January 28, 2017
Emmanuelle Riva passed away today at age 89. When I discovered her work a couple years ago she quickly became one of my favorite actresses. There are certain people who seem to have an uncanny depth of emotion that they can tap into for roles, something innate that comes gushing out whenever the camera starts rolling, and Riva was one of them. It seemed like she enjoyed her job more than anything else in the world. I just love when you can tell from someone's films that they live to act -- that playing a part is more important than being a star. And I love when that acting seems effortless, like the lines are thought and not memorized, when their eyes are so fully possessed by the emotions of their character that it's easy to forget that acting is even happening; it seems like you are just watching life.
The world lost a beautiful, kind, intelligent, talented soul today, but I hope that the recognition she's receiving right now will hopefully expose more people to her work. If you're looking for more films of hers to watch, I highly recommend Thérèse Desqueyroux, Kapo, Léon Morin, Priest, and Adua and Her Friends. I also really enjoyed Risky Business and The Hours of Love, but they're a little harder to track down.
Riva is perhaps best known for Hiroshima mon amour, Alain Resnais' film about a French actress who strikes up a short romance with a man while shooting on location in Hiroshima, Japan. She took a series of photos during filming which formed the basis of a photography book released in 2008, titled Tu n'as rien vu à Hiroshima.
Although Riva claims in the book that she isn't a real photographer, her snapshots capturing daily life in postwar Hiroshima are beautiful, poignant, and playful. She said that she took more photos of children because they were attracted by someone taking photos, "I never went to them to have them pose, I only photographed what was. I didn't arrange it. I'm not a photographer, it would hurt me to arrange something. I took what I saw, and I liked it very much."
Here are some of my favorite photos from her collection:
Photos scanned by me. Quotes were translated by me from original French.