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Archive for the ‘Glenda Jackson’ Category

Beyond Therapy

01 Apr

 

Beyond Therapy –– directed by Robert Altman. Lampoon. A bisexual dish blinds dates a ninny in a French restaurant in New York. 93 minutes Color 1987.

I should only give it half a star because I only watched half of it. Altman claims it failed because AIDS emerged at that time, but AIDS emerged five years before, and he is deluding himself. It fails because he has no bone interest in the material.

Julie Hagerty is too vapid to alert our interest, much less that of  the improbable goof played by Jeff Goldblum. All the characters are in therapy including the therapists, I guess, but I didn’t stay around to find out. My hour was up.

The trouble with the film is that a fundamental strand of Altman’s nature was exactly like that of the big studio hirelings he made it his business not to become. That is to say, he is exactly like Michael Curtiz or Allan Dwan if in nothing else than that he would like nothing better than to end one production at 5 PM and start another at 6. There are people who like working in a productiont, and Altman was one of them. He says so himself. So he would take up any project that ripened before him. If one withered before it fruited, he would seize on the next one lying around. He wasn’t a studio hack; he was his own hack.

In his case, however, this crap shoot way of working popped up some fine and entertaining pictures. The Company, his next to last film, emerged like that, and, when he took on Gosford Park, he admits he never thought it would come to pass. One way he was a master-film-maker was simply that he was so productive. He liked to work on all sorts of different genres. I don’t know what genre he thought he was working in here.

At any rate, sometimes he executes a film and sometimes he executes a film. This one is crushed by slapdash improvisations by bit players, and not quite rescued by the entertainment value of supporting players: Tom Conti is spot on as a bored therapist, and Glenda Jackson really knows her stock in trade as a therapist more balmy than her clients.

The fallacy of improvisation is this: improvisation is supposed to generate natural honest behavior in actors, but when actors are let to improves, they tend to fall into their personal schtick, which is no more honest than the falsity they are supposed to evade. The actual matter is that actors often go into acting to cut through their own schtick, their personality, to delve a truth deeper than the strip mining of improvisation ever can reach.

Also the film was made in Paris, which is supposed to stand-in for New York, which is just silly. It also accounts for the casting of Conti and Jackson, jetting in from across the channel. to play parts requiring Alan Arkin and Lily Tomlin. Pierre Mignot filmed it, of course, beautifully.

If you find 52-Pick-Up a riveting card game you might be taken with this picture. Otherwise, graduate to Go-Fish. This is by comparison a Doctorate.

 

 
 

A Murder Of Quality

04 Feb

A Murder Of Quality — directed by Gavin Miller. WHODUNIT. Spymaster George Smiley is dragged out of retirement to solve a murder in a boys’ public school. 90 minutes Color 1991

★★★★★

Gary Oldman and Alec Guinness, after and before, have been called upon to play the ruthless taciturn Mr. Smiley but the role clearly belongs to Denholm Elliott, who, granted, is asked to resuscitate the character only for the petites pommes de terre of a policier of a provincial whacking. Guinness, he of the moonstone school of acting perfected by Ralph Richardson and finally put out of business by Paul Scofield, was the most opaque and Gary Oldman the most ruthless of the Smileys, but Denholm Elliott outsmarts even those masters of scene larceny by giving Smiley not just one implacable spine but a suppleness of carriage that gives him a place to begin and a place to go. He first appears to be a mealy-mouthed amateur when meeting the local inspector, masterfully cast and played by Matthew Scurfield, not as a bumbling dope or bigot but as a highly proficient but frustrated professional with a strong personality and smart views. Denholm Elliott is assisted in the detection by the curmudgeon-mouthed Glenda Jackson, and one can see the reason for her Oscars by just the way she puts a napkin down on the table and rises in utter silent disgust at the fascism of the culprit when she learns of it. Billie Whitelaw scares us silly as mad Jane the local loony, simply by the swiftness and lack of motivation of her violence, a wonderful choice by an actor. Then on the one hand we have Joss Ackland as the grandiloquent gay master fascinating his boys with his magic quotes from the Rubyiat and on the other as one of the boys, Christian Bale, he of the inner smirk. Yes, even at 16 years of age this is so. A completely untrained actor to this day, Bale brings to the character a minimalism perfect for an adolescent out of his depth in the machinations of adult doings. If you look at him carefully, or even carelessly, you can see here his systèm. He begins with a tiny single point and retains it. In later years this skill spokes out to produce performances and characters of  terrifying intensity. Think of him as the opposite of Sean Penn, but playing the same sorts of parts with the same rash effect. He is one of those masters-through-experience actors I prefer. I find it very hard to look at him. I don’t like his face, which difficulty makes his work all the more admirable to me. A craft and a talent devoted to stretching beyond the extreme borders cuts through my revulsion of a physiognomy he simply cannot help. It would be fascinating to see him perform Noël Coward’s Private Lives, that is to say a high comedy of manners: Mirabel in Congreve’s The Way Of The World. Jack in Bunbury. Someone, that is to say, not doomed by what he knows.

 
 
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