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When Jennifer Lopez made good movies…

The first time I heard about Jennifer Lopez was in Première, around 1998. A journalist had met her at the Venice festival. She was in the news -for the first time in France- because of U-Turn, by Oliver Stone. The journalist was struck by a certain contrast during the meeting. Indeed, the one who was not yet called J.Lo was extremely prolix and natural in interviews and confided her private life -which no one cared about at the time. On the other hand, she checked every photo taken of her especially for Première, only to end up selecting THE photo that suited her.

Let’s get to the point: at the time, Jennifer Lopez was a great hope for the American independent cinema.

Of course, we had already seen her (not me, but “we”) in Blood and Wine, Jack, Money Train, Anaconda, but U-Turn was really something: a crazy film, with a montage similar to the tortured mind of the hero (played by Sean Penn). Jennifer played an American Indian as hot as ambiguous, a femme fatale of no man’s land, a victim too.

Then, soon after, we saw her form the most beautiful couple of cinema since Vivian Leigh-Clack Gable in the masterpiece Out of sight of Soderberg.

The interpretation of this determined woman cop, freak-control at the same time as madly in love with a gentleman burglar had what to impress. What’s more, the film was perfect: stunning structure, unclassifiable film (funny, thriller, rom-com at the same time) with a casual tone and well constructed characters. A good little thriller about impossible love a la Romeo and Juliet.

Another revolutionary fact: the role was not written for a Latin girl but for a wasp. Sharon Stone had been approached. Ms. Lopez imposed herself by passing tests, with, she said, the determination of a woman cop. Good for her. Alas, good things never lasts.

I still believed in Jennifer Lopez, especially when she revolutionized the music industry: this girl who was only seen as an extra in Janet Jackson‘s videos stole the crown from Janet, Maria Carey, Madonna and so on with the very good On the 6.
She was at the top: good films, protean artist, several women in one as in the golden age of cinema. Like Marilyn, like Rita Hayworth, she played, sang, danced well. A great career to come?

Jennifer Lopez had only played in two very good films in a logic of climbing the ladder. Once on the top, she delivered us the bad The Cell, the mainstream The Wedding Planner and so on, slaloming between very bad (Enough) and correct without more (Maid in Manhattan, Angel Eyes) until her panouilles with Ben Affleck.
As for music, her second album was still good, then came her third one, in 2002, which saw her consecrated as an absolute super star, with a flagship track with a sample that was completely repackaged for those who like hip-hop but that pleased the masses – Jenny from the block.
Since then, nothing better. She managed to break the record of views on the net with On the floor – a eurodance track that repeats La lambada. She played in a trashy and mostly lame comedy (Plan B).

Too bad, really. But Lopez’s goal was more to make her an international business (clothing lines, perfume, restaurants) than an authentic and respected artist.

Eva Mendes, to whom she is often compared or opposed, is her perfect negative. Eva Mendes is a film buff (she loves Jacques Deray and Gaspar Noé’s La Piscine), and aspires to act in the most artistically ambitious films (We Own the Night, Bad lieutenant -Return to New Orleans). Eva Mendes dresses well, is intelligent, funny, with a personality both romantic and desperate. Eva Mendes sings “Les moulins de mon cœur” as the very prestigious muse of Angel perfume. Eva Mendes, when she goes out with someone famous, has the good taste to choose Ryan Gosling. Paradoxically, Mendes remains, unfortunately, in the eyes of the directors who employ her, the hot Latin girl -even with Herzog, even with James Gray. And it is clear that she remains unfortunately trapped in this image, despite herself. No U-Turn or Out of Sight on the horizon.

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