Summer of love

By Jean-Marc Lalanne, Libération, may 20, 2000

New talent : Summer Phoenix, actress in "Esther Kahn"

Her name is beautiful. Summer, like this summer of love that inspired
a generation of young idealistic people, including the girl's
parents, a hippie couple who moved to the Californian coast. Phoenix,
like the mythological bird, burning and reviving, like Esther Kahn,
heroine of Arnaud Desplechin's movie, fiery actress that consumes
herself in life and gathers herself back on stage, through her young
performer's astonishing grace.
Dressed in pink on the Grand Hotel beach, Summer, 22 yrs old, is shy
and pretty. Extremely concentrated, she thinks in silence before
answering each question and sometimes catches her head in her
hands. "My agent and I loved Arnaud's script. Then I saw 'How I had
an argument…' [Desplechin's previous movie], that I found great.
Esther's character fascinated me because of her determination, the
urgency of her quest. As an actress, I don't live things the same
way. Esther thinks that life is never as intense as when she is on
stage, that everything she feels in her existence must help her to
play. Even if I love my work a lot, I don't go that far. When a movie
is over, I think sometimes that it was great, sometimes that it was
horrible, but at least that it is over."
However, Summer's life, like those of her brothers and sisters –
River (departed in 1993), Joaquin, Rain (only Liberty didn't become
an actress) – is combined with acting. "I started in a commercial for
Kodak at 3. So I didn't really have the time to wonder if I wanted to
become an actress. Then I did TV series. But from 8 to 16 I stopped."
Ever since she did several independent movies, then The Faculty by
Roberto Rodriguez and, finally, her first great part in Esther Kahn.
What does she expect from her work? "I want to express what people
feel, to help them to understand each other, and also to move them".
When she's told she's thrilling in the movie, she stands up and hugs
you long with a whisper :"You're so kind". We'll learn later, a bit
disappointed, that she did the same with our colleagues. No doubt
about it, Summer is love.