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Archive for the ‘Colin Firth’ Category

The Railway Man

30 Apr

The Railway Man – directed by Jonathan Teplisky. BioPic. 116 minutes Color 2013.

★★★

The Story: A middle-aged couple’s new marriage is about to be sabotaged by the history of the husband’s prisoner-of-war experience under the Japanese.~

It is excruciating.

In two senses. One is that the film shows the screaming brutality of the Japanese, their demented rage, their maniacal beatings, their sadistic torture. I lived through that era and remember well “those dirty Japs,” and I wonder now how it was possible for a whole people to behave this way. Now that I say this, I must also say that I got this information from what I have seen in war movies at the time – and this one. But still, inside the Japanese then was the capacity of wolverines. A viciousness so extreme it may be, as suggested by one of its perpetrators here, that it came from their being told that the Japanese could not lose – a lie that triggered the chaos that comes from a sense of unbridled power.

It is excruciating also in that all this is prolonged by a narrative style that asks us to fill in blanks, which we do not have sufficient identification with the characters as given to do. But the real excruciation is the way it is filmed, which is in a sort of perfumed haze, so that nothing is quite immediate. It is as though the whole thing had been slipcovered in makeup like Joan Crawford. It is very pretty and you can never quite get to it.

The story tells of Eric Lomax, a young British radio operator taken when the English army surrendered Singapore. He becomes a car mechanic but conspires with his fellow prisoners to assemble a radio to listen to broadcasts. When the Japanese discover it, he takes responsibility. They torture him to tell what he was broadcasting. He is caged, water boarded, beaten. Over and over. That he survives is astonishing.

A back and forth narrative works well. The corny staging of the resolution does not work well, but is still affecting, and a great moral lesson inheres in it. But it does not inhere in the movie, because the movie lacks internal life. The structure does not correspond to the outer story. The marriage is set aside as a narrative force, for one thing, and for another Nicole Kidman as the wife is miscast. The wife needs to be more ordinary. Kidman, of course, is good, but the part needs to be played by an actress with a broader foundation.

The young Eric Lomax is well cast and played by Jeremy Irvine; he has something of the mouth and the speech pattern of the older Lomax. But, as the older Lomax, Colin Firth is a dead hand. I do not see anything in Colin Firth. He is an actor who just stands there and expects you to do something about it. I do not find him permeable. I do not find his face interesting or sensitive. I do not understand what others see in him or why he should be up there before me. I cannot be for him; I cannot be against him; I find him inert.

And I do not gladly fill in his blanks, nor the enormous spaces between speeches, nor the narrative lacunae in this remarkable story of a moral, brave, and resilient human being.

 

Then She Found Me

15 Feb

Then She Found Me – directed by Helen Hunt. Dramedy. 100 minutes Color 2008

★★★★★

The Story: A woman on the lea-side of 40 wants to have a baby, but she doesn’t want to adopt, especially when her own long-lost birth mother turns up to drive her nuts.

~ ~ ~

Here’s an interesting film you haven’t seen and haven’t even heard of.

Is that true?

It’s true that it’s interesting. And what is more interesting still is how Helen Hunt worked on it for years as a writer and producer before she could get it made. She directed it and stars in it. She describes this whole process with unusual candor in the Extra Features, and you will like how smart she is and how honest, gifted, and determined.

And I think you will like her playing of the main character. As you will Bette Midler as the birth mother, Matthew Broderick as her husband, and Colin Firth as the attractive but erratic divorcé she takes up with.

The movie has a dumb title. It really should be called The Comedy Of Betrayal, because that is the subject driving both Hunt and the story. What place does betrayal play in a relationship? Is it necessary? Perhaps. Is it inevitable? Probably. How do you mine its riches?

The picture is shot in Brooklyn, from what I can tell, and it has a playful, searching script, made marvelously and justly funny by Midler, whom you want to strangle and love all at the same time, and by Matthew Broderick as the gormeless hubby.

It’s a perfect movie for home viewing with a bright mate. Check it out. There’s a lot to see and a lot to surprise you here. And a lot to talk about afterwards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where The Truth Lies

25 Apr

Where the Truth Lies – directed by Atom Egoyan. Who-Done-It. A pretty biographer falls into the hotel beds of famous comedian-partners. 107 minutes Color 2005.
★★★
I am going to discipline myself. I am no longer going to idly grab a movie at the library for any other reason but that I believe I will enjoy it – grab it out of curiosity or to fill a gap in my education or after saying, “Oh, here’s a minor Bop Hope comedy I never heard of.”

Not that I dislike Bob Hope; I don’t; but I am not interested in being an omnivore of movies; I reviewed over 600 movies in the past two years; I am stuffed.

Or rather, what I am interested in is the truth of acting. The craft of acting, which I myself have practiced a good many years – although mainly on the stage – is what I wish to offer here, insofar as I can perceive it. For I am not An Acting Mogul. I was only my own sort of actor. There are many other sorts. Almost as many as there are actors. I am humble before the craft, its difficulties, its delights. And I watch films because certain actors are in them. I love actors and acting.

Beyond that, I am interested in the work of certain directors: Raoul Walsh whom I am fond of; Elia Kazan whom I surrendered to when young; George Stevens, in the beauty of whose work I still become lost. There are many others, modern directors whose work brings a slant on and a veracity of life to my life. It is foolish of me to think that I should watch films to keep abreast with the past or the present. I don’t care about that. I watch films as I have always done, to save my life: as scripture. And to have a good laugh, which is sometimes the same thing.

This picture is beautifully executed. It is good to see Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon in roles so far outside their usual realm, and their imagination and vitality count a lot in the carrying power of surprising us here. Bacon is particularly effective in certain scenes, evincing a virility in seduction one has never seen before. He’s a hard actor to watch, however, because what lies behind his face is always so volatile, and because his eyes don’t match. I have always liked to see him, though. But one cares not a rat’s buns about the fate of him or of Firth or of any of the people in this picture.

The two comedians performing fund raising marathons on TV are dead-hearted pros. And the writing of the young college girl who is murdered betrays her character by having her ask for money for having witnessed a compromising scene between Bacon and Firth. It would be better had she been murdered simply for seeing it.

I suppose the film might have engaged one, if it had adhered to the regulation set down for us by Howard Hawks in The Big Sleep and had the female lead investigating the crime been played with the insolence required to shoulder her way into the lives of the comedians, and the wit to figure out who-dun-it at the end. But the actress cast is of a vacuous temperament. I suppose someone thought that her innocence and her naiveté would draw us in. But, you know, innocence is not very interesting. It is interesting in a child, but only because in a child it is inextricably and intimately aligned with a child’s imagination to improvise. Innocence lends infant improvisation its gas. Innocence is catatonically boring without its moment-by-moment inventive power. As Oscar Wilde said, “It is always wrong to be innocent,” and as Borges said of Oscar Wilde, “He is never wrong.”

I picked up the film because of its wonderful title. Somehow I’d heard of it, hadn’t I? The director had such an unusual name. Hadn’t I heard of him? Yes, but none of that is enough to spend time on a dime. I must watch myself. Loving watching movies as much as I do is a vacuous reason to watch anything that comes to hand. Forgive me.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: INTERNATIONAL REALISTIC, Colin Firth, Kevin Bacon, WHO-DUN-IT

 

Easy Virtue

09 Sep

Easy Virtue – Directed by Stephen Elliott. High Comedy. The scion of an upper crust British family brings home his American wife. 96 minutes Color 2008.

* * * *

Noel Coward’s (aged 25) drama of class snobbery is updated in diction and tone to the present day, although still set in the 20s. All that works just fine. Colin Firth, not an actor I much admire although there is nothing not to like about him, plays the veteran of WWI who fiddles with a motorcycle and keeps mum while his highly controlling wife makes life miserable for one and all. Kristin Scott Thomas plays her brilliantly. It’s the Gladys Cooper part, you understand, and we are to learn rather late in the day that she objects to the young wife because she really wishes to keep her son home because the estate is failing and presumably he can save it. But it’s a phony excuse, for the reason she is a bitch is the same as any woman is, because she wishes to blanket all the sexual energy in her bailiwick.  Some of Thomas’ lines are lost in the rush of British, a common error of English actors when scurrying through the heady regions of contempt. But the real reason the piece doesn’t work is that the American is played by Jessica Biel who is neither attractive nor fascinating and plays the character with no sense of inner style, one way or another, whatsoever. You need a modern Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, Loretta Young in the part, but, I guess there are none. The Extras are informative and fun. The direction is excellent. The costumes are tops. The fabulous houses in which it was shot are worth the visit, and so is a fox hunt and a great tango scene, in which Firth takes the floor. He is very fine in the dance and in the part, there and elsewhere, and I may start to warm up to him after all.

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