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France's talented Bonnaire in her best dramatic roles


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France's A Nos Amours from 1983 gets two-disc Criterion treatment ($40) today,

befitting its power as a portrait of reckless adolescence and the debut showcase for lead actress Sandrine Bonnaire. She has been nominated for France's Cesar seven times and has won twice. For three more of her greatest movies, try:

La Ceremonie

1995; 1996 in the USA,

Home Vision, unrated, $30

A mysterious housekeeper (Bonnaire) is hired by an upper-class couple who are loathed by a local postal worker (Isabelle Huppert). Both young women have shady pasts and quickly hit it off, a situation that can in no way benefit the live-in servant's employers (Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel). A lot of wild accusations are thrown around, and director Claude Chabrol keeps us guessing about whether Huppert is a nut case, the family is deep-down odious or both. All four actors received Cesar nominations, and Huppert won.

Intimate Strangers

2004, Paramount, R, $15

At least back to 1989's not-on-DVD Monsieur Hire (also starring Bonnaire), director Patrice Leconte (later of Ridicule and The Girl on the Bridge) has never bombed out. Some of his films are better than others, and this was his best in years, starting with a story hook that's hard to beat. Bonnaire plays a troubled woman who takes a wrong turn in an office building, then begins baring her soul to a man (Fabrice Luchini) she assumes to be a therapist, and he instantly is compelled to listen to her. The movie has a terrific wrap-up.

Vagabond

1985; 1986 in the USA,

Criterion, unrated, $30

Amours launched Bonnaire's career with a Cesar win, and two years later, when she was just 18, she received another one. You know right off that director Agnes Varda's character study of an impenetrable character will be grim. The filthy corpse of a teen in jeans lies in a frozen farmland ditch. Her history initially is a mystery and eventually is unearthed to indicate this was no pre-ordained fate. Cold, brittle and told in semi-documentary form, it's a movie of cumulative power. It was an award winner in many countries, including the USA.

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© Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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