Archive for the ‘Robert Forster’ Category

Reflections In A Golden Eye

14 Jun

When it first came out I hastened to it and saw it shown with Huston’s famous color correction for it meant for us to see the film as through a golden eye. This version was immediately withdrawn and regular Technicolor imposed. It still failed. Why is the eye gold to begin with? Because Anacleto, the fairy houseboy of Julie Harris, theatricalizes a peacock’s eye through a drawing made to correct everything grotesque – meaning we, the audience, are meant to be witnessing the story as grotesque and, through a golden eye, forgive it…I guess. Because that is not what happened to me. What happened to me was that I saw Brian Keith be the only sympathetic character in the piece, and Marlon Brando deliver one of the greatest acting scenes in all motion pictures. This is still true of that scene. At the time I also felt Huston was more interested in the equestrian scenes than in the story itself. I feel this is less true now, because what I did not consider at the time was that this material is not suited to Huston’s temperament and so the film lacks body. Everyone in the film is unfaithful. A highly puritanical, non, drinking, non smoking virgin enlisted man/stable boy, played in his screen debut by that wonderful actor Robert Forster, exercises the horses bareback and bare-ass in the woods where he also sunbathes nude. But he also creeps into the house of the Major played by Brando to ogle his wife as she sleeps, hardly an act of fidelity to the pure. Julie Harris is unfaithful to her husband by favoring her houseboy. Marlon Brando is unfaithful to his wife by lusting for Forster. His wife is unfaithful to him. Brian Keith is unfaithful to Julie Harris. But what the film may really be about is the human lens through which people see and do not see one another. I don’t know. I would say the film is thrown by the playing of Elizabeth Taylor, an untrained actress but one of great experience and one who is sensational in roles suitable to her natural instinct. Here she serves up Martha’s leftovers. She is shrill and technically broad, and a woman that beautiful does not have to be either of those things to get her way. The result is that it is a performance without repose. She throws the fact that her horse is a stallion in Brando’s face to cut him, just as she takes a riding crop to his face in a party after he has abused that horse. It does not convince. Gathering that her part is that of a bitch, Taylor lays it on thick. The result is over-painted. Elizabeth Taylor got what she wanted in life without gesticulating for it, and with her, lifting a finger would have constituted a gesticulation. Of course, the difficulty for Elizabeth Taylor would have been that in real life she didn’t know anybody. Unlike Patricia Neal, who would have been perfect in this part, who had a big Southern family, Elizabeth Taylor was jailed by her fame and so never met the sort of woman she had to play here. Her performance is not based on anything. Neither is her accent. Her performance is thus amateur. It would have been more interesting if she had played it against type, recognizing she did hot understand her husband, Brando, but still tried to. Julie Harris, on the other hand, is a treat. Watch her focus. Her ability to sustain attention is infallible, and Huston has the goodness to show it to us. The same is true of Brando, whose performance is somewhat garbled by his Southern accent, but even that seems justified by the primness that he cannot help but seek refuge in. It is a remarkable characterization. And he has this scene. Don’t expect a great movie, but expect great moments. It’s worth watching for them.


The Descendants

03 Dec

The Descendants – Directed and written by Alexander Payne. Mid-Tragedy. A well-to-do landholder in Hawaii faces three directions at once: his wife’s mortal coma, his two daughters, and selling the land. 115 Minutes Color 2011.

* * * *

George Clooney is not an actor of high temperament or big effects. Perhaps that is because he is the man who has everything or perhaps it is because he is naturally reserved or phlegmatic. In any case, this quality serves his character’s frugal lifestyle, “Give your kids just enough so they do something with their lives, and not so much that they do nothing with their lives,” is his motto, but he is a busy soul, and he has given his kids no attention at all. When their mother lies on her deathbed he has to herd these two kittens – but they soon herd themselves as they track down the man who was having an affair with their mother just before she died. The girls are well played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller. And everyone else is good too: Nick Krause as the tag-along teenager, Beau Bridges as one of the relatives bidding fair to rake in a bundle from the sale of land to developers, Patricia Haste as the moribund wife, Matthew Lillard as the adulterous husband, Judy Greer as his wife. It was especially gratifying to see Robert Forster as the grandfather, a long way from Reflections In A Golden Eye and still an actor doing Oscar worthy work. The piece is structured as high tragedy, with the three children as the chorus and all the obligatory scenes, but it is not written that way. The style is mid-mimetic, and that is quite right, for a movie is what it is. It did not draw a tear. It was not aiming to. And while we all adore George Clooney that does not mean that we sympathize with him, for why should one sympathize with the man who has everything. This providence makes it difficult for him as an actor. What is difficult? It’s difficult for him as an actor to have a difficulty. We adore him because he carries his many benefactions with ease, grace, and humility. But as a character undergoing the horrors of this story, he does not seem to have the daring or technique to invest himself in responding deeply to them. We, of course, can empathize from time to time with his situation here. But his shoes are far too comfortable for any audience member to put themselves in, for since he fits into them all too well, there is room for none of us whatsoever. All this being said, he is no detriment to this material. He carries the picture, just as he always does, but this time playing a character who at the start at least is hapless, at odds with his situation, flummoxed by the behavior and diction of his daughters, and lost, all of which he does very well – and he has the tact to never make any of this comedic. It is later on when his character becomes crazier, or ought to become crazier, that the story loses in urgency. I felt neither fear nor pity. The picture is beautifully made, grown-up and well worth seeing.


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