RSS
 

Archive for the ‘DRAMA’ Category

Leave No Trace

12 Aug

Leave No Trace – written and directed by Debra Granik. Drama. 109 minutes Color 2018.
★★★
The Story: A teenage girl and her father make their home outdoors in an Oregon forest, until one day they are discovered.
~
Something off about this movie from the start.

Inside the sumptuous green of the forest, amid shade, ferny and thick, two humans live hidden. The silence of Nature – which only reveals Herself in silence – is punctuated by the added silence of the two.

And this silence is the problem. The picture needs less picture. It needs more words.

The daughter is played by Thomsin MacKenzie, an Australian actress of 18. From the point of view of exposition, she’s a bit old for the part, because the sylvan background of this story rejects a girl older than 13. But the main drama of the story, which is the discovery of them by forest rangers and the decision she must come to, requires 18. She’s a lovely actress, perfect for the part in her discretion and her reserve.

Ben Foster has a more difficult task. For his part is underwritten to the point of crippling it. The danger the actor faces is that being given so little he risks damaging everything by adding anything to it.

The film, that is, is wholly underwritten, leaving the audience to carry a load which only fundamentalist liberals can lift. Actors are directed to speak in tinny whispers – a hold-over from TV acting which is designed for living rooms not for a movie theater. This elocution pitches the voice into a plaintive realm and produces a false insecurity, bidding for audiences’ sympathy. I don’t buy it for a minute, liberal though I am.

So the direction is a disservice to the audience. And so is the screenplay which is written by the director and comes from a book which comes from an actual happening. But each devolution degenerates the original material.

For instance, we are shown the father making a living by selling VA drugs to hobo addicts. In fact, I know no veteran can get prescriptions in those amounts. I am a vet, I also get my prescriptions from the VA. In real life, however, the father made his money from a VA monthly compensation payment of some $400. It’s less “dramatic” but more mysterious and engaging. It’s also less banal and less phony.

Like the father, I am a single father and veteran who reared his daughter alone. Seeing this father and this daughter, I feel the parallels in this film and they are right. The difficulties and education are parallel. Even the living situation. What’s off is what underlies this story.

For instance, in the movie, when caught, they are separated, whereas in real life they were kept together since their captors could see how important this was for them. What’s off is the screenplay separates them merely to incite our “emotion.”

What’s off is that in real life, they were treated exquisitely at once, and the more interesting and dramatic story is what actually took place. How can two such intelligent, educated, isolated individuals be weighed by the mores of ordinary society, how can they be treated even-handedly when their own mores forbid society? Missing that is what’s off. What’s off is the lie lying shimmering but invisible beneath the screenplay and concocting it.

The real drama may lie between the temptation between two Edens, whereas what we are left with is that the woods are the Eden of the insane and the life of the hermit more evolved, while the Eden of the town offers sex. It is not a real conflict. Let’s have a battle between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a sequoia. It’s not a real conflict.

The film offers the audience an unearned sorrow which no one applauds. However, it must be said that the vulgarity and falsity in the direction and writing is almost completely camouflaged by the skill of the acting of the two principals and of the supporting players – for instance, Dale Dickey perfectly cast and perfect in the part and Jeff Kober perfectly cast and perfect in the part.

Like Granik’s Winter’s Bone, the story explores the ripening of a young woman’s self-sufficiency. But what’s off is that the story of the girl’s real relation to her father, which over the years granted her the latitude for that self-sufficiency, drifts off into the Oregon woods. His training of her set her free. But he himself is released finally into the wispy wilderness of the screenwriter’s sentimentality as a harmless loony. The debt to him is not explored, written, paid, or even imagined as owed. The drama of that gratitude is the missed drama. What’s off is that the writer doesn’t know that in film, as in life, the right words are worth a thousand pictures.

 
Comments Off on Leave No Trace

Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, DRAMA

 

Phantom Thread

22 Jan

Phantom Thread – written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Drama. 130 minutes Color 2017.
★★★★★
The Story: An artist suffering from mater-philia becomes inspired by a young woman who, to cure him, must practically kill him.
~
What are the force-fields inside an individual which draw a human to force-fields inside another – and how can they be made to fadge, converge, and agree?

The execution is suave. The picture luxuriously filmed, perfectly cast, marvelously directed, impeccably scored, ideally set, fabulously costumed, vividly acted. The setting is some fifty years ago when London was a fashion center and its focal character, Reynolds Woodcock, was the most renown women’s designer of the time.

All that is window-dressing, albeit superb, but the picture must have it in order to explore the sub-surfaces which are its true subject.

Woodcock in a once-in-a-lifetime-draw to a young waitress with a figure perfect for his clothes, spirits her away to his home. She falls for him. But when she does, he finds her annoying, and we soon see his interest in her is neither romantic nor personal. He has made her his muse. But she has no other interest for him.

He lives in a household and work-world entirely female. And he admits that his first and main muse was his own mother. Indeed, she is the phantom thread with which he has woven his life into what he is: a gourmet monastic, and that mother will reappear as that phantom.

His sister runs his business, has his number, and knows that his strength comes from women – from their mother, from herself, from various women he lives with, from his battalion of seamstresses, and from his clientele. Such strength as he possesses lies in the brilliant, shocking, chilly genius of his dresses.

But the young woman he has carried off comes from an even colder clime. She sees that, in order for him to love her, she must mother him, and in order for that to happen she has to rescue him from peril. And to do that, she must create the peril.

Have I already said too much? No. Find out for yourself. Go see it.

As it starts, the film is slightly overwritten, as characters explain themselves in ways they wouldn’t and we don’t need them to. One day someone must do a study of the accents used. And the film will only half-satisfy because the default position of the woman’s psyche is left unattended to. So the plot remains a mythic scheme stumbling towards a finale that does not exist, a stream with no pond to feed. But never mind that. The satisfactions available in it outstrip its wants.

And it is played by a group of sterling, deeply experienced actors, who are a pleasure to behold. Vicky Krieps plays the young woman who sees through Woodcock; her performance is a treasure. Lesley Manville plays his sister; her performance is a treasure. Harriet Sansome plays a Barbara Hutton type about to marry a Porfirio Rubirosa type; her performance is a treasure. Every performance is a treasure.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays the designer – at first with the too-knowing smile of a man no woman he has set his sights on can resist – and then he just plays him. His is the story of a cool man whom to wed a good woman must first cremate. Day-Lewis, a great cold actor, is well cast as this gelid gent.

Day-Lewis is not a romantic leading man. He is a character-lead, but the part is close to a leading man role, yet here, by his mastery of the technical acts of fashion design, the actor skirts the category: how pins are applied, how cloth is moved and discussed, how scissors close on a fabric, how a sketch-book is held, the way he wears the clothes he wears and that he chooses to choose them (I want those magenta socks), and the infantilism of the Divo – all that which, through deeds, decodes the obsession in him that blinds him to what he cannot more greatly adore. It is a performance consummated sheerly on the level of behavior.

But Krieps is an actor and a character who takes him on, and, boy – even cooler than he – does she ever! She realizes the foundation in the maternal in him is too strong to collapse but to crack its depths she must bring out another and different female side lying beneath the maternal, to dare to release an even greater muse, the normal. With the gentlest of drills, she embarks on a mining operation seldom seen in film.

For the story of Phantom Thread – the overthrow of the default position of an individual or a relationship – the reference is Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.

Have I said too much? Yes, I have.

Find out for yourself. Go see it.

 
 

Ida

14 Dec

Ida – directed Pawel Pawlikowski. Drama. 82 minutes Black And White 2013.
★★★★★
The Story: Her niece pays a visit to an aunt she never knew she had, and the niece, a novitiate, and the aunt, a hedonist, embark on a search into the dynamic past of both of them.
~
Boy, here’s a film you won’t want to see: Black And White, Polish and in Polish, about a nun, and the grim aftermath of WWII. Yet it seems to have five stars tattooed above and to have won the Oscar For The Best Foreign Film Of 2013.

Why would I pluck this off the library shelf if I had never even heard of it? Don’t answer. Because the answer is: because you and I are both in luck.

People die when no one’s looking. And they live when no one’s looking. We all know that. This seems to be the square in which Pawlikowski frames his actors – lives seen beneath monstrous skies they do not notice.

It is perfectly acted by Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida, the novitiate. Hundreds of actresses were auditioned. She was discovered at a café table, a rank amateur, and thus began a film star career.

The aunt is played by Agata Kulesza, an actress of deep experience and every wile.

These two explore the places and persons of the past, as they travel through Poland in search of the core of the mystery encompassing both of them.

You will regret not a minute seeing this film. And having said that: you might regret every minute not yet seeing it.

 

The Memory Of Two Mondays

09 Jul

The Memory Of Two Mondays – directed by Paul Bogart. Drama. 88 minutes Color 1971.
★★★★★
The Story: A teen-ager starts a job to pay his way to college and finds himself in the company of co-workers who, by the day he leaves, have changed radically.
~
It’s the 1930s and everyone is holding down his job for dear life, even though work may be soul-searing and dull. Arthur Miller who wrote it about his youth gives us an introduction to it, for it’s a memory piece, like The Glass Menagerie, and all the better for that.

Everyone is stirring and interesting, and some of the characters seem fated and are not and some seem not and are. But the deliciousness of it is the acting by all these New York actors at the peak of their gifts. One saw them on the New York stage in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and one found them again in film and tv, and what wonderful actors they were.! How they always surprised! How they always delighted! How generous they were in their technique.

Estelle Parsons as the blowsy accountant sets the show in motion. Jack Warden, perfect and rich in one of his died-in-the-wool crudes roles. Bernard Hughes, a magical actor at all times, as his drunken crony; we saw him in Shakespeare In The Park in those days in big leading roles. And there was J.D. Cannon whose dark male voice held the stage as Shakespeare’s heroes, here playing an ossified drunk, whom his co-workers try to save from self-destruction.

George Grizzard plays the sales manager with every single car part’s place in the warehouse tragically memorized along with every part for every car ever made. Harvey Keitel is listed as prominent in the cast, but his part is minute; 45 years ago, this would have been right. Tom Hamilton is lovely as the Irishman who wants the dingy windows cleaned, and then is horrified when he gets his wish.

This is an immaculate cast and one is grateful to see its immaculate preservation. It’s part of the priceless Great Performances TV Series, among which we have Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock and George Segal in another play of Arthur Miller, Death Of A Salesman.

Every film in this series is worth exploring. And this one is particularly for the big-hearted work of those fine New York actors in their heyday.

 
Comments Off on The Memory Of Two Mondays

Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, DRAMA, Jack Warden, Kitchen Sink Drama

 

A Passage To India

10 Dec

A Passage To India – written and directed and edited by David Lean. Colonial Drama. 244 minutes Color 1985.

★★★★

The Story: A young woman and her Aunt travel to India to visit, and India takes hold of them with a mortal attraction.

~

David Lean’s last film, now a DVD whose extras are as interesting as the film itself. For you would never imagine how it was made in India back in the day. So take a look at the second DVD.

A couple of problems with the picture sully the experience, and some have to do with Lean’s mishandling of the material, for the ending does not match with the bones of the story. I can’t remember how E.M. Forster actually ends the book, but it can’t be like this.

Other difficulties have to do with his handling of what happened in the cave. E.M. Forster never told what happened there. And the reason he didn’t is because he did not know. In any case, in the film at least, it is clear that Miss Quested has a brain wave of some kind, becomes unhinged, and proclaims that Doctor Aziz has molested her.

In the film, we are shown Miss Quested with lust in her eyes wanting Dr. Aziz in the cave. He, looking for her, of course, looks into her cave, does not see her, and looks into other caves for her. But Lean does not have the psychological imagination to cinematically envision what goes on inside her that produces the catastrophic result. What would the ingredients be? Lust? Shame when he doesn’t come in? Remorse? Flight? Embarrassment? Revenge? We get none of this. All we get is some cactus scratches. So what is supposed to hang over the story as a mystery, becomes a mere opacity.

Part of the trouble is that the preparation for the cave scene is inadequate. For the excursion Miss Quested makes beforehand, accidentally coming upon pornographic statues in the wild, does not expose enough of the male side of sex to count with the audience. Because we hardly see anything risqué, we are not shocked; so how can we gauge the statues’ shock on her? Lean has no sense of such things.

Another trouble is that we have in Judy Davis a young female none of this would shock. She is not the swooning sort. She is Australian-earthy, not a female given to fantasies, derangements, traumatic shames, or unhingings. She is not a foolish virgin. She is a powerful and fascinating actress. Either she is simply miscast. Or it would be interesting were all this to happen to a strong personality, such as Judy Davis’s –  but Lean’s treatment as scenarist and director go nowhere near this. It is as though the film’s story – which is a female story – is speaking a foreign language when entering female territory.

In a way, Lean’s film, and all his films, are about the male characters. The female character of Mrs Moore, for instance, is never fully realized. Peggy Ashcroft, in a yeowoman effort, drags Mrs Moore not into clarity but into light. Clarity is not to be had. She and Lean argued badly as to how to do her. Ashcroft won, else nothing at all would have been there, and Ashcroft won the Oscar. And Judy Davis also locked horns with him. Lean did not have a clue about women. He would not have been married six times if he had.

The picture is ravishing in its scape. We see an India whose immensity of effect is always present, always beguiling, always seething We see wild crowds, marshalled armies in parade array, markets, mountains, rivers, structures, distraught railway trains, and placid colonial dwellings. It almost gives us a balanced canvas of Indian and English characters and points of view.

And all the male characters are superbly realized and performed, save, of course for Alec Guinness who pads about playing an Indian Fakir. Why he hypnotized himself to cast himself as a Hindu sage only a real Hindu sage would know. Crazy. It’s counter-productive to the balance the film strives to achieve.

The three other male actors do fine work. First, Nigel Havers as the potential fiancé of Judy Davis. He plays a young magistrate in the British Colonial judicial system, and he is the perfect young man, is he not? Havers gives a lovely, easy performance as Ronny, making us thankful for the thankless role. He knows not what he does as a character, but as an actor he does.

James Fox as the local schoolmaster, friend to both sides of the ship, rules half the film largely because his acting of Fielding is so thorough it engages our interest and bias. Grand work.

The co-star of the picture is Victor Banerjee, making his character full of life and optimism and love and curiosity and good will. His performance grounds the film in the open fluidity of a wonderful madness when he takes Mrs Moore and Miss Quested on a side trip to the Marabar caves.

The temperament of the movie is spectacle-as-narration. It contains no scene which is not visually telling and rewarding, or essential. Every detail frees the camera to our eye. Its direction retains great respect for our ability to tell a story through what we see, through the placement of character, and particularly to the painted elephant called India in whose howdah all visitors cannot help but be shaken back and forth. One of Lean’s wives was Indian, and he had lived there a good while. He had a strong sense of its place, style, and potential as a vivid film subject.

Within this vast national impression, the drama is actually a closet drama, involving only five characters, Mrs Moore, Miss Quested, Doctor Aziz, Fielding, and Ronny. The opera Aida comes to mind, a closet drama surrounded by a vast dynasty and huge military display. Many curious and unusual relationships venture into being before us. To witness them A Passage To India is worth seeing, or, in my case and maybe in yours, worth seeing again.

 

 

Vigil In The Night

23 Jul

Vigil In The Night – produced and directed by George Stevens. Medical Drama. 96 minutes Black And White, 1940.

★★★★★

The Story: Two nurses try to escape their pasts in a cruel and dangerous profession.

~

The five important pre-War directors in American film – George Stevens, Frank Capra, William Wyler, John Huston, and John Ford – all were permanently affected by it, as were the actors who went.

Robert Montgomery, Tyrone Power, James Stewart, Douglas Fairbanks, Junior, Clark Gable engaged in dangerous action in The War. Sweet Kid Galahad, Wayne Morris, flying a Hellcat off the aircraft carrier Essex, shot down 7 Japanese planes and contributed to the sinking of five Japanese ships. As did the whole nation, all came back solemnized by The War.

Before The War, George Stevens made comedies such as Swing Time, the best of the Rogers/Astaire musicals, Vivacious Lady with Jimmy Stewart, The More The Merrier with Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn, Gunga Din with Cary Grant, and Woman Of The Year, the first and best of the Tracy/Hepburn comedies. During The War, George Stevens filmed Dachau. After The War he never made another comedy.

So the pre-War Vigil In The Night comes as a surprise in Stevens work. It is serious. It is an ER melodrama such as we have seen many a one on TV, set in the nursing profession, with Carole Lombard in a role of the sort she was never known for.

The highest paid actress in Hollywood at the time, she ordinarily played lamé women of a highly volatile disposition in slapstick comedy. Here she is burkad in nurses’ caps and scarves and aprons. She appears to wear no noticeable lipstick or eye makeup. Because she had a scar on her left cheek, her face has a heavy, but matte, foundation. Her blond hair is seldom visible.

The story is from a novel by A.J. Cronin, who, like Keats, Stein, Maugham, W.C. Williams, was a medical doctor, so, written from the inside, the movement of the material rings true as narrative.

If Vigil In The Night had been a masterpiece, the film would have been a masterpiece. But unlike Stevens’ A Place In the Sun and Shane, no visual or narrative power on the part of the director can budge it beyond its convention of well-ordered melodrama. Its convention is honorable and solid, of course. It is narrative-driven. But it cannot escape the many corners of its own story. This story holds the film firmly in hand, and the only escape from it is the question that arises in the viewer as to whether the leading nurse will renounce her profession of nursing for marriage to the doctor who is in love with her.

This is the sole drama for the audience. All the rest of the drama is elected to the screen, moved forward there, resolved there. In Vigil In The Night, there is nothing for us to do. In Shane and A Place In The Sun there is everything for us to do. In A Place In The Sun, the power of the film lies in the director’s ability to leave an immense part of the story literally in the dark, at a distance, over there, for our delectation and voyeurism. To Watch it, a huge amount of imagination is called for, as to watch Shane. To watch Vigil In The Night no imagination is called for. The plot suborns it all.

The astounding thing about it, this being so, is the director’s handling of the material: the almost silent-film opening with its Bela Lugosi music, the angles of the camera, the overhead shots of the operating room, the director’s movement of the cast through wards, his placement of personnel, his characteristic use of windows through which to shoot, the taciturn handling of a bus accident so that, in not quite knowing what is going on, we experience the confusion of the episode, the management of every scene to make it unobtrusively interesting and right for us, shooting the child’s rescue through the slats of the crib, his arrangement of bodies in light, his ability to tell the emotional story through stark movement. From the point of view of treatment, Vigil In The Night is a masterpiece. Otherwise, not.

He produced the film, under the fine, overall production of Pandro S. Berman at RKO with whom he had worked successfully before. And as usual, he edited the picture himself. The only blight on the film is Alfred Newman’s music, which sentimentalizes emotion by supplying sentiment already there. Stevens’ soft spot for polemic also peeks out here – a trait that was to sink him years later.

What you have at the center of all this are four main characters: Carole Lombard as the career nurse, Brian Aherne as the honest hospital physician who must fight the head of the hospital board for healthier conditions, Anne Shirley as Lombard’s sister who doesn’t belong in nursing at all, and Ethel Griffies as the hospital head matron of nursing.

In scene after scene, through imaginative shifting of points of view and position Griffies holds the story in suspense as to the question of whether Lombard and her sister Anne Shirley can escape or redeem their pasts.

Brian Aherne, the archetypical leading man, is an actor of lyrical rather than dramatic strain, which perfectly suits the sexuality of the character he plays, since he needs to not claim Lombard without her express permission. Stevens films him with his eyes lowered in one scene; unusual for a camera to dwell on an actor like that; it suits the character perfectly.

As it should and must, the film retains our engagement because of Carole Lombard.

What is it about her? There was always the sense she was a madcap amateur, with the voice pitched too high.

Not so here. Here she is entirely under wraps, and one is given latitude to respect what she does and is. Quite simply, quite obviously, she was that rare combination of an actor who was both truly beauteous and, behind that, truly appealing.

With her hair concealed, the planes of her face emerge, and they are something to behold. Large, wide-spaced eyes. Mobile mouth. High cheek bones. A long, delicate jaw-line. Slender figure. And the voice, for once, placed low. Regard the slight movement of her exquisite brow. The features are severe; what lies behind them is not.

Technically it is a part hard to do without pushing and thus betraying the virtue we are expected to credit this character to possess, which is that of self-sacrifice, devotion to duty, a capacity for grueling, dangerous work, command in emergency, nobility. None of these does Lombard “play.” We are left to supply them, and we do, willingly. Thus we root for her. She herself makes nothing of them – and makes nothing of making nothing of them, as is right, for they would be already part of her character’s nature, and she and the director knew that the muscle of the story and her movement in a scene did the job. Lombard keeps it simple.

She had chosen the part because the wanted an Oscar. She had been nominated for My Man Godfrey, but she was not nominated for Vigil In The Night at all, and you can see why: the part goes nowhere. No alteration is available to her from beginning to end; no arc. She is superb in it, but superb is all she can be. Still, she is a perfect vessel for Stevens’ direction. Had she lived, one wonders if he would have used her again, as he tended to do with actors.

Stevens tells and lets the actor tell the emotion of the story with movement alone. By this I don’t mean grimace, expression, gesticulation. What I mean is that he makes the dynamic of the scene itself move the actors, not emotionally, but physically, to tell their story. You know what they feel by where and when they walk, how closely they stand to one another. For Stevens, emotion is narration, narration is actor placement, placement dictates scenic content. Stevens was the cameraman of Laurel and Hardy, and knew that their power lay not in jokes or in what they said or in slapstick, but in the collection of drama available inside the wider context of each scene they played. It had to do with the quite careful but unforced allowing of comedy to emerge – you find this over and over in Stevens’ comedies.

You find it here. Finding it here might not be enough to lure you to see this film, but Vigil In The Night is more than a text for screen scholars or students. It is master work by a great film artist. It is a masterpiece of directorial and acting entertainment in which every resource available to render the material for us has been engaged, invented, imagined.

 

Foxcatcher

29 Nov

 

Foxcatcher – directed by Bennett Miller. Biodrama. 134 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

The Story: Two international wrestling champion brothers become enmeshed with a wealthy aficionado.

~      

One wonders what scene it might be, but there is a sense of one missing. Between Vanessa Redgrave who plays his mother and Steve Carell, who plays the billionaire John Du Pont.

For Mrs Du Pont is an enormously accomplished equestrienne. Now being an equestrienne, with an entire room of her mansion given over to her many trophies, requires an early start, among riders who are seasoned and talented and unbribable. To win those prizes you have to be the same. You have to know your onions from way back.

Her son, however, takes on the hobby of international competitive wrestling in his fifties. He had the interest and even the temperament to be a patron. But he sets himself up, instead, as a “mentor, leader, and coach” – none of which he was, as though to compete with the his mother in her own sport.

As this fraud takes place before our eyes, we see his protégé, played by Channing Tatum, lose vim. Having already won two world championships, he is to compete in the Seoul Olympics. But the more Du Pont engages with him the less true air remains for Tatum to inhale as his own. Presently, Du Pont alienates him from his own brother, David, played by Mark Ruffalo. And then bribes Ruffalo to live at his vast estate where he has built a training facility for the Olympic wrestlers.

But somewhere we need one more scene with the mother. We see her voice her opinion that wrestling is lowbrow, and in another scene we see her turn away from the training of the wrestlers as her son attempts to show off his “leadership” in front of her. It might be a scene in which he says to her, “What if I won an Olympic Gold Medal, mother?’

The piece could not be better cast or played. Ruffalo, who is the real coach, completely convinces that he is a coach, and the care and savvy he imbrues the character with are just enough to delude him about the possible nature of Du Pont.

Channing Tatum plays Mark Shultz, the younger wrestler brother as a young man focused on his sport to the exclusion of everything else. He has no girlfriend, no children, no outside interests. This means he has the blinders on, but Tatum plays the wrestler as aware of himself and his own nature upon which he depends for security in his sport.

Steve Carell plays Du Pont. He carries himself chin-in-air like William Buckley, and like Buckley he is clammy as an adder – but with this difference, Buckley was a person of great accomplishment, Du Pont is a person of none that have not been purchased. His is a cogent portrayal of an idiot dauphin. He’s quite fascinating.

I’m not sure, however, that films are solely about portraiture. Or that to achieve a fine representation of a character is sufficient to a drama. The drama here does not play out; one figures it out. Carell is especially worth dwelling on amid an unexceptionable cast. And such a story is come by rarely. So it’s good to be given it by all of them. And you will not waste your time spending a couple of hours with it.

 

Synechdoche, New York

21 Nov

Synecdoche, New York — directed by Charlie Kaufman. Drama. 3 hours and 23 minutes Color 2008.

★★★★★

The Story: A theatre director’s wife leaves him, and the rest of his life is lived out unmoored.

~

The director has begun his career by presenting to the world his King Lear, And why not? The boulders of that play are about us and upon us since the day Shakespeare wrote it, and any playwright must operate with it in the shadows like a gift one day to be honored. Kaufman has honored it early with a masterwork. It has been taken to be such by others, and you might number yourself among them if you take the journey into Synecdoche.

The work “New York” localizes it in a way I do not understand, except as a synonym for a terminus or graveyard. But I don’t dally with such terms, so forget I ever said it.

Other minor matters bothered me, but not at the time. I learn that the main character has married again, but I had no sense of that from the film, and when I learned it from the extra features, I thought it must be with the Samantha Morton character. I was wrong.

The other thing I did not grasp was that there was an Armory within an Armory, and that some scenes were played in the one and some in the other.

But none of this mattered to me at the time. None of it impeded my pleasure and interest.

The word “dream” is used, incorrectly it seems to me, in relation to this piece, for what I see is always grounded in realistic psychological everyday experience. The film’s story is the working out of the life of an individual who comes undone when his wife leaves him inexplicably. From then on everything you see is everything he does internally until the day he dies, which he also does, many years later. It is just like you and me.

Not to speak anything more about this momentous story, lest I defuse its excitements and turns, the wife is played beautifully by Catharine Keener who is always riveting, always fun, and we wait for her return all the way through the film.

I cannot stifle my cries of appreciation for the work of Emily Watson, who is just marvelous as an imported actress, as are Michelle Williams as a greedy, starstruck actor, Hope Davis as a bigtime human-potentialist, and Tommy Noonan as the director’s double. Samantha Morton plays her early scenes externally, but once she ages, she is great.

The leading role, and he is on camera always, is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. He plays the role scene-to-scene. For there is no other way to play it. It is a story in which the arc of the character cannot be given by the actor, but only by the treatment of the material by the director — and Kaufman does not supply an arc. Unlike in King Lear, madness does not wake the Hoffman character up.  So, no arc; unless you can say Hoffman goes deeper to sleep.

Instead, the arc lies with the audience’s eventual acceptance that the external emotion and the internal emotion are all on the same visual level. Which is right: we experience, or at least I experience that they are all one thing, one collection, one synecdoche, life as a defeated bouquet.

The moral of the story? The human spirit is insufficient air for an artist’s ambition that work can be his salvation and reality.

Do see it. Hoffman is just gorgeous in it. It is his most personal performance of all.

 

Marketa Lazarova

18 Oct

Marketa Lazarova – directed by Frantisek Vlácil. Historical Drama. 162 minutes Black And White 1967.

★★★★★

The Story: Clans feud in the dark ages in Czechoslovakia.

~

What does the word “great” mean?

What does it mean when it means nothing less than the most it can mean?

Let’s put it this way: this film is on the order of Beethoven’s 9th.  King Lear.

It is on the level of the best films of Tarkovsky, Rossellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Mizogichi, Satyajit Ray.

I don’t think I need to go on any further about it.

Great is the comprehending of that which is beyond comprehension.

I like that kind of thing.

The sublime. The profound.

The Grand Canyon.

Marketa Lazarova.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Temptress

25 Jan

The Temptress  — directed by Fred Niblo. Drama. 117 minutes Black and White 1926.

★★★★★

The Story: A gorgeous woman, married to a jerk, has an affair with a dam-builder from the Argentine, to which she follows him, to dam-busting seismic disturbance for all.

Greta Garbo is the most sexually voracious actress ever to have appeared in film.

Her films are all the same. She has been kept by older men or beset by unwanted suitors, too old, silly, callow, married, dense, young. They come upon her and desire her wantonly. They betray all their scruples for her. She laughs, treats them like children, and doesn’t let them off the hook because they pay for her fancy apartment. She keeps them dangling. Obviously no one is the right one. They appear in uniform, with medals, naked, clothed, in rags. They present her with diamonds, furs, and food. Nothing turns her head. They tire her. She makes her living on them. Until there swans into view some young man, so pure, so devoted, so delicious of aspect and potential, that Garbo, who has spurned Dukes, walks over to this young man, seizes him with one hand by the back of the head, grabs his chin with the other, drapes her body upon him, leans her face down over him, puts her mouth on his, and drinks and drinks and drinks.

This skill as an actress she had when she was twenty, when she made The Temptress, her second film. The vamps, such as Nita Naldi and Gloria Swanson and Clara Bow, were all dark and tiny wild gypsy bitches. Garbo was a lanky blond, and she was not a bitch. She was a master flirt, but also second-by-second sensitive, open to the subtlest influence, inner or outer. She was simply a lone operative in the big-time world of men with nothing but her female wiles to survive on, and an acting instrument strung like an Aeolian harp.

She brought to MGM the caché of class. She was the top money maker there. As Louise Brooks said, as soon as Garbo appeared in films, every other Hollywood actress had to exist in relation to her. She was able to do on screen what no other actor was able to do before or since, and no one knew exactly what it was. When the war came, MGM did not know what to do with her. They had exalted her in their own eyes. This was stupid and unimaginative of them. It was quite simple, for Dietrich and Lamar and Bergman went on playing Europeans in war stories. Garbo was still a big money-maker – her last film, too. The war cut off her European audience, which was huge. And her American popularity in the sticks had waned, in part due to the number of fancy costume dramas she appeared in, and a certain distance she had created for herself on screen and which was created by her studio as well. She drew a circle around herself and acted inside it, as Brando was later to do. Who could imagine actually wooing her and marrying her? Adoring her, yes. Keeping her, or trying to, yes. But who could imagine actually settling down with her? Her eyes had gone private. So to stand next to her and do the dishes?

Stiller, her mentor from Sweden, began this film, was taken off it, and although it was reshot, he may have coached her here into the Garbo we came to know playing these parts. For it does not seem quite yet to exist in her first film, The Torrent. 

Anyhow here, in The Temptress, she is  young woman, not even of age, and already in full possession of her technique, which originated in her lower-middle back and travelled north. She made it up in the shower. She was already That Thing, Greta Garbo. Cary Grant did the same. They made something up and let it respond in accordance with the scene they were presented with. It was indissolubly manufactured and real at once. William Daniels said that Garbo made love only to the camera. True, and we wouldn’t have wanted her to do anything else. It means her real love-affair, her most intimate sexuality, is actually with us.

 

 

Shame

12 Jan

Shame – directed by Steve McQueen. Drama. 101 minutes Color 2012. ★★★

The Story: A handsome thirty-year-old ad-man pursues sexual release in every spare moment, and even in some that are not.

It’s beautifully filmed and shot and acted by performers of the first order. Carey Mulligan plays his sister exquisitely. James Badge Dale has the right-on-the-money, live-wire inventiveness of Cagney as his boss. Nicole Beharie stuns us with her telling performance of the co-worker who dates him.

And Michael Fassbender is stuck with a misconceived main role. On camera, getting up naked, going to the bathroom, screwing, we get nothing from his character that we need from a good story, although we get everything we could possible expect from a good actor.

The idea that an individual’s soul and psyche can be transmitted to film without words is not feasible. The words would be interior. But we here instead have only the skim of his addictive actions. The Lost Weekend did not make this mistake. Addiction does not speak for itself. For in its isolation it is highly aware of the consequences and rituals of its deeds. Hell is never quiet.

The mistake may arise from the notion that film is mainly a visual medium, a medium of physical narration, a mistake perhaps arising from its visual charms and possibilities. Or a mistake falsely and callowly taught in film schools. Sometimes no speech is needed in film, true. Sometimes no speech is needed in written fiction also. But the inner verbal process is always needed, and “pantomime” (a technical term for the actor’s physical manifestation) has its limitations and things it cannot show or do. Perhaps the error arrises out of undue adultation the great rhetoric of Silent Pictures.

But Silent Pictures were not silent. In them people are always talking. Just because you cannot hear them does not mean you do no understand what they are saying. You know exactly what they are saying. For Silent Film actors are physically engaged in what they say and they respond to what is said to them – just as actors do in talkies. Just because we cannot hear them or read their lips does not mean we do not know what they are saying. No. And of course there were the placards. And of course, to spell things out, there was far more music in Silent Pictures than in talkies.

In Silent Pictures pantomime played a part which it still plays in film, by every talking actor in every scene, although the Silent Film actor might telegraph things a bit more. This did not hinder the realistic acting of Gloria Swanson or Mary Pickford or Laurette Taylor. Their styles are quite modern.

But, to take the silent craft of Buster Keaton, Charles Chaplin, Harry Langdon as the dernier mot on screen narration is a modern folly, since it is to disregard that they were not actors but clowns and always playing against the settings. And clowns never speak. Film actors must speak. While it is true that in film actual words must be wordless, words are not extraneous, but half the job, and story must provide them. At least in certain films, and Shame is one of them.

Shame starves us of the words needed to grasp what the character is going through. But a raw description of the story reveals there is no opportunity for it. The sister is thrown away as relevant only to the convenience of the brother’s exterior life. The character she could provide as a confidante is lost. And the film is without monologue.

Instead, are we expected feel what he is going through simply because he runs in the rain or gets blown in a gay bar? I’m sorry, it’s not enough. We are supposed to experience his shame. But we don’t. Through no fault of the actor, it is never articulated. For shame is a human emotion that exists with words always. It is always something we are telling ourselves or are hearing others tell us. It is never readable as a gesture, as a sex act, as a run in the rain.

The sex addict story still needs to be told. The director is a good director. He also wrote it. What a shame. Someone still needs to write it.

 

Miss Sadie Thompson

20 Nov

Miss Sadie Thompson – directed by Curtis Bernhardt. Drama. Quarantined on a South Seas island a dance-hall girl and a man of the cloth battle it out for their souls. 93 minutes Color 1953.

★★★★

It’s stupid of me to suggest that the screenplay needed to be rewritten from scratch. For here it is 60 years later and the wench is dead. But do you ever get the feeling of a lost opportunity that must be corrected, and you know exactly how to do it?  Somerset Maugham’s story Rain was done on Broadway by Jeanne Eagles, and then in a silent with Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore, a talkie with Joan Crawford and Walter Huston, and this with Rita Hayworth and Jose Ferrer.

The original story begins with a long introduction of the missionary. The stage play starts with scenes with the owner of the Pago Pago hotel and his native wife. This version begins with a bunch of rowdy Marines, bored and hard up for female companionship. It plays like a stock version of South Pacific. You never believe them for a minute. They bray. And they pray. And they bray. The problem is that the director establishes no balance, pace, or variety with these men nor is it afforded to Rita Hayworth when she arrives as a tourist off the freighter that is to carry her to a job on a farther island.

You never believe the reformer/missionary and his cortege either, because they are not given enough screen time. They are interesting people, and Maugham knew they needed to be revealed first and fully. For the story is the conflict of two passions, one for perfection and the other for pleasure. Each passion contains a flaw fatal to it as they play themselves out against one another. In the Swanson version, the missionaries are established (by Raoul Walsh who directed, wrote, and starred in the role now played by Aldo Ray) as a bursar collects their entries for his autograph book, and we learn immediately from the pieties they indite therein the intensity of their persuasion.

This version is actually filmed in Hawaii, which brings a proper tropic to it, and which Charles Lawton, who filmed it, sustains in the interiors shot at Columbia. “The Heat is On” which Hayworth dances is beautifully filmed in the atmosphere of sweat, tropical rain, and the mist rising from hot male bodies watching. Her dance, her very presence in a film is worth the price of admission and the time. And I wanted her to be directed better, this is true for the film itself, which was a bowdlerized version cut down to fit the Hays office, women’s clubs, the Catholic Church, and other groups who crossed their legs about it. Didn’t work. Hayworth’s dance is so steamy that the film was banned.

Swanson brought to the part her long skills as a film actor in serious parts (which Hayworth did not have) and her abilities as a natural soubrette, which is how Maugham wrote her. Hayworth is no soubrette, but she unleashes herself on the part admirably, and, being Hayworth you care about her, even as you recognize how her beauty and joie-de-vivre will get her into trouble. Hayworth is the most subtle of the three actresses who played Sadie, she is the most sexually powerful, she is the most convincingly flagrant. In her performance is a performance greater than the one the director had the talent to give her. Maugham said she was his favorite of all the Sadies. She’s mine too. And why? Rita Hayworth is that rare thing, an actor you actually automatically want to root for.

 

Thanks For Sharing

28 Sep

Thanks For Sharing – directed by Stuart Blumberg. A quartet of sex addicts in recovery stumble toward one another in mutual aid and redemption. 112 minutes Color 2013.

★★★★

Josh Gad is probably miscast as the premier liar of this story, for his casting is like casting Bud Abbott in the role. He is meant to supply fat-boy comic relief to material that does not welcome it, since the underpinnings of the lie are nothing-funny.

These people are stern addicts. And their humor would have been best served by its emerging in meetings themselves, where 12 Step style can be very funny indeed, but germane, which Gad’s is not. It’s not the actor’s fault. It’s the fault of the role.

Otherwise we have an excellent film to go to with your fellowship buddies or with those who need some education as to the catastrophe of the condition of addiction to pornography, prostitution, exhibitionism, sexual resorts, and the long list of the rest. For the film does a fair and honest and informed job of looking closely at the addiction in action and in remission – remission being no guarantee of recovery, of which no such thing has ever been known. It’s hard to quit sex addiction; harder than alcohol. You carry around your saloon in your britches.

Pink is completely convincing as the raving sex maniac who comes into the program late and, with help, finds her way toward sobriety. Mark Ruffalo plays a man five years on the sexual wagon, and he is solid in the role. Tim Robbins plays his long-time sponsor, a bleeding deacon of the S-Fellowship (which is never defined), and the parent of a son who has gone sober from drugs cold-turkey on his own. His relation to this son, his refusing to work an 8th and 9th Step with him, is a key drama in the story and one important to behold.

The Ruffalo character has not had sex or a date in five years, and, when he allows himself to, he falls quickly in a relationship with an eager beauty played by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Paltrow is one of the great creatures of the modern screen. When Audrey Hepburn appears on screen one falls in love with her. There is no question as to how good an actress she is. She occupies our heart. And the same holds true for Gwyneth Paltrow, who is a very good actress indeed. She is an actress of great suppleness, intelligence, and grace. Aways fresh. She responds to everything happening to her physically, as though it belonged to her. Like Audrey Hepburn, she is a lady. But one with no stodginess to her. She is fascinating fun to watch.

And all this being true of her, the audience’s energy moves more towards whether this relationship will work out than to whether the quartet of addicts will stay sober.

But the story still honors their stories. And the record of them is true to the facts of sex addiction and its effects on everyone, addict or not, sober or not. So inform yourself. Thanks For Sharing will do for sex addiction what The Lost Weekend once did for alcoholism. It’ll give you the inside story.

 

Torn Curtain

30 Aug

Torn Curtain  – directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Suspense. An American scientist defects to East Germany followed by his girl-friend/Friday, and both must extricate themselves before ITTL (It Is Too Late). 128 minutes Color 1966.

★★★★

After To Catch A Thief I stopped seeing Hitchcock films as they came out, and I know why. The sets look fraudulent.

Why? What aid does this give to the tension of the stories?

Does this come about because Hitchcock story-boarded everything and was only interested in the mock-ups, not in the actual making of the picture itself?

Did the people responsible take it for granted that he liked fake sets

I felt and feel the suspense undermined by the want of reality of the settings in which the perils occurred. Here, for instance, we have an extended murder sequence beautifully shot, but taking place in a little country farmhouse which from the outside looks papier-maché.

Aside from this difficulty, I have no real difficulty with the piece. Of course, the problem with script is well known as having none of the droll Hitchcock gallows humor, which Cary Grant could carry so well, provided the lines provided it. And even if it had the lines, actually we have two actors devoid of the sense of humor that would have required, Paul Newman, who is such a “serious” actor, and Julie Andrews who has pep but no sense of humor at all. And since they are surrounded by spies and scientists and police who are all German, one cannot expect humor from that quarter.

Of course, from the dramatic point of view, Julie Andrews is excellent in the role. You care about her, you wonder about her, you understand her. Newman is excellent for the same reasons. He plays the formula-revelation scene brilliantly and the slaying of the guard brilliantly: he doesn’t want to, but he has to. But both of them lose power in the final scenes, which disappear their characters in a welter of escape-action sequences, and they become lax. They are also left hanging by Hitchcock’s treatment of them. And you never believe Andrews babushka disguise for a minute – her fancy frosted hair shows. But they are both excellent fun in the sex scene with which the film starts, the tone of which is, alas, never followed through.

If Hitchcock’s films of this period disappoint, it is because Hitchcock himself loses power. He devises suspense sequences he cannot execute well, such as the bus trip, and the police entering the theatre at the end, and ditching the guard in the museum.

On the other hand, we have a priceless performance by Ludwig Donath as the key nuclear scientist., who sweeps everything before him with his excitement and authority. And we have a price-of-admission performance by Lila Kedrova as a displaced Polish countess seeking asylum in the United States. She devours the screen. You want her to go on forever, and Hitchcock almost lets her, as he close-ups her while she renders this half-mad character for us. Don’t miss her. And, if you like Hitchcock, don’t miss the film either. Why, you can see both at one and the very same time.

 

Malice

09 May

Malice –– directed by Harold Becker. Drama. A young woman sues a successful doctor for a botched operation –– with dire consequences. 106 minutes Color 1993.

★★★★

Misnamed, Malice is a confidence-game story of the sort I love, like The Grifters. And if you like that sort of thing, this is a good one. True, we are not properly prepared for the finale, and the house on the cliff with the seas raging below is a miscalculation, but never mind; our delight in this mischief has been satisfied long before that.

Particularly as Ann Bancroft has a star turn as an old drunkard in a single scene well worth replaying. She is manipulating to get and manipulated by a bottle of single malt scotch, and her character is tougher than all the Bronx.

Each in single scenes, we also have George C. Scott as a Harvard medical dean and Gwyneth Paltrow brilliant as an insolent high school sophomore.

Indeed, the film is perfectly cast, for who can ever trust Alec Baldwin’s smile? And who can ever mistrust Bill Pullman’s earnestness?

Nicole Kidman is the female star, and I read how David Thomson in his book about her wonders how she could take on this role.

The reason lies in several factors. And it might be fun and perhaps profitable to consider what an actor goes through to accept a role.

First, consider how much Nicole Kidman is like another major film star, Bette Davis, differing from her in her instrument, of course, and being far more of a glamour-puss than Davis. But like Davis in two regards: that she is willing to take on unglamorous parts to play women older than herself, people mean, vicious, hapless, lost, which Davis did all the time. And also that Nicole Kidman possesses an acting talent on the same level as Davis, which is very high indeed, both in innate and developed talent and in ambition for it. Such are her tendencies and position.

Second, terribly, an actor must continue acting, but can accept only what is available at the time. So the question as to why Nicole Kidman did not make a movie of Hedda Gabler, a role she is perfectly suited for, is because no one was making a movie of Hedda Gable at that moment.

Thomson is prejudiced against the material and denounces ii, but he blindsides himself.  He claims Kidman is skewing her character towards ordinariness, which she does not. She is feisty and quick and realistic in relation to her husband and her situation. She never plays innocent. She right-sizes both the devoted social worker and the mistress of the dodge.

But never mind the choices she makes in playing the part. Let’s consider instead the choice she exercised to accept the part at all.

The poet John Hollander once said to me that actors were stupid. I don’t agree. Indeed, certainly less stupid about poetry than poets are about acting, and certainly intelligent in the sort of roles they believe they can play well. That is to say, they have the sort of intelligence which can weigh the specific weight of a role in terms of their own gifts and their own instrument, just as a poet has an intelligence about the sort of poem he will or will not write. It’s a sort of inherent cunning in an artist. And it is a cunning that may see that a part is playable, and yet fail to see that the material is slack. Or it may not see, as how could anyone see, how a piece of material as complicated and communal as a film will pan out in ultimate execution and public appeal. So, very good actors appear sometimes in very stupid movies. That the movies are bad may give the impression that their acting also is bad, but that is usually not the case. Even as young as 25, Malice is a good choice for Nicole Kidman to have made. And it is her informed choice.

Think of it this way. Sviatoslav Richter played only two of the Beethoven concertos and only two of the Rachmaninoff concertos and only two of the Saint-Saens concertos and only two of the Prokofiev concertos, though each composer wrote five. Why? Because Richter knew he had nothing to bring to the missing twelve. They were not right for his particular talent, or, in his case, his genius. Nicole Kidman, an actor of genius, is not a genius at everything either, and her intelligence will tell her what her particular genius can make of a part. Like Richter she is not meant to play everything. She choses what she can bring or not bring her gifts to. It’s a calculation about craft.

How can I make this clearer?

All right.

I have played many leading roles in plays. I could play King Lear. I could play Big Daddy. But I know darn well I could not play Willie Loman. My instrument is not made for it.

This film was highly successful, and she is flawless in it. She achieves complete bafflement over everyone, including the audience, which is the confident woman’s job, isn’t it? And when you look back on the performance you can see that there is no dissociation between what Kidman presents of the character as wife and what the character hides from view.

But, more particularly, it is a role exactly right for her in the writing, atmosphere, and treatment. It is something she could do that we did not know she could do until we saw her do it here. But she knew she could do it.

 

 

Don’t Come Knocking

16 Apr

Don’t Come Knocking directed by Wim Wenders. Drama. A has-been Western film star flees the set and finds his way back to the families he disregarded 20 years before. 122 minutes Color 2006.
★★★
The poster shows Sam Shepherd perched on the hood of a 50s sedan, his chin in his hand, his hat on, his head down, his face invisible, contemplating his boots. This invisibility of the main actor is typical of the picture, the actor, and so is the way it is shot, largely on bare empty streets of Butte, Montana. No cars, no people, no content. Content Invisible.

Wenders has striven for an Edward Hopper look. But that is a look of blank tedium. And it is also a look which works in paintings because paintings do not move and the look of blank tedium is found only on the faces of humans who do not move. Movies move. So here the trick falls out of the rubric of film-making and into one of the pretenses which govern this picture.

One of the pretenses is that this hollowness holds Some Meaning. But the piece is written by Sam Shepard and as such falls apart before our hopeful eyes, just as all his other pieces do. For there is something empty in Sam Shepard and it is not the emptiness of The Divine. It is the emptiness of a criminal. The crime of art from the non-artist.

In this case, for instance, the confrontation scenes between Jessica Lange and the actor who plays her son, and between the son and Shepard,are not just overwritten but lies. For Shepard does his usual trick of busting up the joint as a display of anger. Smashing a ton of beer bottles at the end of a porch, wrecking your mother’s kitchen – here throwing all the furnishings out of a second story window is simply conventional Shepard shtick. And the convention does not hold because the issues is not rage, but fear.

Anger is easy to act and dramatize. But fear? This we never get to here. We never get to it in the character Shepard has written for himself, or in himself as an actor. I used to think that Shepard was a better actor than a playwright, and that he could carry a film, but I believe I am wrong.

His concerns are ones he wishes to nurse, not to solve. Certainly Butte is interesting to see. George Kennedy is brief fun as a floored director. Tim Roth is effective as the Javert character. And Sarah Polley is right on the money as a newly minted orphan. However, Jessica Lange mugs through her role, as usual, making much of her mouth, perhaps to draw fire from her eyes, which are not good actor’s eyes.

Besides all this bushwah, all the women in this piece are angels, and all the men are devils, and that does not add up to a drama. The rest of it does not add up to one either, and one is left at the finale duped once again by the sexiness, routine taciturnity, good looks, and self-involvement with which the public has masterminded Sam Shepard’s reputation into being. The films leaves you flat.

Flat.

 

Temptation — The Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor

10 Apr

Temptation – Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor –– written, produced, and directed by Tyler Perry. Drama. A female counselor working in a dating service office meets a demon with beautiful eyes. 111 minutes Color 2013.

★★★★

This piece comes from a Perry stage play, and I had the experience of seeing it just after viewing a series of Robert Altman films of plays. The difference between them is marked. On the one hand Perry has a clear strong story, and Altman frequently courts a story invisible to the point of limpness. But the odds come out in favor of Altman. Because Altman has something he wants to do with the clay and material substance of film, and, as yet, Tyler Perry does not. For Perry film is a means, for Altman a medium.

Perry is a sweet and gifted entertainer. But he probably should not write his own screenplays when taken from his own stage plays, because he cannot see them clearly enough to cut them. There is too much talk and the talk is TV-banal. And he also should concentrate on becoming a director and discovering what that métier really offers. Right now his craft is so ordinary as almost to be insulting to his audience’s aesthetic sense. A high drama executed with a routine of reaction shots is stultifying.

Although the film plays as though it were not originally a stage play, he brings into what is a serious, compelling, and dangerous story, certain stereotypes, not from life, but, without realizing it, from TV comedy. He takes them seriously and they drain the piece of credibility and the balance which supports credibility in a serious drama.

An example of this is the husband of the young woman, who is cut out of paper into a thankless role played by the handsome and well formed and highly professional Lance Gross. The husband is found inadequate to the wife on the grounds that he forgot her birthday twice and watches the ball game. He also makes love in bed with the lamp low and the covers pulled. None of this gives an actor a cue for character. It is external. There is nothing for him to inhale or imagine. All of it is conventional, sufficient, tired.

We also have the maniac mom with The Lord’s Name her word and sword. Disapproval was what the Bible was devised to guide her to bestow. This would be funny in a Tyler Perry comedy, for comedy diets on stereotypes. But not tragedy.

In the rubric of drama the only requisite is imagination. The vivacity and veracity of Altman films come to us from his imagining that these are to be found in the human quirks of the outlying action – literally in the eccentric. But too many of Perry’s characters wantonly lack eccentricity. They lack being.

What does not lack being in the piece is Renée Taylor, a delicious clown as a Jewish pharmacist. (It’s so good to see her again.) And it does not lack top flight talent in the two focal characters of a situation which works like gang busters because the woman is an ordinary woman tempting herself with an extraordinary man. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is full in command of her craft in playing the woman.  Ronnie Jones as the demon set out to seduce her (“To show love for someone, but not to feel that love – that is the work of Mephistopheles.”) is fabulous – and so skilled is the writing and the playing of the scenes between them that while they are going on all else retreats from consideration. See Temptation for that.

One cannot help like and root for Tyler Perry. If here his too many hands make heavy his work, still his spirit and honesty in putting this strong material forth is admirable and big hearted and bold. It is not only blacks in his audience who wish him to succeed – succeed in a way this very successful man has insufficiently dreamed.

 
Comments Off on Temptation — The Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor

Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, ACTORS MALE, and Directed by Tyler Perry, DRAMA, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Produced, Renée Taylor, Ronnie Jones, Written

 

Amour

27 Jan

Amour – directed by Michael Haneke. Drama. A married couple in their 80s end their time together when the wife suffers a stroke and slowly declines as the husband devotedly cares for her. 127 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★★
If you sit back, if you’re capable of sitting back, you will find yourself in the privileged position of watching a life-and-death process you never imagined you would witness. The direction and filming of this story is so close to its home that one does not seem to be intruding at all, much less watching a film.

The story is very simple. They are retired musicians. They have made their contribution, and when illness overtakes the wife, one of her pupils, a successful concert pianist comes to pay his grateful respects. That tells you everything you need to know about their lives before their present trial. Their daughter comes; she also is a musician; she is on tour; her views of how to handle matters are desperate and understandable – but there is nothing to be done that is not being done well.

All this sounds uneventful, and so it is in a way, because while the death sentence of life hangs in the wings, ordinary life goes on as well. The newspaper is read, the tea is made. But also the patient must be bathed. The diaper must be changed. The straw must be applied to the lips. The husband takes on these tasks. He performs them simply and well.

Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trantignant. I am almost loathe to mention the names of the two actors who plays these two old persons, because they seem to not be acting but simply enacting. The film seems not to be staged, but to unfold in large chapters before my eyes and mine alone. The two characters are often shown, not dead on but at an angle as though I were eavesdropping right there over their shoulder. It doesn’t seem like a film, so much as a record. It left me speechless.

The film is in line for a 2013 Oscar as The Best Foreign film and The Best Film. Emmanuelle Riva is nominated for Best Actress. Michael Haneke for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. It won the Palm D’Or at Cannes. You owe it to yourself.

 

Old Joy

21 Dec

FOR FREE!

22 December 2012, Friday.

Read Christmas Day In The Morning, a jolly holiday tale for the whole family. And get your free Kindle application to boot. On Amazon, visit: http://amzn.com/B00AA59P5G.
You can also lend it and borrow it. And tomorrow and Sunday it is not $2.99 but free!

~ ~ ~

Old Joy – directed by Kelly Reichardt. Drama. After a ten year separation two twenty-eight year olds reunite on a trek to the Oregon woods, and the question is, will they go on being friends? 76 minutes Color 2007.

★★★★★

This is really one of those perfect movies in which the cool temperament of the director is just the right temperature to release in the actors the natural stirrings in them about their characters own lives and how they accord.

I love the leisure of the film. How it moves slowly and respectfully through the Oregon countryside past the Vale Of Ashes outskirts of Portland, through pastureland, and into the deep woods on the way to Bagby Hot Springs. The two are accompanied by Lucy a dog who chaperones them and who is free of past, of restraints, of ambition. For it is the clear intent of one of the men to seduce the other back into the life they led when they were 18, which was careless and carefree. Both parts are played perfectly: Will Oldham plays the balding hippy and Daniel London the soon-to-be-father whose life has become domestic and suburban.

London’s first look at Oldham when they get in the car is one of stern incredulity. Is this guy still spouting the old stuff about everyone running around naked on the beach and getting laid? Has this guy not outgrown his hippy malarkey? No, he has not, but as he tests my patience, I also find patience with him. “I never got into anything I couldn’t get out of,” he says which is just his problem.

Oldham can’t grasp that his friend would want to be a father. But Oldham has marvelous stories to tell, because he has marvelous adventures, whereas his friend, London, has only a pregnant wife, domesticity, and a hard time doing Zen in a poor suburban yard. “The universe is just a tear falling through space,” is Olham’s advanced astronomy, but his friend London doesn’t know the truth that the director allows us to see.

She gives us a world drenched in the passages of life and nature. So I come to sympathize with Oldham, left to wander and mooch. And I sympathize with London, his eyes gleaming with a piece of his life saying farewell to itself. “Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy” – and we see it arrive in both of them, where it belongs, as it must, as personal history outlived.

 
Comments Off on Old Joy

Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, DRAMA, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

The Naked Zoo

01 Dec

The Naked Zoo – directed by Richard Grefe. Drama. Swingers degrade themselves. 78 minutes Color 1971.

Subnormal, actually. Here is a great superstar appearing in what is slightly better than porn-blanc. A dreadful script with actors unworthy of her gifts and beauty. Rita Hayworth — it’s hard to get the words out — at the end of her career, it is true. Yet I can imagine why she accepted the script. There is an emotional scene in it which no script she was ever handed gave her the opportunity to perform. I can’t say it’s worth renting it to watch her do this work, but there it is. She was a very good actress, quite underrated as such, when her glaring beauty and sexual joie de vivre was so astounding and so much fun for her. What happens when such a rose fades? Do we stop photographing it? Or is the fading a piece of life also. We know the answer. It’s just that one wishes the occasion had been rose-class. Here’s to you, Rita. You are still, in the right hands, one of the great ones!

 
Comments Off on The Naked Zoo

Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, DRAMA, Rita Hayworth: Screen Goddess

 

The Master

25 Sep

The Master – produced and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Drama. 137 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★★
Mihai Malaimare Jr. films it as to bring a heavenly unity to a story in a realm not on earth but in the psyche itself, earthy as the mise-en-scene nonetheless is. For it is the story – and it is a great one – how the psyche embraces and then runs from what will better it, as though it will not be meddled with, even by God. In human form God is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a coming guru out to create a miracle proof of his powers, who choses as the best bet for human reclamation a mentally borderline vagrant drunk. The director, Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Hard Eight, There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love) has chosen well these two to demonstrate his thesis. For what could be more stunning as a feat for a guru than to bring into health and sanity a creature who is subnormal. This subnormality needs must have as its basis a soul about which the viewer cannot care, just as in the guru we must see, not a soul at work either, but an ambition. The two men therefore absolutely adore one another. They find one another to be great fun, they sacrifice themselves for one another, they tempt one another to the greatest feat of their lives, and they speak truth to one another so ruthlessly it is almost unbearable to watch were it not for the fact that truth brings life itself to the brink of surrender. After the film is over and one writes about it, the idea of the guru being played by a man the same age as the mad derelict is discounted by the certainty that that would raise issues of homosexuality that would be irrelevant to the conflict at hand, and the idea certainly never occurs to one while watching these gladiators play it out, one of them being Philip Seymour Hoffman who brings the guru to life as a being of such humor and ease that one cannot entertain a single contradictory casting idea while watching him. It is, of course, not essentially his story. It is the story of Freddie Quell brought into being by Joaquin Phoenix. Hoffman calls Freddie a naughty boy, and, true, Freddie is a child’s name and Quell is the name, if I recall, of Kwell, a nostrum to kill nits, crabs, and body lice. Phoenix brings this low human tantrum to life by giving him a physical being that operates inside out. Like the cheesiest thug, his chest is concave, his shoulders rounded and sloping, his walk rabbit-brisk, bowed, scared. He has a nutso laugh which arises warily on the left side of his face and takes over like a death spasm. Hoffmann gets to him by seeing in him what no one else can see, including us as an audience, and tolerates him because of it, which is to say he sees the grandest opportunity in his professional life and someone in his way as wild as himself. His much younger wife, which Amy Adams plays with marvelous rigor, suspects Phoenix – but for the wrong reason. She is the holy mother of the cult and she suspects Phoenix of being flimsy in his devotion to it and uncurable by either its ministrations or any other. But Hoffman sees Phoenix as something other than a devotee. He sees him as an object of play, infantile, dangerously violent, half-mad, and therefore ideal for restoration. It would be the greatest because most obvious triumph of his mastery. It would invent his mastery. Trouble is he suffers from violent temper too, verbal in his case, and the scenes of its emergence are stunning to behold, particularly the one in which a Philadelphia society lady, in a scene played consummately by Laura Dern, asks him about a change in his methods. For Hoffman too will not be meddled with. And his wife’s opinion of Phoenix will not hold. In the end, in one of the great scenes in cinema, he sings the perfect love song to him, “I’d Like To Get You On A Slow Boat To China,” for if he could, he could bring Phoenix to a state of unenvisionable grace. But like many thugs, Phoenix is sexually hot. He can get laid or drunk on the spot. He carries the secret elixir of sex, just as he carries the secret elixir of the almost poisonous alcoholic concoctions he pours out as libational benefits everywhere. They are his sanctuaries. It is a remarkable characterization, a remarkable performance, a remarkable study in human nature. People want to improve others, but can offer it only so far as their own frailty of temperament can take them, and people want to be improved by others, but are touchy at the sticking point, after all. They will not be saved by the fallible. Their perfection is killed by perfectionism. Chilling. Great. See it.

 

Swimming To Cambodia

17 May

Swimming To Cambodia — directed by Jonathan Demme.  Docudrama. Spalding Grey performs his monologue about his experiences in Bangkok as a movie actor filming The Killing Fields. 82 minutes. Color. 1987.

★★★★★

There sits Spalding Grey in his usual plaid workshirt and jeans with a glass of water and a 5 & 10 spiral notebook and delivers his remarkable take on his life and mind. He is quite beautiful, and the director keeps close up on him, even though he is delivering it, supposedly, in the small space of New York’s Performing Garage. Actually the film is more than a record of a well-rehearsed performance piece, for it includes lighting effects and process shots not offered when one saw it in person. But that’s all right. Also all right are The Killing Fields clips themselves. It’s not a gag-driven monologue, although it is always humorous and sometimes even funny. It is, rather, a crazy education imparted professorially, for he maintains himself seated, dignified in all his indignity and indignation, behind the lecture barrier of the little table. We are being taught something. We all need this restraint placed upon someone who is after all tearing out his hair. For what is interesting is Grey’s fine madness. Which consists of what drives him nuts about himself and the world he inhabits, in this case the international political zoo of the 70s, when Nixon personally put America to a secret war against the Khmer Rouge in Northern Cambodia. Grey is involved in the massacre, and he is also involved in living, concurrent with it, the voluptuous life of a Hollywood production expense account, which also takes him to the wild and pristine beaches of the Indian Ocean, where he swims unto death. Why should we be interested in this? Because Grey is not a moron and is not pretending to a popular simplicity. He is a middle class, middle aged guy whose neuroses are such that they lead him, as neuroses often do, to the truth. He is a responsive actor and he is a telling mimic. And he is willing, for some reason, to experience, before our eyes, excruciation. One is aware, as he does this, that he does this every night, night after night, for an audience to which he would suggest his own resemblance. This is also part of his madness. For it includes our madness in going to see him, night after night, and as we watch we are aware of our own intrusive continued presence at this witty crucifixion. A college graduate. Yes. Literate. Yes. With good diction. Yes. And sane with insanity. If that troubles you, stay away. If it does not trouble you, then you can stand being troubled by his trouble. Just as you can stand being troubled by that of Garrison Keillor, who has the power to entertain you in just the same vein, you see.

 

Keeper Of The Flame

10 May

Keeper Of The Flame – directed by George Cukor. WW II Melodrama. A gigantic American hero dies and a foreign correspondent tries to uncover the truth about him through questioning his wife.

★★★

To say George Cukor was a so-so director is not to stretch the bounds of praise. He had no sense of narrative proportion. He so loved the beauty and truth of actresses that he lumbered his films with scenes lengthened to glamorize them. For he loved women. What he did not love was men and women. He had no sense of the sexual energy between them, and you will find that most of his films are not about mating. This one certainly is not. So, as a follow-up of Woman Of The Year, by a director who certainly loved men and women, George Stevens, it is a baffling folly. However, in glamorizing Katharine Hepburn it is a triumph – one she carries admirably. With her carved visage, slim figure, and large hands, she is a goddess, not in the sense of a deity but in the sense of something carved out of stone. Indeed she enters the film draped by Adrian, in white like sculpture. It is one of the great opening scenes for an actress ever shot. And that is because the great William Daniels is filming it, lighting it, and choosing the floor-up angle to exalt it. The creator of Garbo in silents and sound, he is a photographer who could make every movie he shot look like a concerto. You’re not consciously aware of it, but each scene in the picture becomes alive and important because he is filming it to make it look like a Greek Tragedy. Which Greek Tragedy? The one in which, as E.B. Browning once said, Cassandra smells the slaughter in the bathroom. It is pointless to expatiate now how this picture could be improved (only to warn the viewer parenthetically that the idea of a fascist threat inside America during WW II was hooey). What one can say is that Hepburn plays all her scenes quietly, her cheeks held still, her sometimes grating volatility left outside the door. She exudes a convincing, mysterious and necessary calm. Excellent is what she is. And for that we can credit Cukor. Spencer Tracy plays the world-famous reporter, her part in Woman Of The Year, and again he is up against Hepburn’s devotion to a cause greater than anything that could lie between them. As in Woman Of The Year with Dan Tobin, she is almost under the control of her assistant Richard Whorf. Both men are played as fruits, which confuses their treachery with their sexual orientation, a combination which is truthful to neither. Are we supposed to hate fruits because they are treacherous or hate traitors because they are fruits? You see the absurdity of the matter. A strong supporting cast is put to abuse; Frank Craven as the doctor, Stephen McNally as the investigative journalist, Margaret Wycherly as the balmy mother of the great man, Howard Da Silva as the doorkeeper whom he saved and who hates him, Percy Kilbride as the smug yokel, Forrest Tucker as the great big jock, Donald Meek as the meek little hotel manager, and Audrey Christie as the newspaper dame whose sexual sallies tell us Tracy is not interested in women of any kind at all. During production, Hepburn and Donald Ogden Stewart the adapter fought badly over this story’s treatment and she won. Too bad. She fancied herself as a writer, but if you read her autobiography, you can see she was not one at all. As with Summertime and other ventures, her interference in the area of story are almost always wrong. It comes out of her desire to control, also known as, wanting to make things better, but in her case it springs from a fear at no place evident in this fine performance, which ends with one of the longest monologs ever to be given to the temptation of an actress to venture out upon. As she emerges from the shadows to do it, Tracy retreats into them. And William Daniels, quite right, has his way.

 

Enemies, A Love Story

05 Mar

Enemies, A Love Story — directed by Paul Mazursky. Drama. A widower who has remarried and taken a mistress finds himself predicamented with the reappearance of his first wife who has not died after all. 119 minutes Color 1989.

★★★★★

I have not seen all Paul Mazursky’s movies. But they all have the ring of truth in them, even such appalling nonsense as Tempest. Do I make myself clear, then, when I say that I have seen enough of them to want to see them all, but nevertheless do not look forward to seeing any more of them because the one at hand here must be his masterpiece. I have three complaints about it. The first is that I do not understand how any of the characters make a living. The second has to do with the fact that the relation of these characters to the concentration camps, which all four characters have survived, never works, never happens; in the novel it probably does. And the last is that Ron Silver is gravely miscast, for he is a cold actor. He would be perfect for Mamet which Mazursky discovered him performing in New York, but not here. Inside him is complete ice. This does not make him a bad actor, for he is a very good actor, even here, and I have always enjoyed him in other parts, playing those ferocious lawyers and intellectuals at which he was so good. Here he has passionate relations with three women, and he relates to each of them sexually and to each as a predicament, but never to any of them as women, as human, not once. You don’t even know that he actually likes women. The story, the script, has to tell us that he cannot make up his mind; it is never revealed in him. He is always on remote. Or rather, since he is not telephoning in his performance, he is always removed. The film achieves its greatness because of all the female actors, which include Judith Malina, Margaret Sophie Stein, Lena Olin and The Great Anjelica Huston, the last two of whom were nominated for Oscars for this film. Huston has the greatest scene in the film; I won’t tell you what it is; you will have no trouble recognizing it once it is before you. Lena Olin brings into being a woman so sexually vibrant she drives men crazy – because she is actually crazy. It is a performance remarkable for its explosiveness and for the unwavering courage of the actor to bring her to us. In her power, talent, and smile, she reminds me of the great Judy Davis.  What first struck me about this piece was how exactly right the director and designer got the period of 1947 over forty years later in 1989. I lived in Queens in the 40s, I knew those dingy apartments, those fire escapes, those laundry-draped streets, the cramped shops with their smells and the sidewalk life, and the God-awful summer heat. I remember Coney Island well from those days. In the extras, Mazursky tells how he did it, and this was fun for me to see. His production designer, Pato Guzman, deserves highest marks for the interiors. They are exactly right. They don’t look like sets. They don’t look like settings. I remember every one of them. They were 1920’s places actually, for none were built during the Depression, of course, and none, of course, during The War. Anyhow the story pinballs the Ron Silver character around between the women, all of whom he can sexually gratify but none of whom he can satisfy by finally choosing. That is the comedy and the tragedy of the Isaac Bashev Singer story and the actresses and the director, the photographer, the editor, and the scorer have made a masterpiece. Is this a recommendation? You choose. Me? – I’ve said enough.

 

 

It’s A Wonderful Life

06 Dec

It’s A Wonderful Life – Directed by Frank Capra. Comedy/Drama. A home-town man teeters suicidally rather than bankrupting himself and his fellow townsfolk. 130 minutes Black and White 1946.

* * * * *

Clint Eastwood remarked how violent James Stewart was in the Anthony Mann Westerns he made in his late middle age. But they are nothing to compare with the rudeness, insolence, insult, and threat he delivers in this supposedly down-home performance of a would-be suicide learning about the life he has lived before it is too late. The insanity with which he throttles the foolish Thomas Mitchell is terrifying. He is violently mean to his children (as indeed one must be at Christmas to have a really meaningful Yule.) But the picture as a Christmas Classic probably looms as large as it does for the same reason that Dickens’ A Christmas Carol does – because of the Scrooginess of Stewart, as George Bailey, followed by the ghastly death-threat visions before he mends his ways. Jimmy Stewart is remarkable in the role, and except for the final scene of the sanctimonious, Deus ex-macchina rescue by the townsfolk of Bedford Falls, where there is something wrong with his singing and his smile, we have a great performance by a master of his craft. It is said that the film was not successful in its day, but I’m not so sure. I saw it when it came out, and I remember it vividly. And both it and Stewart and Capra were nominated for Oscars that year. Or perhaps there is not something wrong with that final smile. Perhaps what I see behind it is a hangover of his own nasty brush with the afterlife. Stewart had been away at war, one of the first big stars to enlist, and he bravely piloted more bombing missions over Europe than was good for any mortal man. Everyone was changed by The War, and what changed most in Hollywood was the virtual inability of its male stars to play comedy any more. Tyrone Power had been marvelous in light comedy; so had Henry Fonda; so had Stewart; George Stevens never directed another one, and screwball comedy never really returned. They came back from The War changed men. Solutions now weren’t so easy as they once were in Capra’s great, good-hearted comedies of the 30s. Capra never made a convincing comedy after World War II, and his career petered out. Here however he is in the last chapter of his topmost form. Every scene is beautifully written, every scene is perfectly begun, played, ended, and edited. Like Normal Rockwell’s paintings, what is illustrated here – and It’s A Wonderful Life is essentially a genre painting and an illustration – is the value of the truth of American community, which is that we must get along with people quite different from ourselves in personal style, race, and national derivation, and that to do so is to survive by the only means possible for survival: love. Love is what needs to survive. And love is what survives us. To make the illustration clear Capra does exactly what Rockwell does: he makes his humans almost caricatures. Like Rockwell, Capra’s characters live in gawky motion, and their gesture is strategized in the direction of endearing folly. All this is still true of America and Americans. Forgetting love’s survival through cooperation and public service and remembering it again is our national drama. This is what makes It’s A Wonderful Life the one film of Capra’s that will not date. To force the illustration, Capra has cast the story perfectly: first with Lionel Barrymore, the perennial Scrooge of radio in those days, as the meanie Mr. Potts, and he eats the role alive. Then with Ward Bond as the cop, Beulah Bondi as the mom, Donna Reed as the feisty wife, Gloria Graham as the town gal of questionable morals, Henry Travers as The Angel Clarence, Frank Faylen as the cabbie, Sheldon Leonard as the bartender, and a huge heterogeneous cast of townsfolk. It’s A Wonderful Life is a wonderful movie.

 

The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness

05 Jun

The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness – Directed by Mark Robson. Pious Drama. An English woman unqualified to be a missionary in China makes her way there and become a great one. 158 minutes Color 1958.

* * * *

The studio asked Mildred Dunnock to tutor Ingrid Bergman in the accents of the Great Women Of History, characters she was to play on a radio show, but when Bergman came to her, Bergman resisted learning them, and wouldn’t, saying that people liked her own accent, and she left. Bergman spoke Swedish and Summer Vacation German, and thought and spoke in English. Her Italian was highly inflected and her French was also. People said to her Roberto Rossellini ruined her career, but she always said, “No, I ruined his,” and she was right, that is to say she could never play an Italian. She was always the stalwart Swedish lass. In Jean Renoir’s film she is certainly not French. In Hollywood films she is certainly not American. Playing a Russian she is a Swede. In very few films did her accent suit her character; Casablanca is one of them. Of course, in one way she was right: her accent was always charming. She loved to act, because she said she liked to be other people, but it’s not quite true. What she liked to be was the other person inside herself that other people loved. That person was remarkably real, though – loving, happy, sensual, and kind – and also a person who could express her feelings freely, just as she had with her father who reared her and who died when she was young. She married three highly controlling men. Around them, she was permitted to be only partly natural, the part they liked. In ordinary life and on the set, everyone found her beautiful, light spirited, down to earth, and accessible. All this she also brought to the screen, along with a radiance which she was aware of and which made her the super-star saint of film of her era. There was a certain kind of actress she was, and there was a certain kind of actress she was not. She was as stubborn as Saint Joan, just as driven, just as martyred, and almost just as graced with the light of God. This is one of her saint roles, and no one else could have been so good in it. She plays a young woman; she is 41 and looks it; it doesn’t matter. She is both competent in the part and brings to it 25 years of stardom in just such roles, so we accept the tale and its outcome long before it is told. In it the German actor Kurt Jurgens plays a Chinese colonel; Robert Donat, in his last film role, plays a mandarin. And a wonderful actress named Althene Sayler plays the missionary Bergman replaces. The film is beautifully produced. The music is great and is by Malcolm Arnold. In it Ingrid Bergman speaks Chinese with a Swedish accent.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 
 
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button