Hold your horses! Since my previous post I've discovered that La Rafle became available on DVD last month. Finger on the pulse I have not.

  • Comment number 33.

    How has no-one mentioned The Horse Whisperer or Bitter Moon?

  • Comment number 34.

    Russianseatbambi66, sure Gary Oldman is a fantastic screen presence, but he has made films that are beyond terrible, none more so than Tiptoes, Red Riding Hood and Lost in Space. That's not to mention his nondescript, mediocre films like air force one, hannibal, book of eli etc. Brilliant actor, but certainly not bankable.

    I've always loved Kristin Scott Thomas but now more so than ever. For me, her French language films far surpass her English output, English Patient included.

  • Comment number 35.


    Bankable in the sense that people who want quality can go and see any movie he's in and not be completely let down.

    The films you mentioned were watchable for me because he was in them. I don't love every Daniel Day Lewis film: Gangs of New York and Nine were not great but I got through them because he held them up.

    Oldman is so much more than a screen presence - he's one of the only screen actors working today who actually understands how to transform into different people to play a role.

    I've never seen him rest on a 'signature style' of performance in the way De Niro, Nicholson and Pacino do regularly.

    This is because he always experiments with different roles and sadly sometimes he ends up being let down by his director but he never lets down his film.

    Philip S Hoffmann is another great example of this. He was let down in MI3 but he remained on top form throughout the movie.

  • Comment number 36.

    I just had to register as I felt so compelled to thank and compliment you on this - Kristin Scott Thomas is one of the few true great film stars; she is utterly brilliant, and on several occasions has managed to hold films together that, without her, would fail miserably. I would in fact put Leaving in this category - I think the plot is unrealistic to the point of ridiculous, and yet kristin's performance somehow brings a level of sensitivity and honesty to the film that would otherwise seem impossible. I am utterly in awe of her; many of my male friends tell me that I love her so much just because she is the 'only good female actress - and not even that good', that my respect for her comes from some misplaced feminism - how very far from the truth.


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