Where the Truth Lies – directed by Atom Egoyan. Who-Done-It. A pretty biographer falls into the hotel beds of famous comedian-partners. 107 minutes Color 2005.
I am going to discipline myself. I am no longer going to idly grab a movie at the library for any other reason but that I believe I will enjoy it – grab it out of curiosity or to fill a gap in my education or after saying, “Oh, here’s a minor Bop Hope comedy I never heard of.”
Not that I dislike Bob Hope; I don’t; but I am not interested in being an omnivore of movies; I reviewed over 600 movies in the past two years; I am stuffed.
Or rather, what I am interested in is the truth of acting. The craft of acting, which I myself have practiced a good many years – although mainly on the stage – is what I wish to offer here, insofar as I can perceive it. For I am not An Acting Mogul. I was only my own sort of actor. There are many other sorts. Almost as many as there are actors. I am humble before the craft, its difficulties, its delights. And I watch films because certain actors are in them. I love actors and acting.
Beyond that, I am interested in the work of certain directors: Raoul Walsh whom I am fond of; Elia Kazan whom I surrendered to when young; George Stevens, in the beauty of whose work I still become lost. There are many others, modern directors whose work brings a slant on and a veracity of life to my life. It is foolish of me to think that I should watch films to keep abreast with the past or the present. I don’t care about that. I watch films as I have always done, to save my life: as scripture. And to have a good laugh, which is sometimes the same thing.
This picture is beautifully executed. It is good to see Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon in roles so far outside their usual realm, and their imagination and vitality count a lot in the carrying power of surprising us here. Bacon is particularly effective in certain scenes, evincing a virility in seduction one has never seen before. He’s a hard actor to watch, however, because what lies behind his face is always so volatile, and because his eyes don’t match. I have always liked to see him, though. But one cares not a rat’s buns about the fate of him or of Firth or of any of the people in this picture.
The two comedians performing fund raising marathons on TV are dead-hearted pros. And the writing of the young college girl who is murdered betrays her character by having her ask for money for having witnessed a compromising scene between Bacon and Firth. It would be better had she been murdered simply for seeing it.
I suppose the film might have engaged one, if it had adhered to the regulation set down for us by Howard Hawks in The Big Sleep and had the female lead investigating the crime been played with the insolence required to shoulder her way into the lives of the comedians, and the wit to figure out who-dun-it at the end. But the actress cast is of a vacuous temperament. I suppose someone thought that her innocence and her naiveté would draw us in. But, you know, innocence is not very interesting. It is interesting in a child, but only because in a child it is inextricably and intimately aligned with a child’s imagination to improvise. Innocence lends infant improvisation its gas. Innocence is catatonically boring without its moment-by-moment inventive power. As Oscar Wilde said, “It is always wrong to be innocent,” and as Borges said of Oscar Wilde, “He is never wrong.”
I picked up the film because of its wonderful title. Somehow I’d heard of it, hadn’t I? The director had such an unusual name. Hadn’t I heard of him? Yes, but none of that is enough to spend time on a dime. I must watch myself. Loving watching movies as much as I do is a vacuous reason to watch anything that comes to hand. Forgive me.