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Archive for the ‘Timothy Spall’ Category

Mr. Turner

20 May

Mr. Turner – directed by Mike Leigh. Biopic. 2 hours 30 minutes Color 2014.
★★★★★
The Story: The English painter successfully moves through the scenes of his renown and successfully also hides out from it.
~
Mr. Turner is a drama without conflict.

How a superbly accomplished artist moves through his days at the peak of his success is the worthwhile subject of this Mike Leigh masterwork, Mr. Turner.

Is Turner dissolute, drunk, stingy, mean, competitive, bellicose? Yes.

He is eccentric, also, which means his actions spring from his inner sources. He is a master of his medium, true, and if his means are odd, he also had worked them out as a child in his father’s barber shop. He is unattached by marriage, but that is because he is married to his calling. The two of the three women he is sexually involved with seem pleased by him.

All this is hidden. All this is revealed. We move through his worlds of The Great Houses of Britain whose owners decorated their walls with the sublime scenes he liked to make. We move through his comfortable domestic life and his home gallery set up splendidly for sales. We move through his life hiking through the seaside hills and through the common streets and rooms which were his true environment and where he found his subjects.

For, though he was wooed by the aristocracy, hung out in their palaces, his home base was lower class inns with lower class folk, the industrious shopkeepers and fisherfolk of the villages and cities, people like himself.

A crude man of infinite delicacy, the Mr. Turner of Timothy Spall won several awards for this performance, and we rejoice to see him in such a big, fat, long juicy role, surrounded by Dickensian characters and stove-pipe hats.

It may seem odd that Turner goes out to work every day to paint dressed in a suit, silk hat, and vest, yes, but consider: England is cold by the seaside; he dressed for warmth – warmth as well as a way of not being noticed as being as odd as he was – a painter to hoofing it.

Beautifully filmed, written, acted, produced, directed.

Highly recommended, in case you wondered.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: ENGLISH REALISTIC, BIOPIC, Timothy Spall

 

Denial

17 Oct

Denial – directed by Mick Jackson. Courtroom Drama. 110 minutes Color 2016.

★★★★

The Story: A historian/academic has defamed a holocaust-denier, and he takes her to court in England for slander.

~

Oscar-time means biopics. True stories from headlines or history books crowd our attention, as civics lessons and catch-up info, and they are always welcome for the impersonations actors bestow in them.

Here we have Timothy Spall – face once seen never forgotten – as the headline-grabber no-holocaust side. We see him charming the convinced – skinheads, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites – that Hitler had nothing to do with the extermination camps and that the cyanide was merely to delouse the inmates. His rich rhetoric, so confident, so humorous, makes us delight in how convincing wickedness can be when skillfully said.

He is the first of four fine performances. The second is by Andrew Scott as the strategy attorney who has to hold himself in check in order to hold his client in check, a female threatening to run wild.

Rachel Weisz plays Deborah Lipstadt the American historian baffled by British Court procedure and eager to run her own. show. Watching her, I wished they had cast an American Jewish actor. For Weisz, a good actor, gets lodged behind her Queens accent, such that I can’t bear to hear her utter another word after she utters the first. This stalls the performer behind her technique. I never get beneath my own irritation with her character’ coarseness to care about her as a human. The accent is flawless; that’s the trouble with it. But she does a good job of playing her scenes, which consist of gritting her teeth after she has gnashed them in outrage about how her case is being handled.

That all her ideas are wrong is set right by the performance of Tom Wilkinson as her defense attorney. He is an actor of mystery. If he were wholly mysterious, he would not be mysterious at all. But he is-half mysterious, except you never know which half. I delight to watch him. I am amazed by his discretion and power.

He has wonderful lines by David Hare to speak in the three crucial scenes in a trial that lasted thirty days and cost millions.

The film is sound, informative, honest, suspenseful, and well-told. The story is enclosed in its own drama, but you will not waste your time. Go.

 

 

Ginger And Rosa

18 Apr

Ginger and Rosa –– directed by Sally Potter. Drama. Two young best friends enter the arena of adolescent betrayal. 90 minutes Color 2012.

★★★

I went to it because Sally Potter directed Yes, one of my great movies.

But this one – oh, dear.

The problem is that it is based on an unrecovered resentment, a form of autobiography which always lacks penetration and balance. The author/director has not gotten over it, whatever it was. She’s still getting back at the one that done her wrong. The consequence is that a load of approval falls on the shoulders of one girl, Ginger, and scants the other, Rosa. Emptiness results.

It all ends with a confrontation scene, identical to the one at the end of another current film, The Company You Keep, in which the love-object justifies her miscreance by spouting liberal political boilerplate. Neither scene is well directed. And in this film the actor with the liberal agenda, simply does not go for it enough to make us realize what a hollow old lie he is telling.

I also went because Annette Bening and Christina Hendricks are in it, and, yet the picture is not about them. Christina Hendricks proves once again what a magnificent actress she is. Annette Bening, of course, by now doesn’t have to prove it at all. Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt circle around the proceedings and are in fine fettle, but their parts are shelved largely because of the imbalance of attention give to Ginger (ably played by Elle Fanning).

I can only say that I await Sally Potter’s next film with abated interest.

 

Appaloosa

13 Nov

Appaloosa – directed by Ed Harris. Western. Two gunfighters are hired to save a New Mexico town from an outlaw gang leader, when a lady of fortune enters the picture. 117 minutes Color 2008.
★★★★

What is wrong with Ed Harris as an actor?

He is good looking enough, even sexy. He is actually a real actor, not someone thrust forth into the métier. But nothing I have ever seen him do quite works. It lacks center. So I usually stay away from him. I sense a real actor-talent in him, and a ground of technical prowess, but it misses. He never gets to what lies behind it. With one exception, The Human Stain, I have never seen him succeed in bringing forth a character I could care about or get behind. It looks like he counts on his masculinity to carry him. He seems to use it as a weapon of stardom, which doesn’t work, since masculinity works only when it is not used. He looks like he has abandoned his knowledge of being a second son to play the first son, but he is not a first son, he is a second son, with the vast vulnerability inherent in that position of being superfluous.

Here again we have him in a leading role one simply can, in the end, feel nothing for. And yet one can see his real talent in the scene when Renée Zellweger comes on and Harris falls all over himself like a bashful schoolboy. Harris is a cold person. But he is playing a cold person who heats up, and he never heats. We are told he does, but he doesn’t. With Viggo Mortensen he plays not friends, but something deeper, mates, much as Astaire and Rogers were – a couple allied more deeply than marriage. They have lots of scenes together as they take on Jeremy Irons, the local nasty, who is grotesquely suave in a courtroom scene opposite a judge deftly played by Harris’ own father, Bob L. Harris. Irons can carry a film all by himself, but Harris cannot. You don’t give a rap about him at the end.

The problem here is exacerbated by the failure of the story to attend to the Zellweger character once it is clear that she and Harris are a couple. René Zellweger is never given a single scene of her own. What lies behind the fact that she chooses her survival to depend upon her sexuality, and how does this fact engage Harris more deeply when she betrays him? This whole relationship should drive the story.

But no, the story veers off into nailing the Irons character and getting him executed. Zellweger herself is an actress, like Shirley MacLaine, who cannot rise beneath her quirks, and, while she has her moments, you never see that her terror is the terror of the terrorized town, her disloyalty the town’s disloyalty, her thin culture the town’s hope for survival. In fact, the town’s survival story, once the copper mine is closed, is let flag. The ton’s survival is what is at stake, however unworthy. Cut from the film, the town lacks attraction as a place to make a home in, and therefore lacks temptation to Mortensen when the time comes for him to leave it.

Mortensen we care about, because he, as an actor, has done all of the work of creating the relationship as junior partner between himself and Harris. His playing-innocent-of-the-guilty-schoolboy in the exposition scene when he has to explain how Zellweger came onto him is a lovely unexpected choice, and so right because he is not guilty at all. There is a second son, for you. A part Harris had been better cast in than the starring role he fancied himself qualified for.

 

All Or Nothing

28 Feb

All Or Nothing – directed by Mike Leigh – Drama. Neighbors in a London project come to grips with their futures. 2 hours 8 minutes Color 2002.

* * * *

Don’t you love Mike Leigh’s films? Such a storyteller, isn’t he? In this one we have Timothy Spall and Ruth Sheen and Lesley Manville and a bunch of other fine actors giving us full value in a beautifully directed story. It’s the story of a group of people stupefied by their circumstances. It’s one of those pictures you cannot put down – until … Until the crucial event which takes it into the realm of the lachrymose. Of course, Leigh has great tolerance for sobbing women. Brenda Blethyn was the champ sobber. And in this film he lets Lesley Manville start to cry in the last reel and never stop.  There’s two things wrong with that decision. The first is that weeping is quite out of character for the woman we have watched for an hour and half, a woman absolutely dumbstruck by the barriers of her life, a woman staring into desolation; she’s in a state too deep for tears. Her instinct might be to grow ruthless; her instinct would not be to drench everyone in sight.  To dissolve into the piteous, is not the way she would go. The second thing wrong with it is that Timothy Spall has a crying scene at the same time, and you can’t have two people crying at once; they cancel one another out. But there’s a missing washer in Manville’s tap; she never stops dripping, and it fouls Spall’s scene. She can be a great actress and is so in the early part of the film, but it’s an example of an actress turning on her technique and losing her character. It’s really the director’s fault for allowing it. The scene also is badly edited. It should not be edited at all; the camera should remain entirely on Spall, and then let’s take a look at the wife’s response. I think Leigh loses his way with this material; he wanders into a sentimental rapprochement, and somehow I don’t think that’s the road to trudge here. But until then it is a heavenly picture, a cast beautifully rehearsed and free. Spall is Humpty-Dumpty after the fall, a wonderful performance of a brained man. The extraordinary Sally Hawkins is also fully present as the locale slattern, and what could be better than what Ruth Sheen has to offer? Nothing that I can think of. See it. Make it part of your Mike Leigh collection.

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