Re: Staging

1

The main thing I see is that the director of McLellan's movie has a much richer sense of the capabilities of cinema. Sir Ian is shown in several settings during the speech, which gives the audience some visual queues about the structure of the soliloquy. McCellan also lets his voice get lower for the quiet parts, entering a range that Olivier seems to distrust.

All I can do is endorse the cliche:

Stage is an actor's medium.
Film is a director's medium
TV is a writer's medium
Reality TV is a casting director's medium.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 8:39 PM
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32x32 is a men's medium
ether is a luminiferous medium


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 8:43 PM
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a former director from the rsc once told me that he had seen only a handful of truly transcendent performances in his life.
he named four, of which i only remember one:
olivier, in the title role of titus andronicus.
titus andronicus? i replied, boggling.
yes, he said, that's part of what made the performance transcendent.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 8:45 PM
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My god I have frittered away the day.

Everyone needs to do that every now and again.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 8:54 PM
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A couple other versions are a few clicks away from those. The first version in the clip I just linked to is very good in an unpretentious way. The second is dreadful.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 8:57 PM
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What I really like about the Olivier is that his Richard seems genuinely malevolent and doesn't draw any sympathy, while McKellen's has obvious charm. And Olivier's voice breaks at the end of a couple of lines in just the way that people's voices do when they're barely holding back anger, but that is very hard to fake ("scarce half made up" at 1:50 is the first one). It's pretty friggin' impressive. But obviously you're right, chalky, that the director of the McKellen scene (coming many years later, after all) does a much more interesting job with the staging.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:02 PM
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If you had been in Minneapolis, you could have seen Shakespeare in a parking lot -- all three Henry VI segments in only an hour!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:02 PM
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therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, yo entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain!'

I often imagine that Dick Cheney thinks in exactly this fashion, not because he has some kind of deformity, but because he seems incapable of simple sensory pleasure.

Think about it. He is an extremely wealthy man with very few years ahead of him. Were I in his place I would do something like purchase a tropical island and watch colorful birds cavort with trophy wives. If that is not to his exact pleasure, I'm sure he can find a million ways to keep himself in a state of near euphoria until he shuffles off this mortal coil. So why is he so determined to rule the world?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:04 PM
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kid bitzer, you have got to stop doing that line break thing. It's completely annoying.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:08 PM
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ian richardson as urquhart in 'house of cards'.
now make it twice as stupid, and subtract the wit, and you've got something like cheney.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:09 PM
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He's just continuing the list format I started. So I'm the irritating one.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:09 PM
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I'm sure he can find a million ways to keep himself in a state of near euphoria until he shuffles off this mortal coil. So why is he so determined to rule the world?

Because that's his way of reaching a state of near euphoria.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:10 PM
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You both suck.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:10 PM
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God, this whole subject annoys me. It only reminds me of the things I left behind when I moved away from the bay area. Like that, whatsitcalled, the high-end supermarket with the delicious pies?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:11 PM
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12: But wouldn't the tropical island and trophy wives be much less trouble for both him and us?

Or what about the cranky grandfather mode? He could spend his last years saying things like "Mary, take this fussy grandchild away and bring me a new one so I can tell her about school when I was a boy!"

I swear people capable of simple pleasures never ruin everything for the rest of us.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:12 PM
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9--
i don't get this. what kind of format are you writing and reading in?

i got this little box here, bout two inches wide.

and you get bent out of shape about carriage returns?
i'm wondering if 'completely' means the same to you and me.

furthermore--what the fuck? why are you calling me out on trivial shit like this? you want me to start listing the stuff I find annoying about you?


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:13 PM
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Ah, adults.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:14 PM
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Kid, chillax, my friend. Unless you *want* to list all my annoying traits, which I'm sure would be most edifying for everyone.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:14 PM
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It is possible to maximize the comment box.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:14 PM
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sorry, pal--
adult bitzer blogs somewhere else.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:14 PM
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Foolishmortal is coming out against delicious pies. That's the real troll around here.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:14 PM
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But wouldn't the tropical island and trophy wives be much less trouble for both him and us?

Not nearly as euphoric, apparently.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:15 PM
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Rob, he's *pro* pie. He is bemoaning the loss of access to delicious pie. Try to keep up.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:15 PM
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It is possible to maximize the comment box.

This would still not be large enough to fit all of B's annoying traits.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:16 PM
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My annoyingness contains multitudes.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:16 PM
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It is also possible to scroll.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:16 PM
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okay--
i went and had some pie.
i feel calmer now.

look, b, if you like, i will try to write really, really long run-on lines that sprawl all over the width of the page without any pauses or formatting or indenting or indications of structure.

cause i try to get along, you know?

not like some people i could name....

pie is good. just keep my mind on weebl and bob.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:20 PM
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No, no, dear. Carry on as you like. I had no idea that you'd get all worked up over the line breaks thing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:22 PM
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Dammit, my provocative post did not provoke the right response. Correct response to follow.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:22 PM
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FM is an idiot, obviously both Safeway and Whole foods offer delicious pies.


Posted by: correct response | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:25 PM
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28
yeah, well, well--
you started it!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:25 PM
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But the only way to both have delicious pies and sate your vengeance is to shop at Titus Andronico's.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:27 PM
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mild groan


Posted by: appreciative public | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:28 PM
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11: I think it's adorable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:29 PM
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also, try thyestes' pies for size.
my oh my! thyestes' pie!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:29 PM
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34: I'll put you on the "sucky" list as well, Tweety, see if I don't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:30 PM
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oh great.
now i have to retaliate with a list of all of the things
about sifu that i think are adorable.....


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:31 PM
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36: anytime, baby.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:31 PM
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"Anytime, baby"? This is why I don't date undergrads.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:34 PM
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This is also why undergrads don't date me, I'm willing to bet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:36 PM
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I forgot that Sifu is living the "if I knew then what I know now" fantasy. Well??


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:37 PM
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You know, everyone complains that you can't go to a good doughnought shop in this town -- we don't even have Winchell's/Dunkin' Donuts -- but what would really be great is if there were more places that served decent pie.

Anyhow, I haven't seen the full performances excerpted above, but knowing what we do about McKellan and Olivier, is it possible that either of them could have performed the soliliquy in a markedly different manner?

As I understand it, the "V for Vendetta"-esque staging of "Richard III" that McKellan undertook is widely regarded as one of his great professional triumphs. It's so redolent of both actual capital-F Fascism, and small-f British public school fascism that there's something for everybody. You can squirm in your seat worrying about what would have happened if we hadn't won WWII, or you can chuckle knowingly as your suspicions that we didn't win are played to.

By contrast, and perhaps I'm only displaying my own ignorance here, Olivier's roles were part-and-parcel of the postwar liberal consensus. Watching Olivier is an exercise in appreciation, not a quest to be challenged or discomfited. So of course he has to portray Richard as wicked, power-drunk, deformity-matched-to-deformity. Likewise McKellan, for his staging to work, has to offer a more Freudian, perhaps even Marxian, view of "evil" as rooted in psychology and materiality. Hence the effect of Richard talking himself into his character that is present in the later staging, versus the essentialist prejudice of the earlier one.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:38 PM
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McKellan's is better. (I may have to see that.) Olivier never seems to move me as I feel I'm supposed to be moved. I wish they had Olivier's Henry V Crispin's Day speech on YouTube so that I could compare his to Branagh's.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:40 PM
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It's always political with you Marxists, isn't it?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:40 PM
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41: if I knew then what I knew now, I'd be ten years older and look it and be broke all the time. Oh MAN I have to beat them off with a stick.

Yeah, no, I've said this before, but it didn't take me very long at all to realize that (a) what I know now is how much I don't know, which is no kind of confidence booster, and (b) really, the marginal differences in pertness and, uh, vivacity? are more than counteracted by having to pretend you're interested in what the average twenty year old has to say over the course of (e.g.) longer than twenty minutes.

Also, one of the things I know now? I don't want the goddamn drama anymore. Did I learn these life lessons for nothing?

I am bitter and jerky, though, by any normal standards. YMMV. I have a friend who does SAT tutoring and certainly seems to be enjoying the ride(s).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:47 PM
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You're breaking my heart, Sifu.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:49 PM
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Hey, Sifu(or other MA types): I'm moving to somerville/cambridge. Assume I don't know shit, Which is better: inman or union? I'm trying to move atm, and require expertise.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:51 PM
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Tell me about it. YMM, after all, V.

No I mean, I absolutely have crazy, commitment-free, drug-fueled college sex stories I could (won't) share. But all my friends have long term relationships and are having kids and buying property and whatnot, and I swear to god, I'm jealous.

Age-appropriateness is the real high, man.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:53 PM
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47: I don't know shit about MA anymore. Move where it's cheap. The yuppies and their restaurants will be there soon enough.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:54 PM
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re: 48, 46: really, I am atypically grumpy. I'm sure the whole "live it again!" fantasy gets a lot of traction with a lot of people, but I've always hated school, and my (quasi-adult, working) life was a lot of punching above my weight, decadent-partying-wise. College life hasn't done a lot for me since before I ever went to college.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:58 PM
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Oh, that helps: Malden it is then, If you're ever in the bay area again, I'd reccomend Pinole.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 9:59 PM
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42.3 is right on, but this is wrong: Watching Olivier is an exercise in appreciation, not a quest to be challenged or discomfited. So of course he has to portray Richard as wicked, power-drunk, deformity-matched-to-deformity. Likewise McKellan, for his staging to work, has to offer a more Freudian, perhaps even Marxian, view of "evil" as rooted in psychology and materiality.

McKellen doesn't offer a Freudian or Marxian take on the character -- his triumph is precisely in the richness with which he evokes the wicked, power-drunk, deformity-matched-to-deformity portrait of Richard, making the heroic villainy of Shakespeare's propaganda palpable and convincing. And the flaw in the Olivier version is that we're appreciating Olivier-the-actor, and particularly Olivier-the-orator, rather than any such portrait. Olivier was a damned impressive orator, of course -- no small gift for a Shakespearean, since the strongest aspect of the plays is usually their poetry -- but not for a second do I believe him when he talks about being "rudely stamp'd." I believe McKellen.

McKellen apparently did the fascist adaptation for the stage before he did it for the screen. I'd have loved to see that; the film was brilliant, but they mutilated the text of the play to an unnecessary extent that gets distracting at some points.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:01 PM
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42, 52--
thanks, this is actually the sort of stuff i come here to read.
(not, e.g., me above, taking up bandwidth).

yes--the rap on olivier is that he didn't lose himself in roles,
or that he never allowed you to lose sight of him.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:07 PM
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It's hard for me to judge between them because the staging in McKellen's clip is so good and so much more up-to-date that I think I'm largely prejudiced by that. And his voice..

Olivier looked as though he was talking to the camera, which I suppose makes sense if we take the camera to be the replacement for the theatre audience.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:09 PM
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I saw the McKellan version when it first came out, and it was excellent, but DS is right that it is a lot less faithful to the text than was really necessary. They left out the whole speech at the end, for instance.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:18 PM
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Isn't shorter 52 that you prefer naturalism?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:18 PM
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McKellen is simply better than Olivier, and that is saying a lot. Tony for Broadway "Bent", 1st Salieri on Broadway. Shakespearean & classic theatre from 62-80, I have seen just clips of performances of Hamlet & Macbeth. "Apt Pupil" is in rotation on On Demand, which means I can watch it repeatedly. I do so with many of Ian's movies. I can think of no actor who has given me more pleasure over the last couple decades. And that includes LOTR and X-Men.

I was trying to think of roles in which McKellen was not slightly imperious, I think you learn to play Kings in Shakespeare, and although that is a useful skill, it is hard to shake. McKellen was a little vulnerable in "Apt Pupil", "Gods & Monsters", and very vulnerable in "Emile", a kind of "Wild Strawberries" Canadian indie.

Olivier I think had more trouble imagining himself not on top of things, not in control of his environment. "The Entertainer" is obviously one of his best.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:25 PM
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"Olivier I think had more trouble imagining himself not on top of things, not in control of his environment."

this is important, and may explain why Cary Grant's Richard the III was not well-received.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:28 PM
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Olivier I think had more trouble imagining himself not on top of things, not in control of his environment

This seems to me to get the Richard III clips backwards. McKellen is making evil work for him; he's oily and scheming in a believable way: we can see how it works for him. Olivier seems more like he's being used by evil; he's behaving the way he does because he is evil, not because evil is necessarily the best strategy.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:32 PM
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56: I do love me some naturalism, but in a lot of ways I think the McKellen version's strength is that it's the less naturalistic of the two. (At least, the stylized Thirties setting and the cutting up of the soliloquy aren't the kind of devices I would associate with naturalism.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:41 PM
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59:I didn't view the clips, obviously I have seen both movies several times. It is difficult to imagine an interpretation of Richard III as not in control, Macbeth or Hamlet or Othello, but Richard III is about the Will to Power.

But in looking up McKellen, I came across this movie, which I have been skipping in the OD as a romance, tho slightly interested because of Richardson. Now that I see McKellen and Joss Ackland are in it, I have something to watch.

I know Martin Csokas from somewhere.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:42 PM
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But obviously as far as delivery goes, there's something more naturalistic going on with McKellen, and that's to the good.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:43 PM
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It's the scene in the mirror that conveys (to me, at least) that whatever McKellen is about to do is a choice, maybe one forced on him, but still a choice or a plan. Olivier is playing down the idea of himself as an agent capable of reflection (pun absolutely intended) and seems to play it more as this is just what this guy is. Birds gotta fly, evil men gotta scheme.

On preview, pwned by ogged. Serves me right for wandering off to get a drink of water before posting.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:44 PM
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I know Martin Csokas from somewhere.

Probably Mission Impossible: 2, bob.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 10:44 PM
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I haven't watched the clips, but I remember seeing the McKellen film years ago and loving the way that the director turns the "this son of York" line into the punchline of a joke in an after-dinner speech. Those of you who have watched the clip get a free test of the relative accuracy of my memory in this regard.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 11:23 PM
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You are correct that it happened, and that it was marvelous.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 11:26 PM
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So why is he so determined to rule the world?

The future, Mr. Gitz!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 11:37 PM
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Watching Olivier is an exercise in appreciation, not a quest to be challenged or discomfited.

The people who go to theater, or the movies, or any artistic undertaking, on a quest to be challenged or discomfited, are exactly the people "challenging" and "discomfiting" artistic undertakings rarely actually challenge or discomfit.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 11:43 PM
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I often imagine that soliloquy as given by Richard Nixon. It's an exceptionally convincing performance.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08- 4-07 11:45 PM
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68 took me aback for just a second, but then I realized it was just young Ben, who has not yet earned the right to such profundity and insight, if it is such.

Asylum, IMDB linked above, was just fine and dandy. Based on a novel by Patrick McGrath, script by the writer/adapter of "Closer", directed by the guy who did "Young Adam", which is also recommended. Excellent competitive performances by Richardson and McKellen, and Csokas is appropriately hott.

Part "Lilith" with Beatty & Seberg, part "Damage" with Jeremy Irons & Binoche. If you like dark, depressing, violent, despairing stories of the insane, or liked the movies mentioned above, give it a try.

Young Ben, it was thirty years ago I first thought about a preference for tragedy as self-indulgent misanthropy, and an attraction to artistic complexity as smug egoism. It may be true;it isn't so banal that it can be dismissed with contempt.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 5-07 1:45 AM
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to foolishmortal in 47 - I'm partial to Inman, but if you're finding a much better space/price ratio around Union, it's also good. If you have a car or a bike, even better-- I don't, and Union is a bit of a hike from other places I want to be.

Union's got restaurants and cafes already, but no bar that I would want to go to regularly. If that's important to you.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08- 5-07 1:54 AM
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Thank you Blume.

P.S. ST: I haven't been in the BA for a while, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to live in Pinole. I think it's fictional.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08- 5-07 3:35 AM
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Speaking of stagging, tonight we're off to see Othello with Eamonn Walker [Kareem Said from Oz, I gather he's in a bunch of other US TV things].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08- 5-07 5:27 AM
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68: exactly the people "challenging" and "discomfiting" artistic undertakings rarely actually challenge or discomfit.

Well of course, that's because most theater and other art is not challenging. At all. Even a little bit. And everybody else gets epatered if it is and then they won't fund it.

As I said though, I haven't seen either of the films in their entirety, so I could be misinterpreting those two clips massively. The thing I like about McKellen is when he is least naturalistic/method. At this point in his career, McKellen really should just be making fun of all the big payday movies he's in. Of course, I'm sure you're all aware that his proclivities run to gratifying the flesh in the most gratifying ways possible. That line delivery in Gods & Monsters about the "Big, hard, arrogant pricks." Brilliant!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 08- 5-07 6:54 AM
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