It’s not Jacqueline Bisset. That’s the first thing you need to know. It seems to be; it’s tempting to think it is, but no. Even though we see Ms. Bisset at her most vulnerable and fierce, the new movie starring this enduring lady of the cinema is neither autobiographical nor a documentary. She’s playing a role. Her character is a ‘mature’ film actress named Rose Nelson. Auteur-director Russell Brown lovingly shoots Bisset at startlingly close range in his emotionally stirring two-character film, Loren and Rose. Sure to be a cult favorite, it’s playing, just this week, at the Laemmle Royal Theater in Santa Monica.
It starts with a meal, a “pitch” luncheon in which an independent film director with a project first meets his prospective leading actress. It’s a ritual of mutual seduction that is a common occurrence in Los Angeles. In the case of Loren and Rose, the aspiring director, played by Kelly Blatz (a Keanu Reeves lookalike with a Prince Valiant haircut) has a single short film to his credit. Rose, by contrast, has a yard-long IMDB page of movie titles … big movies, small ones, movies seen and admired, movies unseen or forgotten, movies she’d rather forget.
Over several repasts in a gourmet restaurant in the hippie environs of Topanga Canyon, Loren and Rose embark on a verbal (and emotional) pas de deux that stretches for years. A protracted negotiation spawns one successful film (we learn from Mr. Brown’s quality-crafted screenplay), and, importantly, a friendship. Rose, the veteran, pushes back gently, then obstinately, on her asks and observations. Loren, the newbie, wrestles before our eyes: Should he believe her stories? listen to her?, he seems to wonder. Fend her off? Is she a savant? Is she truly wise? By the end of this tender and touching film, the latter is born out. A relationship blossoms like a rose … and the audience is rewarded along the cinematic journey.
I so enjoyed seeing Ms. Bisset, always a stunning, beautiful woman, at her most incandescent in this courageous performance.
Loren and Rose | Laemmle Royal Theater | thru Oct 20
Dance critic Debra Levine is founder/editor/publisher of arts●meme.