Cine File: Murder of an actress

Jewish actress/director Adrienne Shelly was at first thought to be a suicide.

hannah brown 88 (photo credit: )
hannah brown 88
(photo credit: )
The US indie film world is mourning the tragic death of actress Adrienne Shelly. Born Adrienne Levine in Queens, Shelly, 40, was found dead in her Manhattan office earlier this month. Although her death was initially believed to be a suicide, a man working in another apartment has confessed to killing her and admitted that he made it look as if she had killed herself. She leaves a husband Andrew Ostroy and a two-year-old daughter, Sophie. Shelly was best known for her starring roles in two early Hal Hartley movies, The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990). These offbeat looks at the dark side of life on Long Island made Hartley a player on the international movie scene, and their success owed a great deal to Shelly's performances. In addition to her waiflike beauty, she was a wonderful deadpan comedian and projected a charming vulnerability. In recent years, she did not work often enough - a situation she discussed candidly in the documentary Searching for Debra Winger, a 2002 film about Hollywood actresses over 30, directed by actress Roseanna Arquette. Unlike many of her colleagues in the same situation, she decided to take action, and began writing and directing her own films. She made two features, Sudden Manhattan (1997) and I'll Take You There (1999). She was in the process of editing a new film, Waitress, starring Keri Russell (Felicity) when she was killed. The random circumstances of her death were, sadly, just the kind of plot turn that Hartley often includes in his movies. Shelly will be missed, not least by the many directors who will now never have the opportunity to work with her, and the audiences who will never see her in a new role. If you've never seen Trust, it's worth renting. TWO FRENCH FILMMAKERS known for their light touch, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, will be visiting Israel this week for screenings of their latest film, the comedy Nos jours heureux, about a holiday camp for families. They'll be at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. They also made last year's hit, Je pr fere qu'on reste amis, starring Gerard Depardieu. THE JERUSALEM CINEMATHEQUE is also celebrating a local director known for mixing comedy and drama. In its location at the YMCA, where films are now shown on Friday nights and Saturdays (although during the week the Cinematheque's base of operations during its renovation remains Binyanei Ha'uma), a marathon of films by director Shemi Zarkhin will be held. Zarkhin is having great success this year with Aviva, My Love, which won Ophir Awards for its leading actress (Assi Levy), supporting actress (Rotem Abuhav), director and screenplay, and tied Sweet Mud for the Best Picture Award (although Aviva was eventually defeated in a runoff). Aviva, a slice-of-life story about a cook who dreams of becoming a writer, is the second film in the marathon, which opens at 10 p.m. with the 2003 feature Bonjour, Monsieur Shlomi, starring Oshri Cohen - a charming coming-of-age drama that, like Aviva, was popular with Israeli audiences. The last film is Passover, the story of a family that gathers for a Seder, starring Gila Almagor, Yosef Shiloach and Alon Abutbul. Nicole Kidman, the queen of ethereal, model-like actresses who make a career playing real people not known for their movie-star looks (decked out in a fake nose, she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours), is back in an even more improbable role as photographer Diane Arbus in the just-released movie Fur. Arbus was an important photographer from an American Jewish background, known for her pictures of freakish people. She committed suicide at a young age. Although Kidman got mostly good reviews for The Hours, her luck ended when the notices for Fur were published. Critics panned the movie and her performance. Writes Rex Reed in The New York Observer: "[Arbus] was such a complex symbol of disenfranchised '70s New York that reducing her to the role of a boring cipher is the film's biggest sin. Given the fact that she ultimately descended into a moral abyss without an exit and died in a bathtub of blood, you'd think the movie would capture some of her pain. But the director doesn't reveal one clue to her mental collapse. He even gives the movie a happy ending!... Nicole Kidman, in a mousy brown fright wig... is so miscast in the lead that you just have to assume she never bothered to read the script." What's next, Paris Hilton as Margaret Thatcher?