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Entries in Take Three (47)

Sunday
Sep162012

Take Three: Series 3 Wrap-up 

Craig here with a wrap-up entry for the third and final run of ‘Take Three’, The Film Experience series that looked at three notable performances from a supporting or character actor's career. Click on the actors’ names for their respective Takes.

It’s perhaps fitting that last week’s Take Three featured Brad Dourif as, when the idea for the series was first mooted, Dourif was the first actor who entered my mind. It’s odd perhaps that I left him so long, but I’m glad he was included in the end. I was also glad to include a quintet of actors – bigger names, well versed in veering between lead and character actor roles – who have vast and interesting careers under their belts: Christopher Walken (one of Seven Psychopaths due in cinemas soon), John Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones (currently sexing it up with Streep in Hope Springs), Danny DeVito and Chris Cooper. Series 3 started off with one of today’s best, Melissa Leo (receiving acclaim this week for her role as Francine); she was closely followed by another, Anne Heche.

Actors who did a lot of great work during the ‘80s and ‘90s and still continue to add class and/or grit to cinema now, albeit in perhaps more peripheral parts, got some ‘Take Three’ love this series: the always watchable Vincent D’Onofrio was a joy to write about; ditto Michael Rooker. Both Rosanna Arquette and Alfre Woodard have their many admirers, and rightly so; I hope their Takes were enjoyed by their respective fans. As with previous years’ Takes on the likes of Isabella Rossellini and Harry Dean Stanton, my inclusion of some Lynch regulars continued: first Piper Laurie, then Grace Zabriskie (both of whom appeared in Twin Peaks) received well-deserved outings during this run. Classic horror and film noir female performances were also considered with entries on Barbara Steele and Ida Lupino, two of the finest character actors who worked most prominently between, respectively, the fifties and the seventies and the thirties to the seventies.

A range of some of the most essential contemporary supporting/character actors got the T3 treatment this time out, too. Two of today’s best British actors, Samantha Morton (currently chatting up R-Pattz in a limo in Cosmopolis) and Toby Kebbell (who shared screen time with Morton in Control) were featured. Eva Mendes (presently transfixing Denis Lavant in a basement in Holy Motors) and the versatile French actor Cécile De France are both cementing their places as two of today’s most alluring screen performers. Finally, it was a sheer pleasure to research and rewatch the three films for John C. Reilly’s Takes – and, as with many of this series’ actors with vast and varied careers, I wished I could have including at least six more Takes.

As a final note, I sincerely hope all Film Experience readers have enjoyed this and both previous Take Three series. It has been an absolute pleasure to write and I’ve enjoyed all the discussions and opinions in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

Although this is the last Take Three series, I may well be writing a new column next year. In the meantime, I’ll be reporting for Nathaniel from the BFI London Film Festival in October and you can also follow me on Twitter – @DarkEyeSocket – or at my own site here. Related links: season 1 wrap-up entry here and season 2 wrap-up entry here. (Both contain all previous Take Threes between them.)

So... who were your favourite Take Threes? Show any and all of these fine actors your love in the comments...

Tuesday
Sep112012

Take Three: Brad Dourif

Craig here with the last ‘Take Three’. For this final, and slightly differently themed, entry I chose Brad Dourif, perhaps one of the finest character/supporting actors. Next week there will be a special wrap-up post for this third season of Take Three.

Take One: Dourif & Auteurs
The sign of a great character actor can often be seen in the directors they work with. Of course not all will be universally lauded names (character actors don’t get to pick and choose like A-list stars), but when they repeatedly work with filmmakers of high regard you know there’s something special about them. Dourif has worked with some of the most visionary and celebrated directors working. The likes of Werner Herzog and David Lynch, whose off-kilter approach perfectly chimes with Dourif’s, have cast him time and again. Herzog first cast him in the mountaineering-themed Scream of Stone (1991) which led to The Wild Blue Yonder (2005) and the 2009 double The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (in the former he had a one-off scene as Nic Cage’s bookie and in the latter he played Michael Shannon’s ostrich-farm-running uncle). But his most mesmerising performance for Herzog was as The Alien in Yonder, where he talked us through documentary footage, ice ages and space missions with oddball charm and an innate ability to unnerve.

He was Lynch’s go-to character actor in a pair of his ‘80s films, Dune and Blue Velvet. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep042012

Take Three: Samantha Morton

Craig here with the penultimate ‘Take Three’. This week: Samantha Morton...

The Artists are present: Samantha Morton (and Marina Abramovic) doing jury duty in Venice right now

She's currently advising R-Pattz in Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis on screen and serving as a jury member on the 69th Venice Film Festival off screen.

Take One: Under the Skin (1997)
After some acclaimed TV and short film work, Morton made her feature bow in Carine Adler’s Under the Skin. In it she plays Iris, a girl selfdestructing and suffering due to the death of her mother. In this blistering debut Morton flits between girlish abandon and hot-tempered wilfulness. At times the camera has trouble keeping up with her as she weaves through life picking up numerous sexual conquests in retaliation for not being able to confront her grief. Other times, the camera can’t seem to pull away from its close focus on Morton’s expressive face, as in the scene where she enters a church and tearfully gazes at the congregation.

Iris’s spiralling descent into sexual oblivion is every bit as bruising and obsessive as, say, Michael Fassbender’s Shame odyssey – but from a far more adult viewpoint. (Whatever Fassbender’s Brandon did, he never had a guy piss on him for empty thrills – something Iris experiences here.) Iris vainly makes herself over by donning her dead mother’s clothes, wigs and makeup in an attempt to ‘become’ her in order to keep the memory close. Morton subtly alters Iris’ actions by veering between this maternal imitation and the fractured shell of a girl she really is. Authenticity is paramount to Morton and she shrewdly maintains a delicate balance between sexually assertive and introverted that never once feels contrived or tied up in actorly affectation. She's been a risk taker and has kept it real from day one.

Morton putting on a different face in "Under the Skin"

Control and The Messenger after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug282012

Take Three: Christopher Walken

Craig from Dark Eye Socket here with Take Three. This week: Christopher Walken


Take One: True Romance (1993)
One of Tony Scott’s best loved films was True Romance, based on Quentin Tarantino’s script. And one of its most fondly remembered supporting performances was Walken’s psychotic criminal Vincenzo Coccotti. His sole scene – the ‘Sicilian scene’ as it became dubbed – is often quoted for its spiky dialogue and playful yet intense interaction. In the scene Walken pays a visit to Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper) for information on the whereabouts of the latter’s son Clarence (Christian Slater). Worley knows that he’s going to die regardless of what he tells Coccotti, so he relates an offending story hoping to insult him as a last FU. For the most part Walken does seemingly very little; Hopper does most of the talking. But his responses, his turning to his henchmen for reactions and hardy yuck-yuck laugh add an amusingly unsettling tension. Walken’s screen persona in scenes of violence has often relied on his characters’ ability to suddenly snap and violently “disagree” with other characters (see A View to a Kill and King of New York particularly). Walken waits out the bulk of the scene, letting Coccotti’s rage simmer as Worley offends him. Coccotti never rises to the verbal bait; Walken doesn’t overplay it. (Apparently, only the words ‘eggplant’ and ‘cantaloupe’ were adlibbed to the script as written.) He sits listening, stewing in his carefully guarded anger. It’s obvious he’ll boil over at some point but we don’t know when. Though he embeds himself in your mind quickly, he generously lets Hopper shine for the scene's duration before shrewdly asserting himself, switching into psycho mode for the finish.

I haven’t killed anyone since 1984"

Walken's savvy waiting game here is testament to how he regularly imbues a film with sly style through his uniquely scary persona. The scene is barely five minutes long, and Walken has only a handful of words, but he does some of his best supporting work within the timeframe.

Two more takes after the jump

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug222012

Take Three: Rosanna Arquette

Craig here with Take Three. Today three New York stories starring Rosanna Arquette

Takes One & Two: Desperately Seeking Susan and After Hours (both 1985)
Rosanna Arquette was very much at home in Eighties New York. As "Roberta Glass" in Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan and "Marcy Franklin" in Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, she had some strange and bewildering night-time adventures. Her well-to-do New Jersey housewife in the former sought and stalked an elusive Madonna; in the latter she was a curious, oddball girl courted by a desperate Griffin Dunne. These two films were early high points in Arquette’s career and established her as one of the ‘80s most likeable character actresses.

Susan was all about chasing the idea of Madonna, but it was Arquette who led us through Seidelman’s madcap Manhattan to do so. You couldn’t blame Roberta for wanting to add mystery to her life, dull as it was as a bored, mousy housewife. The plot hijinx involved a jacket that “used to belong to Jimi Hendrix”, mistaken identity at Battery Park, stolen Nefertiti earrings that got her into trouble with a creepy Will Patton and a bonus romance with a sensitive projectionist (Aiden Quinn) was just a bonus.

More dark and comic nights for Rosanna's soul after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug142012

Take Three: Tommy Lee Jones

Craig here with Take Three. Today: Tommy Lee Jones who is currently working it out with Streep onscreen in Hope Springs.

Take One: No Country for Old Men (2007)
In the Joel & Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men, the ostensible main character is weary Texas lawman Sheriff Ed Tom Bell played by Tommy Lee Jones, though his co-star Josh Brolin is the film's nominal hero. Jones, though, an ‘old man’ on the verge of retirement and tired of the country he’s patrolled for so long, brings a melancholic meaning to the film’s title. Sheriff Bell had more of a life/backstory in McCarthy’s novel (much of which the Coens left out) wherein he discusses his experiences in WWII, which hint at a desire to shy away from violent combat/confrontation, and his life is generally laid out in more detail. What we do learn of Bell in the film is from the slivers of significant information Jones imparts in his refined characterisation.

The actor is typically, movingly good in the key scene where Bell visits his uncle Ellis (Barry Corbin). We see their playfully wry relationship in an exchange of sarcastic pleasantries over Ellis's ‘outlaws cats’ -- a perfectly daft moment that features one of Jones' very best comically weary glances – but the visit is also rife with understated detail that speaks volumes about Bell as a man. Shot in profile staring out a window at the desolate and godless expanse of the Texan desert, and discreetly withholding his true inner thoughts, Bell enigmatically responds to Ellis about why he’s quitting the law.

I always figured when I got older God would sorta come into my life somehow... and he didn't."

Two more takes after the jump

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug062012

Take Three: Barbara Steele

Craig here with this week's Take Three: Barbara Steele

Barbara Steele in Federico Fellini's immortal 8 ½

Take One: Black Sunday (1960)
In Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (also known as  La maschera del demonio or The Mask of Satan) Steele plays Princess Asa Vajda, a woman put to death by her brother in Moldavia, 1630 only to be resurrected 200 years later as a vampire-witch. Steele also has a second, key role, as local woman Katia Vajda. Princess Asa’s eager to wreak the long-promised revenge upon her descendants – thus proving Sunday is far from a day of rest for the undead. Black Sunday, highly influential and memorable to future horror like Bloody Pit of Horror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sleepy Hollow, features some of Steele’s best work.

That's particularly true in the film's gory opening prologue where she meets her first death. Many horror fans recall with wicked grins this moment that most likely lead to Steele favouring the horror genre throughout much of the ‘60s. (See also 1965’s Nightmare Castle where she also played dual roles and 1966’s The She Beast, where she’s memorably possessed by the titular lady-ogre.) She conveys an immense sense of terror with impeccable assurance. More crucially, she does so with formidable levels of hysteria apt for a future grande dame of horror cinema. Her cries resound in the prologue like guttural shrieks from beyond the grave, but she manages to rattle off a thrilling, yet oddly wordy, pre-death warning to her condemners

My revenge will strike down you and your accursed house!”

[Two more takes, one of them Cronenbergian, after the jump...]

Click to read more ...