Archive for the ‘Anjelica Huston: SCREEN GODDESS’ Category

The Dead

21 Feb

The Dead — directed by John Huston. Period Drama. 83 minutes Color 1987.
The story: A family and friends gather for an annual feast at the Dublin home of two aunts.
Who are the dead? Are they those who attend the party? For this is one of the great films set at a party, films all essential to see and dwell upon — Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill, Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles Of A Summer’s Night. What else? You can think of your own. But here the dead are before us at every moment, alive, yet dead — slain by the elaborate and solemn maelstrom of exaggeration of Irish cliché. Yet one watches them and their doings with sympathy and an interest that does not swerve.

Is this John Huston’s final film? Is it not also his best? It is certainly set in 1909 an hour when he was young and alive. And it brings forth as one of its chief players a piece of his immortality, his daughter Anjelica Huston, and never has a director been better served by an actress. She is an actor, then and now, of rare and perfect phrasing. Watch for it.

The delicate and fatal tensions that ripple through the party seem to be all the drama there is. So much the better. She herself is involved in an inconsolable marriage. You never hear it spoken of, but nothing else seems to be present besides this subject which cowers through the party all night long and displays itself as pure only in the supernal declaration of Irish song.

It is taken from story in The Dubliners of James Joyce. Catch it. Catch its meaning. Catch it.


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.




01 Oct

50/50 – Directed by Jonathan Levine. Drama. The cancer diagnosis of a young man affects everyone around him. 99 minutes Color 2011.

* * *

I never thought I would live to see the day that Wallace Beery would be reincarnated on the silver screen, but Seth Rogen has caused it to come to pass. Much of the script has been written to accommodate his grunge comedy, and he is brilliant at it. But the script as a whole pulls sentiment like a dentist pulls teeth, so sometimes his unshaven goings on work well for us, although they never touch upon reality at any point, because the character he plays would have woken up to his friend’s inner plight long before Rogan is allowed to do so here – I suppose simply to keep the yuks going a little longer. The character who comes down with cancer is perfectly cast and played by Joseph Gordon- Levitt. He has sad and humorous eyes – think Lew Ayres – and we are with him right through to the end, which I shall not reveal but which is unlikely. Gordon-Levitt is very beautiful, never more so when he is with shaven head. All the actors are asked to force themselves into the lines of a script which is quite uneven, and the technique of the two young women, which is television acting at its most irritating, shows up badly. They react to everything, they respond to nothing. This means there is a show of feeling but no connection. They hem and haw mightily. Aren’t they cute? It’s so silly; it’s so greedy; it’s so frugal. On the other hand we have Seth Rogen who is a force of nature rather like an avalanche is a force of nature – responsive, quick, and blind.  Placed neatly under them all like the legs of a piano, Angelica Huston holds her own against every script fault imaginable, including the failure of the writers to develop her scenes. What a waste. And the great Philip Baker Hall as cynical old cancer buff – again a character who is left hanging at the end. But it is not for them that we go to this piece of gallows humor, but to see Gordon-Levitt execute it so honestly and endearingly.




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