The West

French actress Lea Seydoux is on a roll and her choices of late have been eclectic, to say the least. Last year she made an impact in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris before plunging out of a window of Dubai's tallest skyscraper as Tom Cruise's would-be assassin in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Two months later she starred in two French-language movies, Farewell, My Queen and Sister, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

Then she became so busy filming an adaptation of the graphic novel Blue, titled Blue Is A Hot Color - playing the older half in a lesbian romance - that she was forced to drop out of Michel Gondry's Mood Indigo, starring Audrey Tautou.

Soon she will film the French blockbuster Beauty and the Beast directed by Brotherhood of the Wolf's Christophe Gans and co-starring Vincent Cassel.

"I like to go beyond myself when I take on a role," the 27-year-old says. "It needs to come from the guts." Now both the Berlin Festival opener, Farewell, My Queen, and Sister, which won a Berlin Silver Bear award and is currently Switzerland's entry for this year's foreign language Academy Award, are set to screen as part of PIAF's LotteryWest Festival Films program.

In the former we see the final days leading up to the French Revolution through the eyes of Sidonie, a young servant who reads aloud to the Queen, Marie Antoinette, at the Palace of Versailles.

The film is based on a novel by Chantal Thomas and directed by Benoit Jacquot, who also threw in a lesbian love tryst between the Queen (Diane Kruger) and the Duchesse de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

Jacquot thought the tryst might have been possible, given women's strong relationships with each other in that period. Certainly it's far more risque than anything we've seen in Downton Abbey, even if the film shares the hit series' upstairs-downstairs sensibility.

Ultimately Sidonie is seduced by the opulence of her surroundings and it proves to be her undoing.

Seydoux, whose grandfather was chairman of France's giant Pathe film studio and great-uncle was CEO of rival Gaumont Studios, has been around and greatly admired by quite a few French film folk.

While she never met him, she says she was totally star-struck by Michael Jackson in her youth.

Farewell, My Queen, she says is about the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. In many ways the brooding Sidonie represents the oncoming modernity and one reviewer wrote how Seydoux suits the part as she has a modern face.

"I'm not sure about that," the actress demurs, blushing. "But I really loved shooting in all those beautiful castles that we have in France."

She maintains the lesbian affair between Marie Antoinette and the Duchesse de Polignac (usually known as the bad girlfriend responsible for leading the young Queen of France into a wild, decadent lifestyle) could have been true. "At that time Marie Antoinette had some erotic etchings made where you see her with the Duchesse de Polignac and they are in very sexual positions," she says.

So where was Louis XVI? "I heard he didn't have a very big sexuality. He wasn't very interested in sex."

Ursula Meier's Sister, set at a Swiss ski resort, is definitely a contemporary story. Seydoux plays Louise, a wayward young woman who regularly abandons her 12-year-old brother Simon to go off with handsome men. Simon supports his sister by stealing from wealthy guests and ultimately is more responsible.

"Initially I thought Louise was way too harsh, but I loved the sister and brother relationship," says Seydoux. "They are like kids, so they're not conscious of real life. Thankfully in the second part Louise becomes more of a woman, a responsible person."

Farewell, My Queen is on at Joondalup Pines from Boxing Day until December 30. Sister opens at Somerville on January 21.

The West Australian

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