Archive for Robert Redford

In Hazard

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2014 by dcairns

-all-is-lost

In Telluride, I had two contrasting experiences of Robert Redford — one was seeing him in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour programmed by Pierre Rissient — the barely-formed Redford on display was subtly out-of-whack, not yet blandly handsome, but actually odd-looking, with tiny slitty eyes — but he gave an excellent performance — the other encounter was actually brushing shoulders with the Great Man himself at a brunch in the mountains. Suddenly seeing him up close was startling — the distractingly youthful hair and the post-handsome famous heaped incongruously underneath it.

But in ALL IS LOST, the oddities of Redford’s appearance totally work, and he looks spectacular, rugged and rumpled and defiant. He’s the only actor onscreen apart from one stray body part I shouldn’t spoil for you, he’s the only voice we hear apart from a very brief snatch of radio talk in a foreign language and a song in the end credits, but he barely speaks during the whole movie — I guess about a dozen words, max. He doesn’t even have a character name: the credits, which are full of quirky details and worth staying for, helpfully let us know that he’s called “Our Man.”

Our Man is on a yacht somewhere off Sumatra (odd, how you spend ages not hearing about Sumatra and then two references come along in 24hrs — Mark Gatiss’s episode of Sherlock the previous night referenced The Giant Rat of Sumatra, that favourite unwritten Holmes adventure) which gets punctured by a huge floating metal container full of sneakers (oddly, the title of a 1992 Redford film). The rest of the film is Our Man fighting leaks, electrical short-outs, inclement weather (forgive the understatement) and possibly an angry God. By being so minimalist — J.C. Chandor, who made the acclaimed MARGIN CALL, doesn’t even use music for the first long chunk of the action — the movie positively invites allegorical readings of this kind, but smartly holds off on tips which might lead us one way or another. Is Our Man a symbol of America, masculinity, mankind — is the film about mortality, and is ALL really LOST?

all-is-lost-robert-redford

The Arri Alexa Raw is unforgiving at close range and we become intimate with every crack and blemish in the ancient mariner’s once blank and beamish face — and that landscape, nudged around from within by the subtle thoughts and concerns animating the actor’s mind, becomes an engrossing spectacle as fascinating as the blue depths full of gleaming fish that arc beneath his ruptured vessel.

Just as the debate around AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET takes the unproductive form of “Which is the better Scorsese film, the one by Scorsese or the other one?”, ALL IS LOST gets paired with GRAVITY, and different people find each film more thrilling. I was definitely more excited by the thrill-ride of GRAVITY, but I did get a visceral, tactile response to ALL IS LOST (the film sports plenty of visual effects, which I couldn’t tell from reality, but there’s plenty of real ocean too — whereas essentially nothing in GRAVITY is photographically real except the actors’ faces, and there’s room for doubt with those) — as the storm whipped up, I felt the need to put on the jumper I’d just taken off because I was too warm. Now, it could be that some wily cinema manager has the air conditioning timed to the film’s plotline, but I prefer the more psychological explanation in this case — and that Skywalker sound, with every raindrop distinct, really does get under your skin.

Euphoria #43: Don’t ever hit your mother with a shovel…

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on February 9, 2008 by dcairns

Warm and mellow-making movie moments, chosen by YOU, the Shadowplayers

My Mum, Sheila Cairns, picked this Bacharachian bachanal from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, pointing out that she couldn’t imagine why Katherine Ross would be interested in Robert Redford anyway, with Paul Newman around.

It’s a beautiful scene (faint shades of JULES ET JIM?), and George Roy Hill deserves more credit as, at the very least, a second-tier commercial filmmaker (he was among the first to assimilate the influence of the Nouvelle Vague, for one thing). I reviewed a book about him once and, I can only say, he deserves a better book. The first edition must have been pretty good, but somewhere between then and the revised updated version, something pretty bad must have happened to the author (maybe just TIME?) and all the life and precision had gone out of his writing. And since Hill, at his best, had a lot of both qualities, he definitely deserves a better book.

Hmm, this sequence maybe could use some better GAGS (the “prequel” BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS has plenty) but GRH makes up for that by finding pretty and surprising and playful ways of filming stuff.

I just wish they’d tweaked it in the edit so that the snatching of the apple from the tree branch coincided with the word “did” in the lyrics. Wouldn’t that be nicer, musically?

But it’s great that they get away with the song. Of course, it’s not as extreme in its anachronism as Ennio Morricone’s surf guitar masterpieces, but its very airy and confident and sweet and is pretty clearly a modern popular song with nothing but tone to justify its presence (the lyrics run defiantly counter to the action). It did lead to a lot of inferior imitations, which rather deface movies like THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (not a particularly strong contender at the best of times).

I think it’s funny that my Mum would choose this scene as she has a morbid fear of cows.

Go West

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Otherstuff: screenwriter William Goldman still prefers his original title, THE SUNDANCE KID AND BUTCH CASSIDY (they changed it when Newman, the big star, wanted to play Butch).

He’s CRAZY.

BCATSK is obviously much nicer than TSKABC, as you can see for yourselves just by singing each title in turn. You see? You SEE?

And: my folks just recently watched NORTH BY NORTHWEST together again, on the exact anniversary of the day they first saw it, on their first date together, on the film’s first release.

And: the Donald Westlake novel I’m reading, Drowned Hopes, lifts Hitchcock’s original idea for the climax of NBNW — a man climbs into the nostril of the Mount Rushmore Lincoln, it’s dusty in there, and he sneezes. I’m going to forgive Westlake this little plagiarism, as it happens in the perfect place in the novel and anyway, Hitchcock never actually used it (the Mount Rushmore people objected).

the man in Lincoln's nose

The Okay Gatsby

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2008 by dcairns

 

Robert Redford is not an actor one associates with words like “interesting”, or “necessary”, but once in awhile he’s actually surprising, which is one of the very best things an actor can be.

In Jack Clayton’s admittedly slightly flabby film of THE GREAT GATSBY (but note how, in this pre-air-conditioning tale of the ‘twenties all the fabulously rich people are covered with a sheen of sweat), Redford as the mysterious Jay Gatsby gives a brief precis of his history to date. The speech contains lies, and is delivered to someone who hasn’t asked for this information, which makes it all rather suspicious. There are various obvious ways it could have been handled:

1) The actor could try and be as convincing as possible, letting us discover the truth later.

2) He could show the audience, by some slight nervousness and evasion, that he may not be telling the whole truth.

3) He could be VERY unconvincing, using obvious hesitations and nervousness.

Redford reads the lines as if he’s reading lines, stuff he’s memorised by heart and is now TEACHING to the listener, so that he can repeat them to others. This is Gatsby’s actual hope, he wants to spread this information around. So he’s very slow and deliberate.

I think it’s quite a funny, weird effect, and brave, in the sense that it’s designed to look like bad acting. And it’s convincing as such. An audience could assume that Redford is just a lousy actor. I think we know he isn’t quite THAT, so we have to assume this is a deliberate choice. It’s also delivered like bad exposition, which makes it even funnier.

The speech is delivered in a car, with Redford concentrating VERY hard on the road, and he also appears to have been dubbed. Even better!

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The most impressive piece of Redfordiana is maybe in Michael Ritchie’s THE CANDIDATE where he repeatedly corpses while rehearsing a political speech he has to give. I think it’s the word “integrity” that trips him up every time. Convincingly acting spontaneous and involuntary laughter, again and again, strikes me as a NEAT TRICK.

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