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Thursday, June 25, 2015

How About NOT Chewing The Scenery?

Being an indiscriminate film nerd, I'm not often surprised by movies. I realize cutting back on my gluttonous consumption might help assuage that situation, but then non-blockbuster jewels like "Mr. Turner" might slip by.

It was Director Mike Leigh - who rarely strikes out - that led me to this film. But it was Timothy Spall's uncanny portrayal of the renowned 19th century British artist that surprised me. There were several instances when I felt compelled to rewind the DVD simply for the pleasure of watching Spall - hardly a household name - as he minutely changed his facial muscles to convey Turner's joy or torment. Several of these exceptional scenes had little or no dialogue; just the camera with Spall's expressive face and eyes, sometimes accompanied by a grunt. I know this won't appeal to some but for me it was like listening to a simple but exquisite trumpet passage played by Wynton Marsalis; no bombast or pyrotechnics. Less can be so much more.

Around 2000, I was involved in the production of a film about workplace diversity. As my colleague and I sat in the recording studio watching the actors work from scenarios we'd invented, I remember being amazed at the minute changes these folks made from take to take to breathe life into their characters. Sometime later, my wife and I got to watch our daughter do a similar thing, on those occasions when she would allow us to observe her process, changing a barely noticeable gesture as she rehearsed. It was awe-inspiring to watch her become someone else, not unlike like watching Timothy Spall become "Mr. Turner". What was the last acting performance, film or otherwise, that similarly awed you?

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