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December 1997, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
"Gareth B." <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 3 Dec 1997 13:37:11 -0700
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> What about Jacques Tati's reception here?  He is, of course popular among
> academics, etc., but I wonder about his popularity among more "general"
> audiences.  Part of what translates so well, for me, at least, is his debt to
> silent comedy, which translates well across cultures.  Same with Bean.
I've always thought that Jacques Tati was a silent movie comedian. On
his holiday, the fold-boat sequence requires no sound, and always leaves
my smile muscles aching.  Popularity, unfortunately, is often related to
promotion; the work of Tati is likely to remain a special treat for film
> A bit off the subject, but, I think, relevant:  I've seen the same type of
> knee-jerk condemnation on this list regarding Elizabeth Berkley's performance
> in SHOWGIRLS.  I would venture to say that comparing her acting style to her
> nipples speaks of an attitude at least as execreble as that of
> Eszterhaus/Verhoeven.  Granted, her performance was shrill, but judging by
> all the performances in that film, the blame must lie solely with the film's
> makers.  Eszterhaus' full-page ad in VARIETY taking responsibility for her
> performance was probably the only honorable thing he's ever done.
Ah, the auteur hypothesis. The actor is a tube of paint; if the painter
messes up, the tube has no responsibility.
Contrariwise, most directors assert in print that casting is 90% of the
job of directing. That is because they rely on the artist capabilities
and collaboration of these people.
Most books on filmmaking spend 75 pages on lens selection and 1 to 2
pages on talking to actors. The audience, however, couldn't care less if
a 50mm or a 48mm lens was used, preferring instead to connect with the
characters.  What makes someone like Cassavetes so fascinating is that
he made *performances* the center of his work, not things like nifty
dolly shots.
FILM THREAT MAGAZINE's comparison of Berkey's nipples to her acting
talent is not execrable at all.  It is a pungent comment on the
observation that measurements, cup size, and a willingness to display
them are more important than the ability to create a believable
performance -- at least to a certain segments of the filmmaking
population (such as megamillion dollar extravaganzas and two thousand
dollar video porn shoots).
For a screenwriter to take responsibility for a crappy performance may
be noble, but it's also chauvanistic. The attempted silk purse that was
produced from his sow's ear was *the movie*, not a particular player's
contribution. Berkey, like all other actors, is not a marionette. Look
at the work of Whoopi Goldberg. Her films of late haven't had much in
the way of believable situations or dialogue, but she imbues them with
Paul E. Clinco
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