Soko: International Star You Should Know

French singer-songwriter-actress enjoys a challenge, and she doesn’t really care about fame


Soko received a Gallic Cesar nomination for female newcomer for Xavier Giannoli’s “In the Beginning” (2009), and played the younger version of the Beatrice Dalle character in helmer Virginie Despentes’ “Bye Bye Blondie” (2011), in which she described her role as “a punk lesbian who spent time in a mental institute.”


Born in Bordeaux, France, but based in Los Angeles, the raven-haired talent has generated buzz for her title role in “Augustine,” based on a real-life maid treated as a hysteric by 19th Century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. The film premiered at Cannes in 2012 and opened Stateside May 17. A.O. Scott of the New York Times called the film “intellectually satisfying” and described Soko as “grave and luminous as a silent film star.”


Soko, born Stephanie Sokolinski, describes herself as a musician first and an actress second. Her debut album, “I Thought I Was an Alien” (Community Music, 2013), on which she plays many of the instruments, has generated acclaim in France and is being released in the U.S. on June 11. It’s the kind of fragile-yet-forthright, highly personal statement one might associate with Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) but with a dash of Bjork’s eccentricities. She’s been working on the followup, “My Dreams Dictate My Reality,” since November.


For a rising film star, the 27-year-old is remarkably blase about her career prospects, or keeping the fame flame alive. When she trekked to the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina, she didn’t stick around to accept the actress award for “Augustine,” but hightailed it to Buenos Aires where she headlined an impromptu gig with members of Pulp as her backing band. “I don’t have that thing where I need to be out there for people to remember me; or to consider every offer to make sure I make money,” she says. “So unless it’s something super-challenging and vital, I’m not interested.”


Although she leans toward music, Soko calls herself a movie junkie who hates violence and horror. “To me, ‘Black Swan’ was like a horror film; I couldn’t even watch it.” Her likes? Comedies, historical dramas, Robin Williams (who reminds her of her father, whom she lost at age 5) and the films of Todd Solondz and John Waters.


“Soko is an actress who likes to put herself in danger; jump without a net,” says “Augustine” director Alice Winocour. “She was on set with me like a fighter. She was very intuitive and I often used the first take. We created her character together.”

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