Marion Cotillard TM
Florence Lawrence is often cited as being the very first true film star. The Canadian-born actress rose to stardom in the early 1910s, when she was known as The Biograph Girl (for the studio that employed her). At that particular time, actors and actresses weren’t given name billing because producers feared they would demand higher pay if they were. But when Lawrence moved to Carl Laemmle’s company IMP, she did get marquee billing under her own name. This change, in combination with Laemmle’s adroit promotional ploys, marked the start of the Star System.
One of the marketing techniques Carl Laemmle used was the distribution of photographs of his star. Lawrence’s moniker at IMP was the Girl of a Thousand Faces, and her many facial expressions were exploited in a series of publicity shots (1). The pictures were labeled with the emotion the star was expressing, such as horror, mirth, determination, sadness, piety, concentration, hilarity and coquetry. This taxonomy effectively turned Florence Lawrence’s vivid facial expressions into trademark features of her stardom.
Is the same still true of actors and actresses today? Are their expressions used as a trademark of sorts in the advertising for the movies they make? Are facial features still instrumental in creating a star image?
One would think so, judging by the trailers for the films in which Marion Cotillard stars. The French performer’s striking expressions are often front and center in the teasers and trailers for her movies, much more so than her line deliveries. (It is noteworthy that Cotillard is often silent in these trailers: one would sometimes even doubt if she had a speaking part at all).
This short video essay for Fandor tries to trace the ways in which trailers for Cotillard’s films present and exploit her facial expressions (2). It uses a visual lay-out and strategy that is akin to what Laemmle did: Cotillard’s expressions were grouped and labeled. (There are a couple of changes however. The somewhat dated coquetry was replaced with the more modern and more explicit seduction. And we renamed mirth and hilarity to contentment and joy respectively because these seemed to fit Cotillard’s range better and, frankly, because Marion Cotillard is rarely hilarious in her movie trailers).
(1) Brown, Kelly R. Florence Lawrence, the Biograph Girl: America’s First Movie Star. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1999.
(2) All of the shots used in this video were taken from eleven of Cotillard’s feature movies, but they are all also featured in the trailers for the corresponding movies. In addition, there are a couple of shots that were taken from a commercial short (for Dior) that Cotillard starred in.
This video essay includes clips from:
The Dark Knight Rises [feature film] Dir. Christopher Nolan. Legendary Entertainment et al., USA, 2012. 164 mins.
De rouille et d’os [feature film] Dir. Jacques Audiard. Why not Productions et al., France, 2012. 120 mins.
Deux Jours, Une Nuit [feature film] Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Les Films du Fleuve et al., Belgium, 2014. 95 mins.
The Immigrant [feature film] Dir. James Gray. Worldview Entertainment et al., USA, 2013. 120 mins.
La môme [feature film] Dir. Olivier Dahan. Légende Films et al., France, 2007. 140 mins.
Public Enemies [feature film] Dir. Michael Mann. Forward Pass et al., USA, 2009. 140 mins.
Juste la fin du monde [feature film] Dir. Xavier Dolan. Sons of Manual et al., Canada, 2016. 97 mins.
Macbeth [feature film] Dir. Justin Kurzel. See-Saw Filmst et al., USA et al., 2015. 113 mins.
Midnight in Paris [feature film] Dir. Woody Allen. Mediapro et al., France et al., 2011. 94 mins.
Blood Ties [feature film] Dir. Guillaume Canet. Worldview Entertainment et al., France et al., 2013. 127 mins.
Inception [feature film] Dir. Christopher Nolan. Legendary Entertainment et al., USA, 2010. 148 mins.
Lady Grey London [short film] Dir. John Cameron Mitchell. UK, 2011. 6 mins.