Mick LaSalle's 'Beauty of the Real'

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Great roles for women are hard to come by in Hollywood these days. That's bad news for actresses and film fans. But things are very different in France, according to San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle. His new book, "Beauty of the Real," celebrates what he calls a Golden Age for female talent in contemporary French film.

Interview Highlights

On the Lack of Opportunities for Actresses in Hollywood

"We have great actresses we just don't have great opportunities. Meryl Streep gets great opportunities, Kate Blanchett does, Kate Winslett does, but it's still more of a familiar phenomenon for women to either disappear at 40 or 45 or maybe in the course of their entire lives, make one good movie. Meg Ryan made In the Cut. She made a couple of other ones. She'll never make another movie like In the Cut again."


On the Mentality that Drives American Cinema

"If you look at the box office… charts up until like the 1970s, the movies that made the most money would also be really good movies. Not all of them, but a lot of them, most of them. And now, the movies that make a lot of money are pretty much garbage. And they’re all geared toward a young male, a young man’s mentality— it's very young; it’s not even a man, it’s like a boy’s mentality. And this is not boding well for women in cinema."


On What's Creating the Plethora of Female Talent in French Film

"It’s three things at once happening. You have an audience that wants to see women. You have women as directors and you have a pool of great stars and [those three things] all feed each other. 


Mick LaSalle, film critic and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and author of "The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn From Contemporary French Actresses"



On Films Showcasing an Entire Woman

"When we were making movies in the early 30s, you would see people like Barbara Stanwyck and Constance Bennett and they were the big actresses then. And technically, they would not necessarily be as beautiful as the women in Busby Berkeley’s chorus. And yet at the same time, they were more beautiful and they were objects of fascination, because they got to show their personalities and their personalities are what took a pretty woman and made her astoundingly beautiful. In France, because the cinema is interested in a woman’s personality and not as an adjunct to a man, the actresses that rise to the top are not necessarily the most cosmetically beautiful. They were the ones who are really the most beautiful when you put it all together, when you have a personality and a soul and a spirit and a look. And so when it’s a different thing and so they—the actresses who are now in France—are kind of like the Joan Crawfords, the Stanwycks, and the Katharine Hepburns."


On Parker Posey

"Parker Posey should be Katharine Hepburn now, but instead, she is like a fringe actress, and the reason why is because she is such a star that you can’t have her play a girlfriend, because you would think that the movie is about the girlfriend. So she has to be in independent films or has to be playing fringe characters. Our American cinema right now does not cater to that kind of incredible beauty. I mean, Parker Posey is an incredibly beautiful woman and interesting, but instead it’ll be like Cameron Diaz who is actually boring."


On Kristen Scott Thomas

"I actually have no interest in Kristin Scott Thomas (To-MAS, English pronunciation), but Kristin Scott Thomas (To-MAH, French pronunciation) is a fantastic actress. I mean, Kristin Scott Thomas (To-MAH) makes one good movie after another and Kristin Scott Thomas (To-MAS) is playing, you know, Jessica Biel’s mother-in-law."


In Response to a Facebook Comment About Julie Delpy

"Julie Delpy is an American actress and a French extraction. I think 2 Days in New York is great. I think 2 Days in New York is hysterical. It’s not a French movie, it’s in English but it’s about her French relatives and her direction of that film is brilliant because it’s like a three-ring circus and she keeps everything clear. She’s really developing. She may turn out to be a terrific comic director. That's a funny movie; one of the funniest of the year."


In Response to a Tweet Suggesting  Zooey Deschanel is Under-Utilized

"Yes, I was thinking about her when I was talking about Parker Posey. She would be somebody who would be a natural star 70 years ago, like a big star, because there’s nobody like her and she would get to expand and be different."