As its title professes, the star-studded comedy "All About Actresses" is indeed just that, offering a premise that may prove fascinating for some and absolutely irritating for others.

As its title professes, the star-studded comedy “All About Actresses” is indeed just that, offering a premise that may prove fascinating for some and absolutely irritating for others. Thankfully, mono-monikered filmer Maiwenn gives us more than glossy headshots and self-congratulatory monologues. Her faux-docu approach provides a warts-and-all, or rather, Botox-and-all view of a coterie of mainly French actresses struggling with both a relentless industry and their own colossal egos. The results are witty, surprising, and occasionally unnerving. Following midsized Gaul release, foreign distribs should look to cast these “Actresses” for overseas Francophile auds.

Writer-director Maiwenn (whose 2005 debut, “Forgive Me” was a sleeper hit) is no stranger herself to the trials and travails of stardom. Born Maiwenn Le Besco — sister of actress-helmer Isild Le Besco (“A tout de suite”) — she had a child with director Luc Besson when she was 17, and continued on to a spotty career in film acting before launching a series of autobiographical one-woman shows that garnered her critical praise and cultish renown.

It’s precisely this stripped-down, self-confessional approach she brings to “All About Actresses,” giving it the roughness and immediacy of a Polaroid taken between two camera setups. Such deftness is spiffed up by a series of kitschy, musical comedy sequences in which the actresses sing about their own ridiculous lifestyles.

Proposing a fake “making of” scenario about the director (Maiwenn) trying to shoot a docu about her actress friends, the story focuses on her different sessions with stars like Charlotte Rampling (depicted as a hermetic bookworm), Julie Depardieu (a hysteric who farms chickens in her Parisian courtyard) or Jeanne Balibar (a pill-popping drama queen who attacks a director with a boom mic), as well as on the director’s troubled home life with rapper Joeystarr (in his best screen turn yet).

Although the routine becomes a little repetitive, and the pic’s third section forces a bunch of unnecessary plot points to be worked out, Maiwenn’s real/fake glimpses of actresses fighting for both their own supposed integrity and the latest leading role is captivating in its rawness.

The early sequences, involving an attempt by Karin Viard (“Hell”) to break into Hollywood with an atrocious accent, and plastic surgery mishaps by Marina Fois (“A Simple Heart”) are the best example of Maiwenn’s double-edged vision of hilarity and despair.

Tech package, beyond the glossy musicvid sequences, is down and dirty in the Dogma 95 tradition. Songs, all performed by the thesps themselves (to varying degrees of success), include compositions by French singers Benjamin Biolay and Marc Lavoine.

All About Actresses

France

Production

An SND Groupe M6 release of a Les Films du Kiosque, SND Groupe M6, France 2 Cinema production, with participation of Canal Plus, Sofica Uni Etoile 5, Banque Populaire Images 8, Fonds d'Action Sacem. (International sales: SND Groupe M6, Paris.) Produced by Francois Kraus, Denis Pineau-Valencienne. Directed, written by Maiwenn.

Crew

Camera (color), Pierre Aim, Claire Mathon; editor, Laure Gardette; music, Gabriel Yared; production designer, Nicolas de Boiscuille; costume designer, Marite Coutard; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Pierre-Yves Lavoue, Rym Debbarh-Mounir, Sandy Notarianni, Emmanuel Croset, assistant director, Frederic Gerard; casting, Nicolas Ronchi. Reviewed at UGC Opera 2, Paris, Feb. 2, 2009. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Jeanne Balibar, Romane Bohringer, Julie Depardieu, Melanie Doutey, Marina Fois, Estelle Lefebure, Maiwenn, Linh-Dan Pham, Charlotte Rampling, Muriel Robin, Karole Roche, Karin Viard, Joeystarr, Nicolas Briancon, Jacques Weber, Pascal Greggory, Yven Attal.
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