Eva Green

The new millennial sexpot

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Photo: Eva Green as Artemisia in “300: Rise of an Empire”

Eva Green was born to play a femme fatale, and not the noirish temptresses from the old black and white movies. She needs to have a moment when she can burst onto the scene in living color and in full-frontal glory, which she has proven quite willing to do. But Green – as an actress and not some pop princess making the transition from television to promoting her singing debut – has found a way to rise above the sexual fray, by using the power of sexuality and her own lack of discomfort with striding naked before the cameras as a tool in her kit. Her feature film debut came in 2003, in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” which was smacked with an NC-17 rating, long assumed to be a kiss of death at the box office because such films had a difficult time securing promotional space in newspapers.

Green’s Isabelle and her brother Theo (Louis Garrel) seize upon an American named Matthew (Michael Pitt) studying in Paris and form a complicated romantic triangle against the backdrop of the 1968 student riots. Pitt was an up-and-comer, but Green held us all in thrall. She was like an old school vampire, wise beyond her years and already in full command of her considerably dark charms. Since then, discerning audiences may remember her in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” and as Vesper Lynd in the Bond reboot “Casino Royale” that introduced us to Daniel Craig as the new 007. In these roles, sex has been a facet of the characters, but Green’s not playing demure or posing as a girl dressing up in grown-up clothes. Despite her relative youth, you never sense she’s the little girl lost among the big bad men of the world. In fact, the men better watch out, because she’s more than willing to tease and tease and take them out when they least expect it.

In interviews, promoting projects over the years, she has expressed concern for being typecast as a femme fatale, mentioning roles she turned down (notably in the 2006 film “The Black Dahlia,” which eventually went to Hilary Swank), but 2014 finds her slashing her way through anyone who wanders into her path. Hopes were not as high for a second installment of “300,” a film that earned its box office take on the hard-bodied backs and chests and sinewy appendages of its stars, none moreso than Gerard Butler, whose small and loyal army of Spartans ends up dying, but not before bringing a far more than equal number of their foes to the gates of hell along with them.

“300: Rise of an Empire” is supposed to focus on the marauding Persian army of the mortal-turned-godhead Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), cutting a swath through the Greeks standing in his way, but the show truly belongs to Artemisia (Green), as the commander of the Persian navy. Green plays Artemisia like a cross between an Amazon and a hellcat. She is the ultimate warrior, and brings that same aggression to the bedroom when it is time to satisfy her sexual needs. There’s nothing sensual about Artemisia.

And this past weekend, we earned another opportunity to see Green vamp it up. In “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” she plays Ava, a fatale from the word go, not only because this is Frank Miller’s graphic serialization of pulpy noir, but thanks to Green living and breathing in this type of character – sex doesn’t merely sell in Sin City, it kills. The sad reality is neither film comes close to achieving the degree of critical respect or box office receipts that would demand further installments, which means we will simply have to wait for one of the contemporary masters to find themselves caught in her rapturous spell.

The question may be: Can that happen today? Can her brand of blatant sexuality sell?

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at terrencetodd.wordpress.com.

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Reach DCP Film Critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at TerrenceTodd.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @ttsternenzi.

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