Arnaud Desplechin remembers Misty Upham

A tribute to the actress he directed in Jimmy P: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Misty Upham with Arnaud Desplechin on the set of Jimmy P: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian: "l faudrait un quatrain d’Emily Dickinson pour chanter Misty."
Misty Upham with Arnaud Desplechin on the set of Jimmy P: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian: "l faudrait un quatrain d’Emily Dickinson pour chanter Misty."

On October 16, Misty Upham, a powerful force in each role she took on, was found dead after having been reported missing on October 6.

In Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian, Misty Upham co-starred with Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric. In 2013, we saw her work with some of the best actors in film, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale and Sam Shepard.

I spoke with Arnaud Desplechin at last year's New York Film Festival where Jimmy P was screening in the main slate program. This evening, he sent Eye For Film the following tribute in remembrance of Misty Upham. (Scroll down for translation.)

Misty Upham as Jane with Jimmy P Benicio Del Toro: "Misty était une grande âme, et elle avait su laisser filmer cette âme."
Misty Upham as Jane with Jimmy P Benicio Del Toro: "Misty était une grande âme, et elle avait su laisser filmer cette âme."

La mort de Misty Upham est un chagrin sans fond.

J’aimais cette femme comme ma sœur cadette.

La presse parlera de sa fragilité; moi, je sais que Misty avait ce don si rare de pouvoir offrir sa fragilité à la caméra et cela lui donnait une force sans limite. Misty était une grande âme, et elle avait su laisser filmer cette âme.

Je ne sais pourquoi ce soir, je pense à Marilyn Monroe. Sans doute parce que chez ces deux actrices, leur sens du tragique et leurs blessures savent se transformer en dons - joie, souffrance, innocence, sauvagerie mêlées. Chacun de leur tremblement vient nous bouleverser. Et c’est un dur travail que de transformer en art nos peurs ou nos incertitudes.

Je me souviens de notre première rencontre. Je lui disais mon admiration sans réserve pour Frozen River. Un trait m’avait ébloui: Lila était invulnérable tant qu’elle était presqu’aveugle. Avec des lunettes, guérie, soudain la jeune femme devenait toute timide. C’est son aveuglement qui la protégeait du monde! Quand je lui racontais cela, Misty me sautait au cou! Elle n’en revenait pas qu’un cinéphile européen ait su voir ce qu’elle avait dessiné d’une manière aussi secrète et aussi sûre.

Un an plus tard, Misty montait les marches de Cannes aux côtés de Benicio del Toro, et c’était une telle joie de la voir. Toujours soucieuse, toujours enfantine. Pleine de trac et sûre de son talent. Marilyn Monroe, vous disais-je…

Cette mort est cruelle. Il faudrait un quatrain d’Emily Dickinson pour chanter Misty:

If I shouldn’t be alive
When the Robins come,
Give the one in Red Cravat
A memorial crumb…

Vaillante Misty, je peine à trouver cette miette mémoriale. Je voudrais que tu sois endormie, que tu te réveilles demain et que nous jouions encore ensemble.

Arnaud Desplechin - October 17, 2014


The death of Misty Upham is bottomless sorrow.

I loved this woman as if she were my younger sister.

The press talk about her fragility; I know Misty had that rare gift of being able to offer fragility to the camera, and it gave her a force without limit. Misty had a great soul, and she gave that soul to the film.

I don't know why tonight, I think about Marilyn Monroe. Probably because in these two actresses, I see a sense of tragedy and how their wounds turned into gifts - joy, pain, innocence, wildness mixed. Each of them trembling upsets us. And it is hard work that transforms fears and uncertainties into art.

I remember our first meeting. I told her about my unreserved admiration for Frozen River. I had been dazzled: Lila was invulnerable as she was almost blind. With glasses, healed, the woman suddenly became very shy. It was her blindness that protected her from the world! When I told her this, Misty jumped on my neck! She could not believe that a European film buff had been able to see what she had done so secretly and subtly.

A year later, Misty climbed the steps at Cannes alongside Benicio del Toro, and it was such a joy to see. Always concerned, always childish. Full of nerves and sure of her talent. Marilyn Monroe, I told you...

This is a cruel death. It would take an Emily Dickinson quatrain to describe Misty in verse:

If I shouldn't be alive
When the Robins come,
Give the one in Red Cravat
A memorial crumb ...

Brave Misty, I hardly find this memorial crumb enough.

I wish you were asleep, you would wake up tomorrow and we would still be playing together.

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