Category Archives: Actors

A VERY BRITISH ACTOR

Need a solid, British character who can display authority with a hint of vulnerability in a changing post-war landscape? Viv Wilby recommends Trevor Howard.

From criterioncollection.blogspot.com
Major Calloway wondered if this was a good time to take up aromatherapy…

Were he still alive, Trevor Howard would have turned 100 yesterday. One of the striking things about the DVD boxset released to mark his centenary is the extent to which it confirms his own observation that he spent most of his career playing ‘number two’.

Five films are collected here, and only in two does he really have anything like a clear claim to the leading role. Supporting actor, co-star on occasion, but rarely is he asked to carry a film. Even where he arguably gets the main part — The Heart of the Matter and Outcast of the Islands in this collection — there’s a meaty supporting cast buoying him up and it’s still no guarantee of top billing. Yes, Brief Encounter is here, of course, but Brief Encounter is really all about Celia Johnson. She is where the emotional heft of the film resides. Trevor’s just there to look good and give her someone to play off. He’s a consort, a co-lead.

Continue reading A VERY BRITISH ACTOR

Nebbish Say Nebbish Again

Woody Allen takes on the financial crisis? Niall Anderson withdraws his savings.

He'll take your money! RUN!
He’ll take your money! RUN!

An idea for Woody Allen’s next film. An experienced and somewhat notorious director turns up at a film festival to tout his new film. The festival could be Cannes, it could be Venice, but this being a Woody Allen film, let’s make it Tribeca. The director’s new film centres on the step-by-step destruction of a central female character, with her destruction acting at least partly as a metaphor for some wider apocalypse. During the course of a press conference before the film’s premiere, the director muses out loud on his motivations and aesthetic. ‘I used to think I was a Jew,’ he says. ‘But now I realise I’m a Nazi.’ He says it again. ‘I’m a Nazi.’ There are gasps and nervous giggles, and the press conference putters on politely for the next ten minutes, but everyone in the room knows that a storm is coming.

I offer this plot to Woody because, in Blue Jasmine, he has made his first Lars von Trier film. It has everything: English dialogue that is somehow not quite English; insultingly whimsical plotting; the odd fancy-schmancy poetic interlude (just because); and above all a central female character who is insulted and toyed with by fate, before being utterly destroyed because – it turns out – she’s a total fucking bitch.

Cleaving still closer to the Von Trier template, the way in which she’s a bitch is supposed to say something about the failures of our common humanity. But where Von Trier would contrast the neurotic frailty of his protagonist with visions of profligate nature (talking foxes, haunted horses, blood-spunking penises), Woody has to find his own metaphor for the horrors of life. And find it he does: poor people. Continue reading Nebbish Say Nebbish Again