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Actresses Review

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A drama student uncovers the truth about about a long-standing feud.

★★★★★

In over 70 years of cinema, the knotty problem of how to open out a play has yet to be solved satisfactorily. Plays have speeches rather than dialogue and no amount of cross-cutting or location ingenuity is going to free up the action. So a choice has to be made - spectacle or performance. For his adaptation of Benet i Jornet's play (Actrices), the Catalan director has opted for the latter. Yet while his unobtrusive observation suits the theatricality of the piece, it also keeps it stubbornly stagebound.

Determined to land the lead in a play about a legendary diva, a drama student (Pons) seeks out her pupils to gain an insight into her character. One of them, Gloria Marc (Espert), has followed in the diva's footsteps; but another, Assumpta Roca (Sarda), has settled for sitcom; while Maria Caminal (Lizaran) prefers the anonymity of a dubbing studio. As she speaks to each in turn, a very different story emerges about their ambitions and abilities and the fate of Ana, the friend who won the cherished part in a production of Iphigenia that was to change all their lives.

A kind of Rashomon meets All About Eve, this earnest picture is not without interest. More than anything, the movie resembles an American TV movie, thanks to its over-dependence on big close-ups, while the casting plays like an in-joke with the roles of Grand Dame Actress, Glorious Comedienne and Mousey Character Actress crying out for, say, Elizabeth Taylor, Carol Burnett and Julie Harris. But while the slow seeping of truths is admirably played, the occasional flashback might have made things more cinematic without distracting from the language or the performance.

Nicely-played, but scuppered by its over-literal adaptation.

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