5 Essential Nastassja Kinski Films
One of the Locarno Festival’s guests of honor in 2017 is German actress Nastassja Kinski, daughter of controversial star Klaus Kinski and a valued presence in films directed by Roman Polanski, Wim Wenders, David Lynch and Neil LaBute, among others. She will introduce a screening of Cat People, the 1982 remake of Jacques Tourneur’s eponymous masterpiece, which is playing in the retrospective. Alongside that cult classic, here are a few other unmissable titles on her résumé.Max Borg
Così come sei (1978)
Known as Stay as You Are in English, this Italian-Spanish co-production is an erotic drama directed by Alberto Lattuada, in which Kinski (then aged 17) stars alongside Marcello Mastroianni. Perfectly capable of holding her own next to the Italian legend, the young actress displays a healthy combination of charm, energy and raw talent, giving the central romance a beating heart that remains intact even as the script explores less appealing pathways. Kinski may have dismissed the film since, on account of the controversy generated by her on-screen nudity, but it remains a powerful demonstration of her acting skills.
Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a feature-length love letter to his late wife Sharon Tate (she suggested that he make the book into a film), and the female-dominated mood is ideally represented by Kinski’s grounded yet unearthly performance, complete with a believable English accent (she had to be coached in order to lose her native German tones). Doomed from the start, her Tess remains determined in the face of adversities, giving even the gloomy ending an odd sense of beauty.
Cat People (1982)
Having acquired a reputation as a “sex kitten”, Kinski went one step further by literally playing one in Paul Schrader’s perversely erotic reimagining of Tourneur’s classic. Starring alongside Malcolm McDowell and the late John Heard, the actress is at the center of a sensual, nightmarish universe where man’s most primitive instincts take on an unusual form, as highlighted in the eerie dream sequences and the shocking epilogue. The theme song, masterfully performed by David Bowie, is also featured in the opening credits of this year’s Piazza Grande entry Atomic Blonde.
Paris, Texas (1984)
Wim Wenders’ hauntingly beautiful tribute to America centers largely on Harry Dean Stanton’s sterling performance, but Kinski is an integral part of the road movie’s emotional core as the elusive Jane, whose presence/absence drives the entire narrative. When she eventually does appear, the film’s melancholy element reaches its logical, deserved climax, setting the stage for a beautifully handled parting sequence.
Your Friends & Neighbors (1998)
Having shocked audiences with his earlier film In the Company of Men, playwright-turned-director Neil LaBute continues his exploration of terrible human behavior (with a particular, controversial focus on misogyny). While much of the audience’s attention is grabbed by the antics of the male cast (Ben Stiller, Aaron Eckhart, Jason Patric), the women show that they can be just as bad, with Kinski’s minor but mesmerizing turn as art gallery worker Cheri serving as the most delicious slice of dramatic irony in LaBute’s provocative “immorality tale”.