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Winter of Our Dreams

08 Sep

Winter Of Our Dreams — directed by John Dulgan. Drama. 78 minutes. Color 1981.
★★★★
The Story: A suicide brings together a prostitute and a reporter, separated and gripped by what they have in common.
~
This is Judy Davis young.

She is one of the great actresses of motion pictures, isn’t she? Woody Allen said she was the greatest actor he had ever worked with. She won the AFI Award as Best Actress for this film. She won the 13th International Moscow Film Festival Best Actress for it also. As for me, I stand by my loud first sentence.
Setting accolades aside, I also love something else about her.

And that is her mouth.

Great film stars have in common that their audiences are enthralled by what their mouths express. Not the words said. Not the way those words are said. But their mouths. The mouth muscles natural to them express the actor’s nature to us and, by those muscles, the truth.

These mouths help make them great stars. For their mouths give us a locality of a bullseye to mesmerize our eyes — which is what we come to do when we go to a movie. We come to be lost. And entrancement works — for enthrallment is medicinal to certainty. You know this when you buy your ticket, and it’s what you buy your ticket for. You want it. Mouths give it. To know what’s going on on the screen, you — willingly captivated by them anyhow — watch mouths.

Not eyes.

An actor’s eyes are to listen with — for an actor’s task is not emotion but attention.

So you don’t watch their eyes for the truth any more than you watch their ears. Again, it does not matter so much what words they say — or do not say — or how they say them, but how their mouths move, especially when still.

Indeed, the truth from their mouths comes often when they’re not talking — how golden an actor’s silence is! — that’s when their allure is most encouraged. In their silence you watch. That’s when you see it.
The fascinating mouth is not learned. Not taught in acting class. Not found in practice nor in rehearsal. Nor in performance. No. Intriguing mouths are inherent to such actors. You don’t give such actors credit for them. These are the mouths actors were born with.

Natural to them — just as natural to them as it is natural for all of us to watch these mouths. Indeed to watch mouths is part of movie audience rubric. For just as the craft of acting has its rubric, its inherent laws, so does the craft of being an audience have its laws, the rules it must follow and does.

Katharine Hepburn — don’t you first watch her mouth? This is not to say she has nothing besides it to gear up your attention. But her mouth is the first to command it, isn’t it?

You may demean Joan Crawford as an actor if you like— and she certainly could not play comedy — but her mouth will tell you what is going down with no two ways about it — and what is more winning than her grin?

A gift of a screen actor’s mouth makes the actor’s face eventful — the event being truth. And provides a place to lodge our fascination and with this fascination- know-how we unwittingly but naturally and collectively create the following that makes a star.

For an audience, the truth gets known by something around an actor’s mouth.

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, James Dean, Jennifer Aniston, Cary Grant, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lee Pace, Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, Louise Brooks, Marlon Brando, Judy Garland, Mahershala Ali, Garbo.

Their truth arrives to us through a certain idiosyncrasy of their mouths.

his truth turns to fallacy with “television-acting” — where the actor makes quivering play with his lips to “convey” — what? — an emergency emotion to wallpaper the vacancies of the writing? Such actors think their mouths are an acting instrument. They’re not. For your mouth has rules of its own, which cannot be faked, and which you were born with whether you have a naturally interesting mouth or not. The good actor imposes nothing and, when tempted to, lets the audience do the job. (Which is not to say the character you play is not imposing.)

Bryan Brown is in the movie with her — this film dates from their early years as Australian film actors — and you can immediately see the difference in their talents. Brown plays everything in C sharp major. He plays very well in that key, but he has no modulation. Judy Davis has modulation galore.

Watch her mouth. Its truth is so subtle it’s impossible to miss it.

The camera watches.

We watch the camera watch We the voyeur watch the voyeur voyeur the actor.

Unable to distinguish the camera eye from our own eye.

Made one lens.

Hypnotized.

As by a cobra.

At the spectacle of human truth— by being made fluid made manifest.

By a mouth.

Watch it.

Watch acting. Watch it acutely.

It is so human, it is divine.

Both acting itself.

And the watching.

 
 
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