My favourite piece of acting literally comes up at 6.50.
Law: Not having seen Seventh Seal [recoils expecting a torrent of rotten vegatables] will it spoil if I saw this performance now?
I know how much you love the actor and I’m very curious to see him again. :)
LAW: BRILLIANT!!! Thanks for reposting that. That guy is Shakespearean in his performance. Look at his face—and notice how the emotion comes in with his breath.
S, nah it won’t be spoiled. Besides, The Seventh Seal is a film where you can know the whole plot and it would still grip you.
Law: Ok, that’s good to know.
Josh – “On the flip side I’m not at all impressed with ‘heavyweights’ like Anthony Hopkins, and we could go on at length about the downfall of DeNiro and Pacino.”
I agree completely. We could start a brand new thread called: “When Great Actors Start to Go Wrong” or when the ham has been around for so long it is now off. Don’t you think that the same thing applied to Brando and even many of Nicholson’s later roles? Nicholson now just seems to walk through his parts – playing Jack Nicholson instead of the character. Maybe some actors just lose the creative spark when the easy money comes in. But nobody could deny that each one was a major talent in their heyday. Hopkins caught the Hollywood bug – and hasn’t recovered. He now reminds me of Olivier’s sad character in The Entertainer.
Brilliant film, great clip, phenomenal performance.
The Seventh Seal is another one that just blew me away on a rewatch. Believe it or not it seems I couldn’t handle Bergman when I was 12. Out of the big three I was first introduced to (Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa) I easily liked Bergman the least. Going back and rewatching the first films I watched from him have felt like first watches, and wow have they been amazing.
Nicholson can still do it. I liked him in About Schmidt, but he’s phoning it in for the most part.
I’m not qualified to speak on Brando yet since I haven’t seen enough. If you’re talking about Apocalypse Now I say he was brilliantly befitting the production, but I love him and the film. But I don’t think he took Jor-El to push his craft.
DeNiro and Pacino are so frustrating to me since I don’t get why they stopped. Maybe their reticence to giving up the lead role as they aged (when they become scarcer) and focus on character work that pushes them to do better work (like Alec Baldwin, as one not-very-good example).
Can I throw Keitel into the mix?
He was still brave and rocking in the 90s, but now… National Treasure? Really?
For me, the best performances transcend “acting” and evolve into “being.” If I’m watching a performance and completely forget that I’m watching an actor and believing the character onscreen, then it is most effective. Granted, some actors give PERFORMANCES such as DDL and Pacino, but if done effectively, they also can become the people they play.
Roman: Completely agree, which is where my appreciation for realism (see: Weerasethakul) comes in.
P: Your point?
For me, the actors mentioned so far are talented but too often perform in roles where the point seems to be to have them show off their talent in monologues due to the Hollywood obsession with dominating personalities control over the screen space and the other characters. I prefer collaborative acting where you can see that the performers are responding to each other and not just the cue from the guy behind the camera saying “oscar time!”
Dialogue > Monologue
Spence: Having spent time in theater, I heartily agree. Examples?
Immediately springing to mind is the dialogue between the two men in Syndromes and a Century about having met in a past life. Not only does it have that collaborative aspect you mention, but it feels like a ‘found’ piece, like an overheard conversation rather than scripted acting.
Admittedly, it might have been, for all I know.
I agree on Syndromes. I’m also thinking of the Leigh, Cassavetes, Noonan, Some Bresson and others.
The examples you give — Hoffman’s Rain Main and Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster — probably don’t fit my model.
So what exactly is your model?
I mentioned a few Brechtian directors earlier — Sirk, Godard, and Fassbinder.
I don’t care for the acting in the Godard films (except for maybe Seaberg in Breathless). Loved the acting in Fox and His Friends (thought Fassbinder himself was pretty terrific) and the acting by the leads in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. I don’t know if I’d describe the acting as drawing attention to itself.
However, actors in certain genres — especially those that involve particularly exaggerated acting, such as comedy, musicals, horror films, etc, — are rarely considered for acting awards.
So here are some questions. Should we consider acting that is appropriate for genre films great? What would be some prime examples of this?
Related to this is the question of whether iconic characters like Chaplin’s tramp, Monsieur Hulot, and Groucho should be considered great acting.
@Josh RyanIn the films that I’ve seen I found he was great: Last of the Mohicans (my least favorite DDL performance), The Boxer, Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood.
The last two performances were not ones I cared for. To me, they draw a lot of attention to DDL. You can tell he’s relishing the role versus being the character. That’s my sense anyway. Btw, his performance made me think of another thing I don’t like: actors who played disabled characters. Is it me or are these performances overrated? People think it’s really hard to do, and it may not be easy, but I feel like it’s easier to cover bad acting in those roles.
Btw, I agree with Roman about the actor becoming the role. I like acting where you don’t really notice the acting. I also like when actors create regular people. Two performances that I think went under the radar that fit this is Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner in Juno. They’re not the kind of performances that receive awards. For one thing, the characters aren’t really interesting, but I thought acting by both of them was top notch.
Another recent performance that seemed to go under the radar was Rosario Dawson in Seven Pounds. It was her reactions in the film that made her performance really good. (With the right part, she’ll make a great romantic lead.)
That reminds me of another quality of good acting: reactions. Good actors react in a natural way; bad actors underline their reactions. The good reactions are mostly occur in the face; we see these imperceptible ways and there’s a lot of feeling or information conveyed in those looks.
Re: DeNiro and Pacino
Could it be that they just have been in lame films with lame parts? I haven’t seen them act in recent films because the films just look so bad. Can anyone confirm this? I mean, if they’re in good roles and still suck, I think you might have a stronger point. (Oh man, I remember seeing DeNiro Stardust. That was utterly embarrassing!)
Generally, I agree that I prefer seeing two actors react to each other using dialogue. Hmm, but now I’m trying to think of great monologue/speeches in film. How about Michael Douglas’s “Greed is good” speech. That was a good performance. George C. Scott as Patton in the opening monologue and other moments.
What are some of your favorite two-actor scenes?
I pretty much agree with everything you said. But let’s explore some issues.
Brando and Nicholson at their best command the screen by a sort of presence or charismatic appeal.
Do you see charisma (or what I like to refer to as “star power”) as the same as good acting? I think of them as separate, although an actor can be both a star and a good actor. Brando was a good actor as well as a star. I’m not so sure about Nicholson’s acting ability, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen him in Five Easy PIeces or Chinatown. I agree that in later years he became a parody of himself.
When we feel it is right, and can’t see the man/woman behind the mask, then it is working its magic. For in reality, good acting is more akin to a magic act happening right before our eyes. To over-analyze it makes the magic disappear. Recognizing good acting is more a feeling than a thought process.
Does this mean we can’t make a case for a great performance? I tend to think you can point out specific scenes and moments, but then at some point if the person say he/she doesn’t see the good acting, what can you say?
I just watched both versions of Floating Weeds. The acting at the end of 1959 is horrific. The only way to understand it is to accept Ozu’s style of film making where he was trying to strip away “acting”. There has to be a point where the Brechtian label is just a cop-out – because Ozu didn’t understand the chemistry between men and women he should have asked the actors to act.
So we have natural or authentic and in the case of DDL in TWBB he is neither? and that is because in our experience people don’t behave like that?
Obviously, you’ve never worked with entrepreneurs before…..
It’s like Jack Handy said:
“When I like a performance, I want every performance to be just like that one.”
.Some thoughts and inspirations from my experience as a filmmaker on working with actors in film (scripted, improvised and a combination of both), acting in film, (and also having some theater experience).
In acting, moment is most important, with an idea of the past, but no foreknowledge of the future.
There’s a big difference between actors just saying their lines, dialogue that just pushes the plot, characters just talking, and truly showing the complex interaction of unique, individual human beings or the lack thereof.
The shifts of emotional tones infinitely give me more pleasure than the changes in plot, lighting, locations, costumes and explosions.
@JP In acting, moment is most important, with an idea of the past, but no foreknowledge of the future.
Not sure what you mean by foreknowledge of the future – do you mean foreshadowing the next act? next movement?
Jazz: Re: DDL ‘just calling attention to himself’—In the case of Gangs it may just seem that way because the rest of the film is so bland. But look, some people are bigger than life. You reference one above (and a similarly grandiose performance) in Patton, yet you’re favorable (as I am) to George C. Scott.
I think you just have a DDL aversion, which is okay. I have a Billy Crystal aversion.
As in the lives we live, we exist in the present moment only. We have our past but we can’t predict the specific details of our futures. Truthful acting exists in that present moment.
On the practical side, Tarkovsky helped achieve this with his actors by giving them the screenplay in separate parts for Mirror.
And even if one were given the entire screenplay beforehand, there should still be room to achieve that “being in that moment” which of course reads cliche and but simply means to me, something spontaneous (scripted or otherwise), something that appears as if it is occurring at that moment for that first time (a silence, a word, a gesture, an expression, a piece of behavior) based on the context of the moment, the context of the interaction, the history between the people in the film as well as their unique individual histories.
But also, as in life, as I learned from John (Cassavetes) work, it is better if each of us is aware of our own past only and not the other’s.
Rodney Dangerfield different genre but he gives the same basic performance he gives in comedies
recognizable persona is better than “acting” which is phony
Robert said, “So we have natural or authentic and in the case of DDL in TWBB he is neither? and that is because in our experience people don’t behave like that?
Obviously, you’ve never worked with entrepreneurs before…..”
I don’t think the problem is that DDL in TWBB doesn’t act like a real person or that he is larger than life. The problem to me is that I see the acting. I don’t see Plainview, I see DDL doing Plainview. There’s also a scene-chewing quality to both that performance and the performance in Gangs of New York. I almost want to say that I can see DDL relishing the roles while performing them. I feel somewhat similar to an actor like Dustin Hoffman—who often plays these "challenging " roles. I guess when an actor takes on a challenging role there’s a built-in level of awareness/visibility of the performance—which takes a little away from the performance. Is this making sense to anyone?
I haven’t seen Patton in a while, so I’m not sure what I would think of the acting in general. I mainly mentioned the film because of its monologue.
Funny you should mention Billy Crystal. I was going to say I like him. :) Seriously, I actually like him as a stand-up comedian and moments when he can translate that comedy to the screen. But I don’t think he’s that great of an actor.
-the case of Gangs it may just seem that way because the rest of the film is so bland.-
That’s an excellent point. Even a virtuouso performance may “feel” wrong if it’s in an otherwise dull film, or if the rest of the roles are poorly acted, or acted by actors using distinctly different styles, etc. I can think of films in which I’ve really enjoyed all the principle cast of Gangs, but together they were all over the place.
Another aspect of film acting that’s sort of overlooked is that the performance is that, unlike stage acting, it is a mediated performance. So, for example, the choices the director and editor(s) make may impair “the performance” seen in the final film. Another example: there’s that scene in Casino where Deniro’s character is arguing with Sharon Stone’s character during which there’s a slight camera bump in the take they used. A lot of directors probably would have used a different take because of the technical imperfection, but Scorsese used that one. For me, another take might have totally changed what I thought of the performances.