Crazycrone (crazycrone) wrote,

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Lovely Day

I saw a frisky young sparrow just outside Sainsbury's Nine Elms, which was nice, as I don't think I've seen one for a year or so (yet another indication of impending Eschaton...) Fell asleep gawping at SILENT WITNESS last night. Artist's husband was the latest corpse. The next thing I knew, Sam was catching out the young copper who had (why?) done it all, then he evidently killed himself. The end. Stoopid, but so annoying when you miss the denoument. Here (behind cut if I can figure out how to...) is an entertainingly bitchy little article with some rather interesting things to say about The Art Of Acting.

 >>MARLON BRANDO: THE DEATH OF A SERIOUSLY SILLY ACTOR<< "Acting is an empty and useless profession." - M. Brando An actor’s actor, a fat person’s fat person: tributes to the late Marlon Brando have been flooding in since his death from lung failure on Friday. There has been the usual daft hyperbole: "For lovers of cinema he was perhaps the only true legend who'd ever lived" (Bernardo Bertolucci) - "the greatest acting genius of our time. What will we do without Marlon in this world?" (Al Pacino) etc. etc. Like no one has ever watched a Chevy Chase movie. But within the splendiferous, windy chest-beating and the flamboyant tears lies a hard grain of truth. The tribute of Terence Stamp, who acted with Brando in Superman, hints at it: "He had it all yet didn't take himself or life too seriously. He was also the funniest guy and a joy to be with. Good night sweet prince." Yowsa. Only an actor could get those words out with a straight face: "Good night sweet prince." And this is what Marlon Brando had, if he had anything: one hell of straight face. His role in Superman is a great example of this. He managed to imbue the Kryptonic nonsense with a sense of galactic import. And managed to walk away with a huge fat cheque without thumbing his nose at the producer and collapsing on the floor in a fit of giggles. Brando was a great actor because he was unembarrassed by his trade. The greatness of all great actors (with the exception of the great clowns, like Groucho or Chevy or Harold Lloyd) is simply this: they are not ashamed by emoting in public. And emoting emotions that aren't even theirs to emote. That famous scene in When Harry Met Sally when Meg Ryan does the fake orgasm is not really about sex, it is about acting. The point of Ryan’s groaning and table thumping is not simply that women can howl with false pleasure at the drop of a hat, it's about how - in order to act (in whatever context, sexual or otherwise) - one has to be utterly unembarrassable. A good recent example: Jim Carey - that rare breed of a great clown and a great actor - sitting in his car in The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, weeping his eyes out, thudding the steering wheel in an agony of lost love. What a perfectly absurd thing for a grown man to be doing: pretending to cry like that - bawling and gasping and screaming in front of a film crew. Or take Meryl Streep, the way she’s forever collapsing into heartrending sobs in The Bridges of Madison County, not to mention the way she has to suck hungrily on the elderly lips of Clint Eastwood, and tenderly stroke his chest, and do the whole thing while adopting an absurd Peruvian/Mexican/Sicilian accent: it’s a masterclass in unembarrassment. So how the hell do Jim & Meryl & Marlon & Co. do it? Well, the best actors share two key traits: 1) they lack that safety catch in the brain that censors acts of public silliness. In most of us, the catch can quite easily click off after a good dose of alcohol, but in actors, it is pretty much permanently disengaged. 2) as anyone who has watched In The Actors Studio on the Performance channel can attest, all 'great' actors exhibit (however self-effacingly) a strange and unsettling seriousness about the craft of acting. Brando's greatness, therefore, lies in his breathtaking ability to take himself seriously, no matter how downright silly he is actually being. Look at Brando in The Godfather. His jowly growlings are perfectly absurd, but he pulls them off with an awe-inspiring lack of shame. Brando in Apocalypse Now is perhaps the best example of his mastery: he murmurs and gurns and sweats his way through his scenes, giving maybe the most cartoonish performance in the history of screen drama, but does so with such weighty seriousness that you buy into it. You believe him. Brando has taken the burden of embarrassment upon himself, so that we can watch the character and enjoy the film without our toes curling up on his behalf. This is why we should thank actors. They soak up the shame of pretending, like children, to be things they’re not, so that we can sit back in our cinema chairs and watch a fiction unfold. They run about with guns like 6-year-old boys, and soliloquize like schoolgirls talking to the fairies in the vegetable patch, and get paid for doing it. It’s really not the kind of things adults should do, which is why top actors get paid so much. It’s shame-money. Look into the eyes of Marlon Brando, and that's what you'll see: a devastating, shark-like absence of shame. The greatest actor of all time? Probably not. The fattest? Maybe. But the most shameless? He's certainly in with a shout.


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