Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Great Acting Blog: "My 10 Favourite Performances In Films I Happened To See In 2010"


I had intended to blog about a scene I was to shoot for the trailer for Sean J Vincent's new feature film, a psychological thriller called Their Law, where I get shot in the foot. Unfortunately, Sean got stuck at Munich airport, a victim of the travel chaos caused by the weather, and I was stuck for a topic to write about. I thought about doing my “10 best films of 2010”, but questioned whether that was entirely appropriate for an acting blog, and also I realised there were far too many movies I haven't scene this year, and consequently my list wouldn't have carried any weight. Then I thought, I'll do my 10 best performances of the year. Fine. As I compiled my list however, I saw that the first few entries were performances in films not necessarily released in 2010. However, I felt the performances in question were just so superb that I couldn't ignore them, and desperately wanted to share them. And so, what I'm actually offering you is my 10 favourite performances in films I happened to see this year, regardless of when those performances were given.

What all of these performances have in common is that they are provocative and individualistic, we see the true workings of the actor's personality. Also, it struck me, that all of the performances have a certain level of intensity, which implies a full commitment on the part of the actor in question. If you've seen any of these films, I'd like to know your thoughts, and if you haven't seen any of them, I highly recommend all of them.

The list is in no particular order.

Per Oscarsson in Sult (Henning Carlsen, 1966). A brilliant and moving masterpiece from Oscarsson, who plays a starving writer in this examination of the artistic temperament. Check out Oscarsson's response in the scene where the pawnbroker refuses to lend him money.

Robin Hill in Down Terrace (Ben Wheatley, 2009). Darkly sardonic and natural, Hill's performance is brilliant as the neurotic son of his crime boss father. Always on edge, and seemingly about to explode at any moment, Hill wrestles with the demands of being part of a crime family as well as the trials and tribulations of domestic life. Checkout the scene where Hill screams for his mother after he discovers some of his books have been moved.

Peter Lorre in M (Fritz Lang, 1931). Remarkable from Lorre, hunted and haunted after he's suspected of being a child killer. Lorre's work here is provocative, unusual, and vivid, not to mention powerful. Check out the judgement scene when Lorre pleads his case.

Maria Ornetto in The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008). Unbelievable work from Ornetto, minimal and intense, after she's suffers the guilt of running over a child (or did she?) and fleeing the scene. It's the kind of performance where Ornetto appears to be doing nothing yet we know exactly what she's thinking. Check out the scene where she stops the car and simply takes a few minutes to compose herself after the accident.

Christos Sterigioglou in Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos, 2009). Controlled and precise from Sterigioglou, who switches devastatingly between measured father and viscous brute, playing a man who keeps his family in a complex, cut off from the outside world. Check out the scene where Sterigioglou cuts his suit to ribbons and covers himself in fake blood in an effort to convince his children that domestic cats are dangerous.

Rudolf Hrusinsky in The Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1969). Hrusinsky's performance is just so strange, playing a man who believes he is “liberating souls” when he cremates dead bodies, and who is ultimately employed by the NAZIs. Hrusinsky treats the ever increasing extremity of events almost indifferently, certainly matter-of-factly, which creates a bone dry humour, and lends a chilling quality to his work.

Tilda Swinton in I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009). Swinton's gives her best performance in this film set among the higher echelons of the Italian upper-middle classes. She plays a woman dedicated to her family, until she embarks on passionate affair with a chef. Swinton is wonderfully sensitive in the role, there is a humility about her work, and she is completely true. Checkout the “prawnography” scene.

John Hurt in 44 Inch Chest (Malcolm Venville, 2009). Playing a viscous misogynist old git, Hurt's brilliance is to take a character which should've been repulsive and render him compelling. Hurt's commitment is total, throwing eveything he's got at it, his performance comes from the heart. Hurt's work is the embodiment of truth, he's an example of a true actor-artist.

Pete Postlewaite in Distant Lives, Still Voices (Terence Davies, 1988). Postlethwaite's performance here, is a supreme example of craft; precision, force, control and intent. He plays the bullying, tyrannical father of a working class family in 1940s Liverpool. Checkout the scene where Postlethwaite opens his front door to the son he banished; there is a pause before Postlethwaite dismisses him with “frig off”, and slams the door in his face. Goes right to the bones.

Olle Sarri in The Ape (Jasper Ganslandt, 2009). A great slab of a performance from Sarri, playing a driving instructor continually on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Sarri's work is naturalistic and incredibly intense as he struggles to cope with the world around him. Checkout the scene where he tries to converse with his neighbours, but all we see is the sheer weirdness of everyday interaction.

NB - The still is Peter Lorre in M.

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