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Im Not There (#110 of 4)

Body of Work Ben Whishaw

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Body of Work: Ben Whishaw

Columbia Pictures

Body of Work: Ben Whishaw

Was it fate that John Hurt provided the narration for Ben Whishaw’s 2006 breakout, Perfume? Because in the lineage of impeccably-voiced, male British stars, whose hyper-articulate pipes could make poetry out of Rebecca Black lyrics, there’s Richard Burton, there’s Hurt, and now there’s Whishaw, a delicate character actor who, if reciting your last rites, may well make you believe in a hereafter. Whishaw’s velvety coo doesn’t have that Hurt-Burton gruffness, but it’s still terribly commanding, an aural delight that perks up ears and adds instant pathos to films that need it. Consider the total blandness that might have befallen Brideshead Revisited if Whishaw weren’t the one waxing melancholic as Sebastian Flyte, giving genuine life to Evelyn Waugh’s words. The actor’s innate amenability to the classics was something shrewdly observed by Jane Campion, who cast him as John Keats in her unsung masterstroke Bright Star, a film that finally and literally gave Whishaw poetry to recite.

Todd Haynes’s Poison

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Todd Haynes’s Poison
Todd Haynes’s Poison

Poison is a love letter composed like a ransom note,
an unstable compound synthesized in a lab,
a cut-and-paste collage by a gifted schoolboy.

“A milestone in American independent film and the inciting spark for what came to be known as the New Queer Cinema, Todd Haynes’s first feature, ’Poison’ (1991), has always stood for much more than itself…A triptych of stories about transgression and persecution inspired by Jean Genet, [the] film’s three strands are stylistically distinct—a newsmagazine-style account of a suburban boy who killed his abusive father, a black-and-white B-movie about a scientist turned leprous outcast, a rough-trade romance set in a Genet-like prison—and it cuts among them to create a web of unsettling correlations and an echo-chamber effect.”Dennis Lim, The New York Times

 

I was a teenage fanboy for Todd Haynes.

New York Film Festival 2010: The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu and Nuremberg

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New York Film Festival 2010: <em>The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu</em> and <em>Nuremberg</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu</em> and <em>Nuremberg</em>

Under Nicolae Ceauşescu’s reign as president of Romania during the 1980s, many Romanians struggled to make a living after their president ordered much of the country’s agricultural and industrial products exported in order to cover the more than $13 million in debt it had incurred over the years. That, however, is among many of the harsh realities that Andrei Ujicâ, the writer-director of the conceptually intriguing documentary The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu deliberately leaves out in fashioning his own kind of portrait of the increasingly reality-challenged ruler. But it’s not because he’s attempting to try to empathize with Ceaușescu—or, at least, if he is trying to see things through his eyes, it’s not to try to elicit understanding. (If recent films from the so-called Romanian New Wave suggest anything, it’s that the country still bears considerable scars from Ceaușescu’s Mao Zedong-ish presidency, and that most are just trying to move on from it all.)

The Conversations: Todd Haynes

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The Conversations: Todd Haynes
The Conversations: Todd Haynes

Ed Howard: In all of his films, Todd Haynes takes elements of gaudy tabloid culture and warps them to his own purposes, because he sees—in the lurid stories about sexuality and decadence and violence that we like to tell ourselves, in the celebrity gossip rags and TV news and hyped-up movies—deeper truths about identity, gender, politics, entertainment and sexuality. Haynes finds, within the sensationalist and the melodramatic, a culture’s vision of itself, distorted by a funhouse mirror but nevertheless evocative of the unvarnished truth. Or maybe the truth really is as strange as the mirror suggests: entertainers as plastic action figures, made to be manipulated and posed; sexuality as a plague, terrifying and mysterious; suburbia as a deadening cage for the emotions; the past as a manufactured façade, rendered superficially safe by the suppression (or ignorance) of all those impulses that go unchecked in the present; identity as malleable and fluid, the true self supplanted by endless masks and games. Haynes’ appropriation of the language of media—the docudrama, the genre film, the educational documentary, all eras and styles collaged together in his cinematic blender—is an examination of the ways in which culture both disguises and probes the truths about individuals, their secret desires and fears and fantasies.