Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
I have been editing my short film, The Audition, and have come to realise that, to a certain extent, editing is a brilliant way of learning about acting, because the editor is selecting and arranging the performances depending on the needs of the film, and clearly, a great deal of analyzing the performances takes place in order to get this job done. The Audition is a very gentle film, the drama is slight, and therefore, the performances need to be very precise in terms of expressing the individual beats of the film, otherwise there would be nothing to see – The Audition doesn't have big moments in it to masque generalized acting. Not only do the performances need to be precise, but so too does the editing, each little expression in each shot needs to be weighed up very carefully, the juxtaposing of differing nuances can alter the meaning of the film – again, there is nothing broad about the The Audition; a look, an inflection, a gesture, all of these expressions are crucial in such a minimal work.
So far this process has lead to an affirmation of many of the ideas and principles I have been exploring and trying to articulate here on this blog recently. Upon reviewing the footage, I was shocked by one of the first things I noticed, which was that I almost mumble (but not quite) one of the early lines in the film, my speech is tense, I speak it almost in a staccato – this is the symptom of an underlying tension. However, as the scene progresses, so does my performance, and I begin to relax and speak freely, and my personality begins to shine through. My initial shock wore off, as I reflected upon it, and understood that this is very much the pattern of an audition in life – to begin with we are cautious and reserved, frightened of failure, but as we break the ice and then hit our straps, we loosen up - from this particular moment in the film then, I can infer something general about life – there is a provocative little truth to it, and it is arrived at by allowing the moment to unfold as it will, not applying some outside ideal to the dialogue, a perfect recital would have given a lie to the scene. The performance should be an actuality, not a reference.
It is the actor's job to bring truth to the scene, whereas it is the filmmakers job to supply the fantasy, or, put another way: it is the actor's job to be truthful under imaginary circumstances created by the filmmaker. On The Audition, I am both actor and filmmaker, and so there is a convergence of aesthetics as it were. For me, cinema is not a realistic art form: the script, the camerawork, the editing, are formalized – the dialogue for example, has a deliberately precise rhythmn. The object of this formalism is to draw attention to the fact that the film is an artifice, and it is the actor's responsibility to anchor this artifice with truth. The combination of filmmaker's artifice and actor's truth mean that the film corresponds to our dream life, and our fantasy life, that world which lies below and on the margin of our consciousness, not necessarily articulate, not necessarily understood, but fabulous nonetheless. The actor is the audience's (and the filmmaker's) representative within the film, the actor provides them with access into the film. That the actor give a truthful performance is crucial, because this enables the audience to participate fully in the film. As with a dream or a fantasy, no matter how weird and wonderful it is, we always recognise the truth of ourselves within it. The same needs to be true of a film.
BI FIBipedality Ireland 2010
Directed by Rouzbeh Rashidi
Experimental Film GroupBipedality is yet another of director Rouzbeh Rashidi’s “slow burn” movies. And by slow burn I mean it starts working on you right away but the power of it crawls slowly up your brainstem without you at first noticing it. Although, having said that... it has to be noted that the first couple of really strong shots in this film don’t so much crawl as, well... rather they sit you up and shake you and make you pay attention.The film starts, you see, with two quite achingly beautiful tracking shots of an industrial landscape by a river and I just wish I’d at some point have gotten to see this on a bigger venue than just the screen of my Macbook Pro. Unfortunately, these kinds of films just don’t get cinema releases. The two shots pan up and down in their constant pursuit of travelling the length of the river and allowing viewers to take in certain details of the landscape... and these are accompanied by the sound of rain and thunder. These are pretty much the only moving camera shots in this whole piece.In anybody else’s movie, this might be considered a typical opening play at an establishing shot... but this is Rashidi we’re talking about here. If you’ve seen any of his movies before (or even read my reviews) then you’ll know he’s just not going to be that interested in leaving it at that and, sure enough, he soon cuts to a shot of another landscape but the effect is jarring because it’s a) static and b) got a completely different soundtrack to the previous two shots... basically an audio representation of bird song and tranquility. Thus both the audio and the visual form, from moving to static, has a jarring effect on the viewer.After a while we cut to the two main and, but for a few shots near the end, only characters in the movie. A man and a woman at, presumably, the start of a relationship (although they don’t know it yet) talking at length on a bench (and I suspect a lot of this was done without any script) about a five year old child who has gone missing since an incident involving a fire and their perceptions of a mother who has become desperate to find this child (naturally). This conversation, like all of the rest of the sequences in this film, is punctuated by intercut shots of different landscapes using different filters and treatments while the sound of the conversation continues on.It seems to me that, from this first conversation onwards, the film then follows pretty much a pattern of a reflection of itself in terms of structure... the only thing really missing is two tracking shots to close out the picture. I’ll explain this a little more in a while but it’s interesting that the syntax I’ve used to describe the echoing scene structure is “reflection” because, it seems to me, Rouzbeh Rashidi’s film-making is all about inhabiting a “cinema of reflection”. I’ve noticed this before in his films but the words that are coming out of the characters mouths... even the way they interact with each other (with or without verbal stimuli), always confounds a conclusive comprehension of the scene because, like in real life perhaps, you are constantly aware that what is not being said by the characters is much more important than what’s actually coming out of their mouths.Everyone always seems to be looking internally for some kind of universal truth which will help to get them through their day... or at least make them clearly understood. It’s like the characters are constantly exploring their inner dialogue trying to nail something which can’t quite be nailed. Now, you could say thay this is an expected outcome of the process of the acting if, as I believe, a lot of Rashidi’s films are improvised in terms of the craft. However, I personally believe the auteur is at work from the director in this matter because, this quality may well be exactly what Rashidi is looking for and why he so favours the form of improvisation over standard scripting techniques. I suspect he gives limitations and topics as opposed to handing out pages and pages of dialogue to his actors.It always feels like his characters are looking for some sense of closure from the situation they’re in and Rashidi rarely shows these situations or catalysts in his work, just the “reflection” on these incidents. Frankly though, if these two particular characters are looking for some kind of relevance and closure from each other or by looking within themselves... well, they’re pretty much buggered if they’re in a Rashidi movie. Although, to be fair, in this movie there may well be a certain closure of a kind (if you don’t think about it too much)... but there’s not a whole lot of closure for the audience on this directors films, or at least that’s how it seems to me.There’s a sense of trying out different visual techniques in this movie too. One brave shot has the two characters carrying out their conversation as a reflection of themselves in a moving body of water which is in front of them, even though there's been no visual indication in any of the previous shots that they are in front of said water.After 25 minutes, the scene changes to an interior shot of a kitchen where the same guy and gal have obviously moved on in their relationship with each other. They are obviously living together but are having a bad time as their relationship has ground to a halt by the attitude of the woman to the object of her self reflection and inner life. It's uncomfortable to watch the couple bat around the death of their relationship, even as the discussion is both beautifully framed and again, like the earlier conversation, is punctuated by insert shots of beautiful scenery. And a lot of this scene is juxtaposed with the sounds of rain and thunder to enhance the tension beneath the words.I wonder if Rashidi chooses the moments in a scene to cut away to an insert shot with a specific design or whether the positioning within the flow of the film is based on masking certain parts of the scenes “out” which Rashidi is less happy with. Again, there are some really great contrasts of texture and in one notable cut away, density is created with a shot of a forest which brings the simplicity of the textures and composition of the actual kitchen setting back into sharp relief on the return to the master shot.After 15 minutes or so of this we cut to the guy having a shower... the woman watches him, although he is unaware of this. She seems underwhelmed. The two regroup on a sofa for another round of non-communication... this time, silent non-communication.This goes into a minute or so of black before we cut back to the characters again as they have moved in a little more in time and are once again sitting on a bench and talking... athough it's not the same location as the earlier sequence. The woman seems less interested in being distant... but she's making no sense and a lot of this stuff reminds me of a past relationship I once had. Sometimes it's hard to unravel the truth of a matter if one of you is becoming slightly unhinged. It's actually a little frightening how the non-sequitur of the woman's dialogue, with her talk of knowing where the child mentioned in that first conversation disappeared to, can be used to indicate the fragility of us all... and reveal the truth that we are all, deep down, strangers to each other.The missing child is, of course, a standard Rashidi set up to non-disclosure... although there is, surprisingly, a certain small sense of tension-release to this film at a non-verbal level... as the couple kiss passionately at the end. All this serves to increase awareness that the words of the characters are mostly irrelevant... as if Rashidi uses dialogue as mere window dressing to the more important aspects of dramatic tone and visual contrast in his work.I said earlier that there was a certain reflecting quality to the scene structure and now I’ve got this far in the review I can reveal that it seems to go something like this...TYPE A: Conversation in external location.TYPE B: Conversation in internal location.TYPE C: Shower scene (bodies of water and the sound of them seem to be a running theme for this movie).TYPE B: Conversation in internal location.TYPE A: Conversation in external location.Now I don’t, for certain, know if the director planned this structure to push the “dual” element implied by a title like Bipedality (or just made this visually implicit by limiting the majority of the shots to a cast of two) but I’d like to think that there was a certain plan to structuring this movie like this. Perhaps to just pull the rug out and disorient the audience a little more by confounding the predictability of ending on a set of tracking shots (as I was expecting the film to end with while I was figuring out the scene sequence while watching).But this is what Rashidi does. He doesn’t make films to pander to the narrative expectancy of an audience. He makes films which will challenge (to a certain degree) and certainly inspire an audience to look beyond their expected world view as it applies to watching movies. No answers are given and no answers are necessarily conceived... just a set of cinematic rocks to rub together to produce a certain friction of thought. The film Kill List, which had a mainstream cinema release earlier this year, does much the same thing but in a slightly more commercially acceptable manner.I think what I’m trying to say here is that, as usual with a Rashidi movie, you get back what you put into it. Your place as a member of the audience is not to question why or fathom the problems and concerns of the character... it is to look at the characters and see them in both the simplicity and complexity of life and to draw your own sense of meaning (or lack thereof) from the visual and aural collisions on screen. And if you are willing to allow yourself to experience these kinds of films in these kinds of ways... then your rewards from viewing these kinds of movies will come to you and bring the kind of mental enrichment you require, without the necessity for clarification or meaning or, in this case, a sense of a mystery solved.Lay down your tools and receive.
Read more by Nuts4R2 at www.nuts4r2.blogspot.com
Saturday, 19 November 2011
The more I work on The Audition, the more I see that it is a gentle little film, very slight, I would like to say in the Chekhovian mould....Emotions are transfered as are fears. I still have much work to do on it, and thought I'd post this fun little teaser.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
They do not make them like this anymore.
“I've always been skeptical of people who say they lose themselves in a part. Someone once came up to Spencer Tracy and asked, “aren't you tired of always playing Tracy?” Tracy replied, “What am I supposed to do, play Bogart?” You have to develop a style that suits you and pursue it, not just develop a bag of tricks”. - James Stewart.
I once read somewhere that James Stewart quit acting because he no longer liked himself on screen. This makes a lot of sense to me, I need to like my work. It'll never be perfect, but it's important I'm on the right trajectory, in terms of becoming the ideal actor I'd like to be. If I was not on this trajectory, then I would either quit, or fix it.
Now, it's always a shock when I first see myself on screen, because my performance rarely conforms to the idea of the performance I had in my head, nor does it resemble how I felt while I was giving it. If we're dealing with the moment honestly, then our performances never will be how we expected them to be, all sorts of bits and pieces emerge which we had not intended, infact - it couldn't be how we expected it, unless we impose our ideal on the moment rather than dealing with it as it unfolds, and the truth gets lost. However, once the first shock wears off, we can begin to appreciate our performance for what it is, and calmly debrief from there. Acceptance then, is the first step to improving our work – accept that what we see infront of us is the actual performance we gave. If we get all neurotic about our work, then it will be very hard to progress, because it means we cannot truthfully reflect upon what we've done – we will either repress it and pretend that our performance was ideal, or freak out because our performance was not the ideal we saw in our head. I say forget the ideal we saw in our head, it is a red herring, we should compare what we have done to the needs of the scene instead, to do that is useful and rational.
However, we should also compare our performance to our definition of what great acting is, we should compare it to the actor we are striving to become. Again, this will lead to effective improvement – if, for example, you think you need superb diction in order to be a great actor but you mumble, then you know what you need to do. I thought it strange that James Stewart quit for the reason he did – surely a man who enjoyed one the most glittering careers there ever was, possessed the capacity to fix something he didn't like about his work? Afterall, he probably didn't get to where he did by being sloppy and lazy. Then it occurred to me that Stewart must have seen something in his work which not only compared unfavourably with his notion of great acting, but that that something must have been beyond his power to put right. He gave his last onscreen performance at the age of 78, so we might conclude that whatever Stewart saw in his work that he didn't like, it might have had something to do with age, either way, it convinced him he was no longer capable of attaining his great acting ideal.
As Stewart says, you've got to develop you're own style and pursue it – I take this to mean developing your own aesthetic. It's about being an individual creative artist rather than an employee. It also happens to be more pleasurable, meaningful, and fulfilling to work for your own satisfaction rather than trying to please other people, which rarely works anyway, and usually ends up with a loss of self-respect. Define the ideal actor you want to become, and pursue that ideal, and discard anyone or anything which seeks to block that pursuit, and if it's you yourself blocking it, well, then, you know what you need to do.
Saturday, 12 November 2011
|She studied acting and the Michael Chekhov technique with Robert Cordier in Paris, France and with Mala Powers of the International Chekhov Institute USA. A Fulbright Scholar at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York, she is a theatre director, teacher and actress with over 20 years of experience in theatre and film both in France and the U.S. |
Lead film roles include “Boyfriend and Girlfriends” by French New Wave master Eric Rohmer, and “All the Vermeers in New York” by Jon Jost.
Character Work: Letting The Character Lead
When I recently responded to a blog post on character preparation, I brought up the idea, central to my method, the Energize technique, of “Letting the Character Lead.” James asked me to share with you an excerpt of my book A BALANCING ACT on that subject.
Here it is, found in Chapter VII:
Begin to cooperate with your character,
asking questions and getting its “visible” answers.
A character, sir, can always ask a man who he is.
Because a character truly has a life of his own,
marked by his own characteristics, because of which he is always “someone.”
On the other hand, a man – I’m not saying you at this moment –
a man in general, can be “nobody.”
The outside-in approach
The theatre world has been divided on this issue for centuries. Some say it is better to create a character from personal knowledge and past experiences (Lee Strasberg, for example). Others say that imagination must be the primary foundation for the actor’s work, that form precedes content and that by working on the form of the expression, the body language and the gesture, the emotion will follow (Michael Chekhov, for example). I have been trained both ways and I see truth in each. I am a strong believer in using both in some ways. The order and sequence in which the actor needs to approach the role doesn’t really matter. However, I truly feel that an actor must get inspiration from outside his personality or he will forever play himself in various situations. Yet, he also needs to root his performance within his own subconscious, in order to be truthful and to exploit the various facets of his personality. After all, actors are chameleons. They love changing personas, and they naturally have an ability to do so, or they would not have become actors.
The first phase of the Energize technique is based on the outside-in approach. In the next chapter we will see how to integrate the inside-out approach via the use of sub-personalities. Ultimately, an actor should use both simultaneously. I conceptualize it this way: starting from inside to open the aspect of oneself that is most appropriate for this particular role, then later reaching outside to wear the new “skin” of the character.
But first, one needs to get to know and befriend the character. Stanislavski called that “falling in love” with the character. In Six Characters in Search of an Author, Luigi Pirandello[i] puts the following words in the mouth of the Father, one of the six “immaterial” characters who tries to convince a director and his acting troupe to perform their story:
Father: One is born to life in many ways and in many forms: as a tree, or as a stone, as water, as a butterfly…or as a human. And one can also be born as a character … “He who has the luck to be born as a live character can even laugh at death. He will never die. The one who will die is the man, the writer, the instrument of the creation. The creation never dies … They live eternally, because, being live germs, they had the good fortune to find a fertile matrix, a fantasy that knew how to raise and nourish them, to make them live for eternity! …
DIRECTOR: All of this is fine. But what is it that you want here?
Father: We want to live, sir!
DIRECTOR: For eternity?
Father [referring to the actors]: No sir, only for a moment…in them.
Listening to the character, befriending it
One of the first exercises I do with my actors is a relaxation/visualization focused on the character. After a good lying down relaxation on the mat, during which time I take them through all the chakras, aura, and different elements of the energetic system while doing a self-clearing, I ask performers to visualize the character they are going to play. Using their five senses, I ask them to observe, feel, listen to, smell, touch in their minds eye, and (why not?), taste the character they are going to play. This exercise is a “getting to know each other” time, as if the character and the actor were going to become dance partners, and even live together for a while in a marriage. I ask the actor to explore the persona they are going to embody. Using their subconscious and not censoring any information their imagination and intuition are going to give, they create, or more accurately, discover, the character’s personality. A composite of voice, movements, posture, mannerism, thoughts, inner monologue, and personality traits, the character then starts having a life of its own and becomes a real person. I ask actors to listen to what the character wants to tell them. I ask them to take notes at the end of the relaxation/visualization. The character will tell its story, its challenges, and share what its objective, deepest wants and yearnings are. He or she will talk about their struggles and about the obstacles in their way. They will talk from their point of view about the other characters, about events in the play or in their life before the play. He or she will share their childhood, their stories of love and lust, abuse and revenge. From these confidences, the images and feelings about who the character really is will be more vivid, more tangible. The objectives and actions will be clearer and more obvious. This inner dialogue is like having an imaginary date with your character, befriending him or her, finding its qualities, its humanness, and listening to its point of view and its story. Stanislavski talked about “flirting” with your character. It is indeed a seduction dance, a tender approach. Shirley MacLaine writes in Going Within about her performance of Madame Sousatzka:
“I proceeded to sculpt, with Schlesinger’s help [the director] what Sousatzka looked like, what she wore, how her hair was styled, what jewelry clanked on her wrists, how she walked, talked, ate, breathed, laughed, and cried . . . She became a composite of reality; a real, living, breathing character fashioned from our creativity. After I finished my composition of thought, I let her go. I threw her up to the universe and said “Now you play yourself through me.”[ii]
© Emmanuelle Chaulet A BALANCING ACT 2008
Emmanuelle Chaulet is a Lecturer of Theatre at the University of Southern Maine, and an artist’s coach. She is the author of A BALANCING ACT, (Starlight Acting Books 2008) and can be contacted at www.starlightacting.org or www.emmanuellechaulet.com
[i] Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author, trans. Mark Musa, (London: Penguin Books, 1995)
[ii] Shirley MacLaine, Going Within (New York: Bantam, 1990), 20-21.
"People!I woke up this morning to discover we had reached -- and surpassed -- our Kickstarter goal of $40,000.THANK YOU to all of you who have pledged! This is great.But we still have 19 days to go, so tell your friends! I might be able to pre-sell enough DVDs to earn back the cost of the film. That would make me what is called in the biz a "profitable filmmaker." Not a very glamorous designation but it helps get professionals to return your calls.Me and the gang here are anxious to start designing and manufacturing the DVD, CD, and lobby card. Also, on the agenda for December is the final audio mix and the mastering of the music.It's a good feeling to make work when you know it has somewhere to go!So far, this has been a fascinating experience. As I've already written to some of you, I have never had such a direct line to my audience. Though I don't try to make work for any specific audience, it is good to know -- generally -- who is watching and -- critically -- that there are people who want to see more."
Via Flixist http://www.flixist.com/hal-hartley-successfully-funds-meanwhile-via-kickstart...
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
I hold an often ridiculed view that the scene the actor is playing can impress upon the his mindset. I don't mean that actor “becomes” the character – this is nonsense – I mean that the scene can influence the actor, for example: if the actor discerns in his analysis that the character he is playing doesn't care about what is happening in the scene, it may become that the actor stops caring about the production he is working on. Please note: the actor cannot know this influencing is taking place, it happens gradually, almost imperceptibly, and the actor will blame his eventual change of mindset on everything except the real cause: the scene itself.
However, for the organic actor, this influencing is positive and creative, even if it is unconscious. If for example he is playing a scene where the character is bluffing, all kinds of wonderful, little, provocative moments may reveal themselves in performance, small tells (eg – playing with an earlobe, or handling pieces of paper), which are unplanned, infact, could not have been planned, but there they are, fabulously expressive, complex, intense, and true. The actor doesn't want to consciously re-create these great moments - they're great because they're spontaneous. The actor may try to re-create them because he cherishes them, and further, they represent strong work and so it makes sense to recreate them, but the actor must resist this temptation and create afresh each time. Any re-created version of them will be a dead thing – that moment has passed, move on.
The alternative to the organic actor is the presentational actor, who frees himself from the hassle of creation by mapping out his entire performance: every gesture, every turn of the head, every inflection, has been planned in advance (and labelled “characterization”) and the performance is merely a plodding implementation of the plan, even to the extent that changes to his scene partner's performance are ignored. The object of presentational performance is to control everything in order to avoid the terror of facing upto the truth of the moment (which can seem like an abyss). Presentational acting has got nothing whatever to do with creating, and everything to do with limiting criticism, it's rarely provocative or exciting in it's search for bland flawlessness. Furthermore, this actor plays everything in inverted commas as it were, indicating to the audience that he isn't really the character (because of course we couldn't discern that for ourselves – doesn't this actor know that his performance is an illusion which the audience willingly buys into?), and would show that the character is bluffing by using a predetermined general physical nervousness, flicking the eyes, and other cliches, rather than letting the performance manifest itself by confronting the moment. The performance of the organic actor however, appears not to be performance at all, but simply the functioning of his personality, indeed, no differential between his work and his personality can be made.
It takes courage and strength to face upto the truth, it is far easier to brush it under the carpet, and trot around in a bland hypocrisy. Acting is not about being perfect all the time, although yes, we need to strive for excellence. The moment may not be perfect, it may not be how we intended it, but it may be true, and this truth is always provocative, always thrilling, always beautiful.
Monday, 7 November 2011
We’ll Always Have Paris!Midnight In Paris 2011 Spain/USA
Directed by Woody Allen
Screening at UK cinemas.Warning: Spoilers abound in this review.I don’t often get to see Woody Allen films these days but, when I was a kid and then a teen, he was one of my heroes. Stardust Memories was one of my favourite of his movies, although I loved the majority of his work (including his “early funny ones”) and I also liked to listen to his stand up material.These days I don’t get to see his work much because, frankly, it usually only appears on local cinema screens for one week over here in the UK if you’re lucky, if at all. For Midnight In Paris, I’d missed the week it did at my local cinema but travelled into the heart of London to catch it down there while it was still around.Midnight In Paris belongs in Woody’s slightly more outrageous “fantasy” work if I had to try to place it or position it with any of his other movies. It’s like the plays he was writing in the 60s and 70s which had a certain fantasy element which the audience really needs to buy into and suspend disbelief with. These movies are now more prominent within his body of work but I guess he started this kind of fantasy cinema with his movie The Purple Rose Of Cairo and it’s very much a signature of his more wilder flights of fancy that he tends not to be at all interested in the mechanics which make his fantasies work on screen (or whatever venue they are in - stage play at the theatre, script in a book) and some younger audiences these days, who seem to be obsessed with the intricate plot devices to make their fantasy worlds more “believable”, may have trouble with this fact.For me though, it’s always a breath of fresh air that Allen doesn’t bother to explain his worlds... you just have to accept them or not and move on. Midnight In Paris is a case in point.The film stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a struggling writer who is about to marry his sweetheart but, as you will probably guess from the earliest stages of this film, he’s going to be left seriously questioning that relationship before long. While on holiday in Paris he finds a portal to the past, whereby if he waits at midnight in a certain spot, a car will arrive for him and whisk him away for a few hours back in time to 1920s Paris where he falls in with the likes of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter etc. Hanging out with the literary set gives him the confidence he needs as a writer and, when he falls in love with Pablo Picasso’s latest lover, played by Marion Cotillard, he realises that he can’t continue on with his headlong rush into marriage (especially after Hemingway clues him up that his fiance is having an affair). After he and his new 1920’s sweetheart travel back in time to meet Toulouse-Lautrec, and he sees the effect this has on her, he also finally sees that he can’t live his life in the past and that the present is always somebody else’s golden age and that he needs to live in it while it’s here.As usual with a Woody Allen film, the direction, cinematography, script, performances and general execution of this production are all top notch and I wouldn’t expect anything less from this genius of contemporary American cinema. Woody Allen is one of the true artists of film and, while it’s easy to forget his genius due to the lack of exposure his films tend to get these days, it’s still a basic truth that the brush strokes he paints his celluloid canvass with are as relevant today as they always have been. And the strength and truth of his work is not something which can be brushed off lightly, even though his films usually have an intrinsic lightness or fluffiness in their demeanour (if not their subtext).And frankly, you’ve got to love any film where the main protagonist hangs out in a bar with young Man Ray, Bunuel and a rhinoceros obsessed Salvador Dali (in a great little cameo by Adrien Brody) and then, when he later meets up with Bunuel again, gives him the idea for The Exterminating Angel. What a great little film this latest slice of Woody Allen’s brain turned out to be. I’m so glad I made the trip into London to see it... and I’ll definitely be picking this one up on DVD and giving it another watch next year. Great movie. Nice idea. Treat yourself to an hour or two in the company of the smart set of 1920’s Paris. A definite recommendation from this reviewer on this one!For more by Nuts4R2 please visit www.nuts4r2.blogspot.com
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
I always take great delight in seeing a director's face light up because of something I have done. I don't mean the loathsome ass kissing which goes on, I'm talking about delivering a difficult moment such that it solves a problem the director could not previously articulate – this often leads to genuine relief and joy on the part of the director. I always try to fit myself into the mode of the production, even if it contradicts my own aesthetic - this is correct – the production is not for the actor to impose himself on and make bend to his will, rather he is there to serve it. The actor should never compete with a director, and always remain respectful, if there is disagreement then it should be handled privately. It's not the job of the actor to judge the director, it's the job of the actor to communicate the play to the audience. The director is the actor's boss, and has brought the actor in to deliver very specific goods within the overall production. Moreover, if an actor cannot keep his petty insecurities in check, then he should get lost – the actor who allows his neurotic fears to dominate his reason and make the rest of the group suffer is a despicable act of gross selfishness, and is singularly the most destructive thing I have ever witnessed within a company. As the saying goes: keep the drama in the play. We are living in a society which has infantilised it's citizens by enshrining “how you feel”, however, all good actors know that how you feel is unimportant, it's action that counts. Great actors are spiritual warriors, and exercise self-control. Ultimately, generosity toward those he is working with is an important quality for the actor to possess. The actor comes across many varied working cultures and working methods, and those actors who survive in the jungle are the ones who can adapt to changing circumstances quickly, infact, I have come to believe that this is how the quality of an actors talent should be measured, ie: his ability to function effectively in a diverse range of situations. The actor then, needs to be adaptable.
However, it is important that the actor take a break from adapting to the modes and cultures of other peoples' productions, and produce his own. I've written before how an actor can understand his own work better and come to define his own aesthetic by producing his own stuff (and therefore function better on other peoples' stuff), however, I also think he should take time out periodically to do this, a sort of creative pit-stop, a chance to tend to the core which is present in all his work. Writing, directing and acting in his own productions can give the actor a crystal clear view of his work, he will be applying his own aesthetic from top to bottom, and so can see what's changed in his work, where any kinks may have developed and iron them out, what needs to be improved, what has improved. Producing one's own work means working with actors and crew, which provides a test of whether the ideas behind the work can be communicated to other people. Personally speaking, I find directing other actors is an especially useful task because it forces me to articulate my thoughts about the script in simple, actable terms (the way I would want to be directed), which also functions as a confirmation of my own working methods. Explaining what I think to other people is a very good bullshit test too, because if I cant explain it to another such that they understand it, then I don't know what I'm talking about. Furthermore, these explanations must be practically useful to the listener when in the field, pretty theories are useless in the rehearsal room. The pressure which comes with taking responsibility overall for a production then, keeps you honest because other people are relying on you to help them do their job well, this humbles, and helps to shake off the crust of decadence which may have formed while working on other peoples' productions, where the actor is responsible for himself only, and need not concern himself with the minutiae of production (where even finding the right prop can turn into a major endeavour). Accountability is the thing, there is no place to hide, there can be no excuses, that work up on the screen or on the stage is undeniably yours, the totality of it this time, not only your performance. You set the standard, how you perform sends out a message to those around you, a message about the work in hand, about your work generally, and about how you think it should be done. Accomplish a standard which is high enough to keep the idealism of those who decided to collaborate with you intact, and hopefully then, they will want to see your face light up by solving a difficult problem – this happens when we work on something we're proud of.
Taking time out to repair, renew and improve, is taking pride in your work.