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Fourth Wall in From the Journals of Jean Seberg

by Veronica Paredes

In Mark Rappaport's From the Journals of Jean Seberg, actress Mary Beth Hunt (who was born in the same Iowa town as Seberg) performs as Seberg if she had not tragically passed away at age 40, in 1979. Rappaport writes a very insightful analysis of the actress's career, starting with her big (and disappointing) break in Otto Preminger's 1957 adaptation of Saint Joan, to her work with Jean-Luc Godard in the art film classic Breathless, ending with her mostly humiliating collaborations with ex-husband writer Romain Gary. Throughout the film, Hunt plays Seberg as a witty, self-reflexive feminist subject with agency and dead-pan humor that contrasts deeply with Seberg's persona as constructed through these films. The film explores Seberg's political activism, in its context with contemporary actresses Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave; it also considers the harassment inflicted upon her by the government and the press because of her affiliations with the Black Panthers.   

This scene in the film specifically refers to Seberg's association with cinematic reflexivity, exemplified with what this film calls her "staring contests" with the camera, and by extension, the audience. Throughout the pseudo-fictionalized biography, footage from Seberg's performances is layered with insights into her personal and political life. More than just a formalist exploration of one actor's career, the film delves deep to combine feminist and political readings with revisionist filmmaking and history making. The film brings up many questions about Seberg's agency, and her torment in her relationships to particular filmmakers, to nation, and to the construction of gender in film.

Fourth Wall in From the Journals of Jean Seberg

Mark Rappaport's fictionalized account of Jean Seberg's journals. The film discusses the actress's place in film history through witty feminist analysis.

from From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995)
Creator: Mark Rappaport
Distributor: Planet Pictures
Posted by Veronica Paredes
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