May 17, 2015


'Who knew the Elephant Man was so good for a laugh? As is traditional for stage actors playing Joseph Merrick, the circus freak briefly feted by Victorian high society before his death, at age 27, in 1890, the movie actor Bradley Cooper uses no prostheses to play the part, instead using his body’s putty-like powers — gait, posture, diction — to suggest Merrick’s monstrous deformity. Stood on stage of the Booth theatre on Manhattan’s 45th street in no more than a loin cloth, the star most famous for his roles in Silver Linings Playbook and American Sniper twists his body like a gnarled old branch, one arm going entirely dead, one hip dropping and leaving most of his weight on a cane, his mouth crunched up on one side of his face, so that his words slurp out of one corner, like water around a plughole. And what emerges? Unlikely as it may sound, but: Jokes. Not funny har-har jokes. Not thigh-slappers. Not rib ticklers. But oblique, waspish observations on the hypocrisies of the Victorian society that has so embraced him.     “If your mercy is so cruel,” wonders Merrick of an orderly’s firing, “what do you have for justice?”   There are many actors in attendance on the night I see the show — including Michael Sheen, Sara Paulson and Billy Crudup, who last played the role on Broadway, here presumably to see how the new boy fares. Crudup, Mark Hamill and David Bowie and have all taken on the role. In the 1980 David Lynch movie John Hurt played Merrick as a naïf, almost childlike in his eagerness to be patronized, grateful for the human contact it brought him, but Cooper locates an element of irony in his rasping diction, and offers mild, glancing rebuke to the bishops, aristocrats and assorted dignitaries gathered around him. He makes Merrick a wit.' — from my interview with Bradley Cooper for the Sunday Times

May 16, 2015

When playing yourself is playing a part

'It is perhaps telling that in both instances — The Act of Killing and The Man Who Saved the World — a departure from strict fly-on-the-wall methods was necessitated, or went hand on hand, with the task of overcoming the resistance of subjects hardened by repressive regimes: Russian and communist Indonesia. Verite turns out to be a poor tool for penetrating ideology.  “Its like an onion,” says Peter Anthony of trying to unravel the grumpy and frequently drunk Colonel Petrov. “You want to peel off all these layers and get to the middle.” And what did he find? At times reluctant to act out conversations for the cameras, he gradually warmed the process. Indeed, after spending some time with a German experimental theatre troop, who heard of Petrov’s story and took him on tour with them as part of an anti-war theatre piece,  “He came back very different,” says The Man Who Saved The World’s producer Jakob Staberg. “Before he would shoot a scene and complain  ‘I’m not an actor’ when he thought Peter was being too demanding. After he came back from playing theater he would say ‘okay Peter now my character, I would say this…’ and had long discussions about how she should pronounce different words. His late wife used to be a projectionist screening 35 mm films in military base. He loved going to the movies. Maybe that’s one of the reasons he became a part of out film. He got to be the star of his own movie.  The Russian actor playing him as a young man said, ‘his acting is better than mine.’ He had tears in his eyes. ‘He’s amazing.’”' — from my piece about documentary truth for the Financial Times

My movie of the summer....


"It’s been a while since we checked in with Connelly, last seen laboring through a series of rom-comish dramas  He’s Just Not that Into You, Stuck on You, The Dilemma — wearing the expression of Antigone making conversation at a tupperware party. She took a couple of years off from acting to have her daughter, Agnes, but returned to screens last year in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, playing Noah’s wife Nameeh, fighting for her children’s life as the heavens opened... This month sees the release of Aloft, Connelly’s film with Llosa, a mix of mystical allegory, handheld cinematography and subzero temperatures, in which Connelly plays a mother of two sons on the periphery of the Arctic circle who is drawn into the company of faith healers after tragedy strikes at the heart of her family. Put it together with Noah and Shelter, her forthcoming drama about homelessness in which she was directed by husband Paul Bettany, and you have a trio of films pitting Connelly against the elements, scratching out an existence beneath glowering skies. No question: she is in survival mode.   At 44, her beauty has shed whatever air of sultriness it had in her twnties and bedded down into something altogether more purified, striated, fierce. In Aloft those green eyes seem to contain their own arctic storms." — from my profile for Town and Country magazine

May 10, 2015

On my iPod: May 13th 2015

1. Will You Dance? — The Bird and the Bee
2. No Room in Frame  — Deathcab for Cutie
3. Armellodie — Chilly Gonzalez
4. Style — Taylor Swift
5. One Last Time — Ariana Grande
6. Gracious — Bobby McFerrin
7. Not Alone — Olafur Arnalds
8. Want To Want Me — Jason Derulo
9. California Nights — Best Coast
10. Disciples — Tame Impala