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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (6) Season Hubley in HARDCORE (1979)

"At least you get to go to heaven...I don't get shit."

Paul Schrader's Hardcore (1979) has long been a favorite film of mine but I feel as though I view the movie differently than most, and probably differently than the way Schrader intended.  To my eyes the film is about a truly despicable man who loses a daughter due to his coldness and oppressive belief system and then gets a shot at redemption with a surrogate daughter, whom he abruptly abandons after 'rescuing' the first.   

I've always found it interesting that one of Hardcore's biggest influences is John Ford's The Searchers, another film featuring a 'heroic' father figure that I find to be an absolutely revolting human being.  Hardcore might not be as 'great' of a film as The Searchers but I think it's a more interesting one as I feel like one of the most notable aspects of it is Schrader's own mixed feelings towards his subject matter...whereas I feel like The Searchers is finally just an vile racist work disguised as a social commentary.  

Perhaps I will eventually write about the very difficult, and quite brilliant, Hardcore but for now I just want to salute the incredible Season Hubley, who gives one of the bravest and most complex performances I have ever seen as Niki, the young woman who sees a glimpse of light in George C Scott's character Jake Vandorn before being completely discarded by him during the film's heartbreaking conclusion.

Season Hubley was in her late twenties when she appeared in Hardcore and she was coming off a decade that had seen her working in various films and television programs to relatively little notice.  She had just delivered a scene stealing performance as Priscilla Presley in John Carpenter's Elvis when she signed on for Hardcore but she had never been granted as challenging a role as Niki...and sadly she wouldn't after either.

While she only appears in a handful of scenes in the second half of Hardcore, Hubley's work shows that she really was one of the most talented, and sadly underused, actors of her generation.  She not only holds her own with the volcanic Scott, she steals every moment she's in with a performance that so precise and so finely-tuned that not a trace of 'acting' can be seen.  The fact that she is able to project so much even though Schrader has her wearing sunglasses through most of her moments on screen makes the performance all the more remarkable.  

Hubley's work as Niki is unbelievably brave, extremely captivating and finally just gut-wrenching.  I still can't believe that her performance didn't bring her more attention and better roles after.  Within a year she would be stuck again making TV movies, with only sporadic films like Vice Squad (1982) appearing every few years.  She would close out her career in the nineties, with her work on the Soap All My Children probably bringing her the most fans and notice.   

Despite the fact that Season Hubley was never again granted the kind of meaty role like Niki I am grateful that we at least have that one role.  It really is one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen.  For more information on the life and work of Season Hubley, check out this fine tribute blog.  

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (7) Bridget Fonda in BODIES, REST & MOTION (WITH A GUEST CONTRIBUTION BY JOE VALDEZ)

"Beautiful flowers in your garden 
But the most beautiful by far
 The one growing wild in the garbage dump 

Even here even here we are 

Song of the bird lives in the sky 
But the most beautiful by far
 Scream of the man who never learned to fly

Even here even here we are 

Sun shines bright, it's a beautiful sight 
But the most beautiful by far
 Is the blind girl alone with the angel of the night"

-Paul Westerberg, 1993-

I turned twenty in 1993.  In hindsight I would say it was a pretty great time to be twenty although I certainly didn't recognize that fact at the time.  Rock had returned, Tarantino arrived and things were wonderfully noisy was the decade before everyone retreated into their private little hideaways of texting, i-pods and other such various forms of bullshit all designed to bring us together while ultimately tearing us apart.  The nineties, even if just for a few years, kind of rocked and I am happy I was there with my long purple hair, goodwill jackets and torn jeans.  I was born old but I briefly took advantage and lived my youth.  

Moon in the Gutter's author pictured, back in the day, around '93.

If anyone ever asked me what it was like turning twenty in 1993 I would ask that they listen to Paul Westerberg's extraordinary LP from that year, 14 Songs, and watch Bridget Fonda in one of the key American films from that year Bodies, Rest & Motion.  

Bridget Fonda was my favorite actor from my generation.  She might not have been the greatest, or had the most range but she had an undefinable something about her that made her stand apart...she managed to be down to earth, inviting and warm while maintaining a certain secrecy and mystery.  Most directors didn't know what the hell to do with Bridget and disappointing is the word that comes to mind when looking at her filmography, but she was great even when the film wasn't and when she did get a role as terrific as she was extraordinary things happened (there really isn't a more perfectly realized performance from the nineties than Bridget in Jackie Brown).  

I first saw Michael Steinberg's extraordinary Bodies, Rest & Motion at the now closed Vogue Theater in Louisville, KY during its brief theatrical run in '93.  I thought then, and now, that it was the one American film that really captured what it was like to be in your twenties in that period.  While films like Reality Bites and Singles (another film starring Fonda) proved more popular with audiences, it was Bodies, Rest & Motion that really captured the ennui, restlessness and frustration that went along with the joy, chaos and ridiculousness of youth.  It's a wonderful film populated by tremendous performances (courtesy of Fonda, Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth and Phoebe Cates) and it remains one of my favorites from the nineties.  

Bridget Fonda is an absolute marvel in Bodies, Rest & Motion.  She conveys angst, desperation and loneliness in a positively devastating fashion, while at the same time retaining that infectious charm that made so many of us fall in love with her in the nineties.  Along with Jackie Brown, Bodies, Rest & Motion remains the key work from Bridget Fonda before she disappeared from our lives, but not dreams, a decade ago.  
-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

My great admiration and devotion to Bridget Fonda is shared by many of my friends, including critic and writer Joe Valdez, who authors and operates the incredible This Distracted Globe, one of the great film sites on the web.  Joe has kindly written up a little tribute to Bridget for us and I am very grateful to him for taking the time to do so.  

-Joe Valdez on Bridget Fonda, written for Moon in the Gutter in 2012-

"Of all the film actresses of my generation, the one who makes me giddy by just thinking about her is Bridget Fonda. She flew under the radar her entire career. Most of the roles Bridget Fonda was offered initially were the cute barista or some variation. I think she actually played a waitress who gets a $2 million tip from Nic Cage in some movie. That was her bread and butter. If I had $2 million, I'd probably give it to Bridget Fonda. Her presence just lit up movies that weren't very memorable otherwise. Fonda was the only cast member of Cameron Crowe's SINGLES who really seemed to fit; she made that movie better each time her character popped up. Then it seems like Fonda outgrew the cute barista, beginning with BODIES, REST & MOTION, to play characters you'd cross the street to avoid. This gets you to the scheming beach bunny in JACKIE BROWN and to Bill Paxton's wife in A SIMPLE PLAN. Those women were living day to day and knew an opportunity when it came along. One didn't make it and the other one, we don't know if her marriage is going to make it. Just brilliant. You could see Fonda was evolving, playing complicated and sometimes unlikable women and working with great filmmakers. She slipped into that stage of her career very naturally. It didn't come off as posturing to win awards. She pulled those darker roles off naturally. That and what she could bring to a movie with her presence always makes me smile."
Criterion's long out of print Laserdisc edition of Bodies, Rest & Motion

Monday, December 24, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (8) Natasha Richardson in PATTY HEARST (1988)

A still of Natasha Richardson from my original VHS copy of Patty Hearst.

Very few performances had the kind of profound effect on me as a teenager, in the eighties, as Natasha Richardson's in Paul Schrader's Patty Hearst.  I was sixteen when this remarkable performance first came into my life, in the late eighties, and I find Richardson's work as this strange icon just as damaging and haunting as ever.  It's one of those great performances that seems to become even more and more richer with each passing year as our multiplexes and local movie houses show less and less films as searing and thoughtful as Patty Hearst.

Trying to imagine Patty Hearst without Natasha Richardson is impossible. The Twenty-four year old British born Richardson might have seemed an odd choice but she slipped effortlessly into the role and delivers a subtle and terrifying performance that channels the real Hearst in every way imaginable. Mostly known in that period as just one of Vanessa Redgrave’s daughters, Richardson is simply astonishing as Hearst and her work stands with any of her gifted mother's greatest performances.

Paul Schrader was so impressed by Natasha Richardson's work in Patty Hearst that he gave the great young actress another lead in his The Comfort of Strangers.  Natasha would go onto to become one of how most interesting and valuable actors up until her tragic passing in 2009...her work as Patty Hearst remains her most the most brilliant, necessary and vital performances in all of modern cinema.

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Sunday, December 23, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (9) Ben Gazzara in TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS (1981)

"Style is the answer to everything... a fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without style. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art. Bullfighting can be an art. Boxing can be an art. Loving can be an art. Opening a can of sardines can be an art." 

There is something positively epic about Ben Gazzara's unnerving performance as the booze-soaked woman-obsessed author Charles Serking in Marco Ferreri's stunning 1981 Charles Bukowski adaptation Tales of Ordinary Madness.  Gazzara's performance is devastating  disturbing and towering...everytime I watch him in the film reciting Bukowski's memorable words I can't conceive why more of a major film-cult hasn't been built around him.  

Gazzara was on one of the great runs in the late seventies and early eighties.  Within a five year period he appeared in such masterworks as Saint Jack, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Opening Night and They All Laughed.  Gazzara was at his absolute peak when he appeared opposite the otherworldly Ornella Muti (perhaps the most beautiful woman in screen history) in Tales of Ordinary Madness and his work as Serking is absolutely a devastating poem that only begins to make sense after it has time to settle completely in.  

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Saturday, December 22, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (10) Claude Jade as Christine Darbon in Truffaut's 'Antoine Doinel Series'

Well I have managed to get to the top ten of this month-long list without having another December meltdown.  To celebrate this minuscule milestone, I thought I would repost a (slightly edited) version of the piece that kick-started Moon in the Gutter six December's past.  It was indeed the tragic passing of my favorite French New-Wave icon, the incredible Claude Jade, that initially inspired me to start Moon in the Gutter and I wouldn't even think about leaving her off this list.  So here is that post written in another time, in a different place, about an artist that has haunted me all of my adult-life.

I remember very clearly the moment when I first saw Claude Jade. I was 15 and sitting in study hall flipping-through James Monaco's The New Wave, instead of whatever reading-assignment I was ignoring that day. The book, which would prove so important to me, was a trade paperback with the pages already yellowing, and it's black and white photos becoming less and less clear each time I looked at them. I had found the valuable volume in a used Evansville, Indiana bookstore, called The Book Broker, and it fuelled my new found appetite for French film and especially Jean-Luc Godard. The photos of Claude Jade, of course, were in the Truffaut section and while I had yet to discover the joys of Truffaut her face stuck with me. 

Years later I was at College at the University of Kentucky in a particular cleaning house phase of my life when I rented a number of Truffaut's films from a local video store. Over the period of a few nights I felt transformed by this man and his evocative memory films. Why I waited so long to discover Truffaut I don't know but I found him, and his films, at the perfect time. 

All of the films I watched that week had a profound affect on me but it was the third Antoine Doinel adventure, Baisers Voles (Stolen Kisses), that left me feeling the warmest. Suddenly those blurry black and white photos I had stored in my memory for so long became alive and I could finally see that her hair was as red as I had imagined, and her skin as fair as I had hoped. 

Claude Jade was an accomplished screen and stage actress in France. She won awards, wrote a book and even made a film with Hitchcock but it's her work with Truffaut in three films as Christine Darbon Doinel that I hold so close. 

Upon hearing the news that cancer had taken this lovely woman, and talented artist, away made me feel of course very sad but also reminded me of what a wonderful thing it was to be 20. That's how old she was when she made Stolen Kisses in 1968 and that's how old I was when I first saw it around 1993. I think of her as an old friend that I might run into again, a secret crush that I kept to myself, inhabiting a world where things like aging and cancer don't exist. 

I'm reminded of what Tony Bennett said upon hearing that Frank Sinatra died, "I don't have to believe that" and that's how I feel about Claude Jade's passing. I have no doubt we'll meet again, where we are both frozen in time at twenty, and I'll be able to tell her the role she played in my life and thank her. 

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Friday, December 21, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (11) John Ritter in THEY ALL LAUGHED (1981)

Despite the fact that his career on screen, stage and television stretched over five decades and brought him many great comedic and dramatic roles, the much-missed John Ritter will always be primarily known for his brilliantly funny portrayal of Jack Tripper on the legendary sitcom Three's Company.  If you are perhaps only aware of Ritter's work as Tripper, please consider his wonderfully warm and witty performance as Detective Charles Rutledge in Peter Bogdanovich's stunning They All Laughed, one of the great films of the eighties.  

John Ritter was in his early thirties when he appeared in Bogdanovich's greatest film and he was at the absolute peak of his artistic powers.  A brilliant physical comedian who would have been right at home in any of the classic American screwball comedies he grew up with, John Ritter was an absolute force to be reckoned with and his work in They All Laughed is incredibly sublime...especially in his scenes with the heartbreaking Dorothy Stratten, whose haunting performance could have appeared on this list as well.  

While They All Laughed has one of the best ensemble casts imaginable, I feel like the film ultimately belongs to John Ritter and Dorothy Stratten. Watching it today operates as a reminder that Ritter was a real national treasure, and one of our last great physical comedians. He is so funny and touching in this part and it is just a joy to watch. Stratten amazingly matches him every step of the way. Instead of looking inexperienced, under Bogdanovich's direction she gives an assured and warm performance that shows clearly she could have become a huge star. Watching the scenes with Ritter and Stratten today, as both are no longer with us, in a city that has also changed drastically since is incredibly moving. They All Laughed is, in a way, the funniest tragic movie ever made.

If you've never had the pleasure of watching They All Laughed please do so as soon as possible as it is a really special work and it contains the best performance that John Ritter, a really wonderful actor, left us.  When we lost John Ritter nearly a decade ago we lost one of the absolute heavyweights and he will always be greatly missed.  

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Thursday, December 20, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (12) Thomas Jay Ryan in HENRY FOOL (1997)

"It's a philosophy. A poetics. A politics, if you will. A literature of protest. A novel of ideas. A pornographic magazine of truly comic book proportions. It is, in the end, whatever the hell I want it to be. And when I'm through with it it's going to blow a hole this wide straight through the world's own idea of itself."

I don't know the first damn thing about Thomas Jay Ryan.  All I can tell you is that is that he is from Pittsburgh, that he is mostly known for his stage-work, that he hasn't appeared in a film in several years and in that in 1997 he gave one of the greatest screen performances I have ever seen as the title character in Hal Hartley's supreme Henry Fool.  

I tried writing on Henry Fool before and I failed to convey what exactly it is that the film means to me and why it holds me under such a powerful spell...perhaps it is because I don't even know myself.  All I know is that there is something in this bold film that says something extremely profound to me about cinema, life and myself...and I know much of that is due to the incredibly unique and quite visionary performance of Thomas Jay Ryan as a man who just refuses to fit in.

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (13) Theresa Russell in BAD TIMING (WITH A GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM DEREK HILL)

"I'm not ambitious, not an artist, not a poet, not a revolutionary."

Of the most baffling and head-scratching bad reviews Roger Ebert ever gave a great film, few are as perplexing as his panning of Nicolas Roeg's 1980 masterpiece Bad Timing.  Of course, Ebert wasn't the only critic who hated this incredible film but his critique of it was extremely harsh.  Despite his deep hatred of the film, even Ebert couldn't deny the brilliance of Theresa Russell's performance for Roeg and he ended his review with this:

"If there is any reason to see this film, however, it is the performance by Theresa Russell (who was Dustin Hoffman's lover in "Straight Time"). She is only 22 or 23, and yet her performance is astonishingly powerful. She will be in better films, I hope, and is the only participant who need not be ashamed of this one."

Bad Timing finally got its due a few years back when Criterion released their tremendous special edition of it, a move which finally allowed the film to find the audience it had so long deserved.  The film's re-release also served as a reminder to the astonishing talent of Theresa Russell, as daring and provocative as any actor we have had in English film in the past several decades.  While it is quite tragic that Russell has spent most of her career languishing in roles not suited at all for her considerable talents we can celebrate the few filmmakers who recognized just how special she is, with Nicolas Roeg remaining the artist who gave her the most memorable roles of her career.

I was initially going to write more on Theresa here but honestly the guest contribution that my friend, author and film-historian, Derek Hill sums up so much of what I feel and think about her I will just go ahead and leave you with his stirring words.  Hopefully some of you remember the Q&A I did with Derek awhile back here at Moon in the Gutter, and hopefully even more of you have read his marvelous book Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood's Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists and Dreamers: An Excursion Into the American New Wave.  Thanks so much to Derek for writing these lovely words for Moon in the Gutter about one of our mutual favorite actors:

Derek Hill on Theresa Russell in Bad Timing, 2012-

Theresa Russell's performance in Bad Timing is as formidable and memorable as anything Brando gave us. Now, bear with me. The two are obviously different in their approaches to acting. Their methodology, technique, and range are wildly dissimilar. Brando was trained and Russell wasn't. She seems awkward in front of the camera at times, unsure of herself and she sparks with naturalistic rawness. She's combustible and we're never sure what she'll do next. That's exciting in a movie like Bad Timing, where she plays a character, Milena, who is pure chaotic attraction. She's the mythic femme fatale, but Russell thoroughly humanizes her, stripping her from the trappings of cliché and making her identifiable to anyone who has ever been consumed by a woman like her or to any woman who is her. Roeg isn't interested in sustaining genre conventions (the story incorporates elements of the spy, mystery, romance, and noir genres) and Russell has no interest portraying Milena as a traditional vixen anyway. Russell is fearless in the role, and in that respect, she's brave. As brave as Brando in Last Tango in Paris. As brave as any actor who risked it all for their craft. She remarkably makes acting heroic, and that's a rare thing because relinquishing one's ego for the good of the movie is easier done in theory than in actuality. 

Bad Timing isn't an easy movie to experience. It shouldn't be. Although it's entrancing to watch, we are ultimately observing a story about an intense sexual relationship fraying and destroying the two people involved in it. We are watching a personal apocalypse. Roeg has quite a few brilliant movies on his resume—Performance (co-directed with Donald Cammell), Walkabout, Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Eureka. For me, however, this one cuts the deepest, the one that has embedded in me with a fierce, mysterious power over the years. Much of that is due to Russell. 

I love to watch actors take a leap into the unknown. I love going into the mystery with them.  

--Derek Hill

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (14) Tuesday Weld in PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972)

"I may be self destructive, but I like taking chances with movies. I like challenges and I also like the particular position I've been in all these years, with people wanting to save me from all the awful films I've been in. I'm happy being a legend. I think the Tuesday Weld cult is a very nice thing."
-Tuesday Weld, 1971-

Tuesday Weld was the best damn American actress of the sixties and seventies.  She had everything that her more acclaimed peers like Dunaway, Fonda, Burstyn and Streep had, and more, but she was wildly unpredictable and was finally just not very interested in playing the game.  Glancing at the roles Tuesday Weld turned down throughout her career reads like a list of someone hell bent on not succeeding. She was quoted as saying that she turned down Bonnie and Clyde because, "I don't ever want to be a huge star, do you think I want to be a success?", other roles she turned down included Lolita, Rosemary's Baby, True Grit, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bob Carole Ted and Alice, Cactus Flower, Performance, The Stepford Wives, The Great Gatsby, Chinatown and Frances. Rumor has it that one of the reasons that Truffaut didn't direct Bonnie and Clyde was because she wouldn't play Bonnie.  Beatty would continue to pursue Weld before finally settling on Faye Dunaway, who built her entire career from that role. 

I found out about Tuesday Weld as a young boy after seeing her with Elvis in 1961's Wild In The Country and I would become pretty much obsessed by her in my twenties after viewing Lord Love a Duck (1966) and Pretty Poison (1968).  There has just never been anyone else like her...

Had she not gotten fed up with Hollywood by the late sixties Tuesday Weld could have probably all but dominated the seventies but she just wasn't interested.  Weld's final great starring role would come in Frank Perry's Joan Didion adaption Play It As It Lays, one of the early seventies more difficult to see great American films. She would receive a Golden Globe nomination but was controversially ignored come Oscar time. It's a difficult film to watch and it's probably the best portrayal of someone having a complete mental breakdown ever filmed. Weld seems to bring all of her personal demons out for this role.  This is cinema as deep therapy with the audience ultimately becoming as exhausted as the cast by the end of it. 

Play It As It Lays would act as Tuesday Weld's Raging Bull. Like De Niro she would never again be as beautiful or as transcendent in a role. There would be great work after, her Oscar nominated turn in Looking For Mr Goodbar, Michael Mann's Thief opposite James Caan and especially Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America with De Niro himself but she would never again open that window she had early in her career. Much like her character Noah at the end of A Safe Place, she would seemingly just disappear...and we haven't found anyone else quite like her again.

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Monday, December 17, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (15) Jamie Gillis in THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN

Calling Dr. Love...

I have an absolutely massive post on Radley Metzger's masterpiece The Opening of Misty Beethoven coming in January, where I will go into great detail on the the late Jamie Gillis' iconic performance as Dr. Seymore Love, so this will be one of the shortest posts of this series.  This list would be unthinkable without Gillis though...who was one of our great undervalued actors.  

One of the most charismatic and talented actors to come out of the seventies, the late Jamie Gillis had many, many great under the radar performances that I could have highlighted here but, due to Distribpix's stunning recent collector's edition of Metzger's mesmerizing classic, The Opening of Misty Beethoven seemed like the ideal choice.  Gillis is certainly captured at the peak of his powers as Dr. Love...relaxed, sexy and witty, Gillis (opposite gorgeous Constance Money) radiates star-power and intelligence for Metzger.  It's hard to comprehend that such a great and finely-tuned performance has been all but ignored by most major film-studies.  Never mind the mainstream though, The Opening of Misty Beethoven is one of the very best films of the seventies and much of its success is due to Jamie Gillis in what is perhaps his defining role.  

More information on the stunning DVD and Blu-Ray releases of The Opening of Misty Beethoven can be found here.  My long look at the film will arrive here in the early part of January.  

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Sunday, December 16, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (16) Emmanuelle Seigner in BITTER MOON

"I have a perfect memory...when I feel like it."

The first time I saw Emmanuelle Seigner almost twenty-five years ago I thought she was the coolest girl I had ever seen.  The year was 1988, the film was Frantic and I was 15.  Emmanuelle was 21 when she shot Frantic and she seemed like a supernatural cool breeze in the midst of a particularly tacky a post-punk vision in a Cinema du Look dream.  Seigner reminded me of a young Elvis in Frantic (I wasn't at all surprised later when I found out that Presley was indeed her biggest influence) in the way she moved and carried herself...there was a defining rawness in Seigner that she has never lost.  I still think she is the coolest girl I have ever seen.  

Seigner's greatest work on the screen can be found in her husband Roman Polanski's 1992 masterpiece Bitter Moon, one of the nineties truly great works of cinema.  As the troubled and manipulative Mimi, Seigner gives one of the most simultaneous ferocious and vulnerable performances I have ever seen.  All of that cool energy she projected for Polanski less than five years earlier in Frantic is replaced by a live electric charge that feels downright dangerous.  Seigner's work in Bitter Moon is one of the most emotionally and physically naked performances I have ever seen...she's absolutely fearless and her work is both hard to watch and impossible to look away from.  

France produced several of modern cinema's greatest actresses in the eighties and while she has perhaps never gotten the international acclaim as artists like Binoche and Bonnaire, Emmanuelle Seigner has had just as big of an effect on me artistically and personally.  Her career, which has taken her from Godard to rock-stardom, has been incredibly fascinating to watch, even though the acclaim she so often deserved has often alluded her.  The greatest artistic and life muse to one of cinema's most visionary filmmakers, Emmanuelle Seigner is one of my favorite actors and has a number of performances more than ripe for rediscovery but her work as Mimi in Bitter Moon absolutely's an astonishing performance from one of modern film's most unique icons.

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Saturday, December 15, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (17) Holly Woodlawn in TRASH

"Just because people throw it out and don't have any use for it, doesn't mean it's garbage."

Two years before being immortalized in Lou Reed's classic "Walk on the Wild Side", Holly Woodlawn gave one of the defining performances of the seventies in Paul Morrissey's stunning Trash (1970).  Appearing alongside beautiful Joe Dallesandro, Woodlawn is absolutely amazing in the film and gives one of the most endearing, original and moving performances I have ever seen.  

The Puerto Rican born Woodlawn had amazingly never appeared in a feature-length film before Trash, a fact which makes the performance all the more amazing.  The experience Woodlawn had gathered on the stage in the late sixties informed the performance in Trash and the authority and command of the screen Woodlawn shows is quite remarkable.  Legend has it that Woodlawn's role was initially much smaller but Morrissey was so blown away by Holly's talent that he expanded it into a leading part.  

 Holly Woodlawn manages to be funny, tragic and consistently brilliant in Trash. Legendary filmmaker George Cukor was in fact so moved by Woodlawn's performance that he started a campaign to get a Best Actress nomination but, sadly, it wasn't meant to be. It was the Academy's major oversight though as Woodlawn's performance in the film is among the best I have ever seen. Trash garnered a lot of justified critical acclaim upon its release and it remains one of the best and most defining films of the seventies. For me personally  Trash stands as one of the great examples of how truly life altering (and affirming) a film can be. We would be blessed to have more films this honest and raw in our theaters today. 

More information on the life and career of the fabulous Holly Woodlawn can be found here.

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Friday, December 14, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (18) Annabella Sciorra in MR. JEALOUSY

"What would you do if I bit your face right now suddenly?"

You know the way people gush and go on and on about Audrey Hepburn in the sixties?  That's kind of the way I feel about Annabella Sciorra in the nineties.  I always wished that someone like Woody Allen or Nora Ephron would build a series of endearing romantic comedies around her tapping into her incredible warm wit or that Abel Ferrara would finally give her the lead in one of his films instead of just granting her one scene-stealing supporting role after another.  Those cinematic wishes were never granted which is one reason that I am so grateful to Noah Baumbach, because he is one of the few directors who actually gave Annabella the kind of part she so richly deserved, that of the unforgettable Ramona Ray in his sadly often overlooked charmer of a film Mr. Jealousy.  

I fall immediately back in love with Annabella Sciorra every time I watch Mr. Jealously.  From the first time we see her fixing her hair to the strains of Luna's haunting score to the film's final images where we are greeted to her unforgettable smile one final time, I am just totally transfixed with each and every viewing.  There is so much grace and style in Sciorra's work and she's so utterly sublime in Mr. Jealousy

The truly great actors can say it all without saying a word and I love the way Sciorra listens in Mr. Jealousy.    Baumback gives most of the film's dialogue to Eric Stoltz's uber neurotic title-character but it is Sciorra who we really hear throughout the film.  Annabella is one of the most expressive actors I have ever seen which is why she could portray both charm and menace (check out her jolting work in Ferrara's The Addiction) so incredibly well...she is an absolute master at showing us what she is thinking and understanding.  

Noah Baumbach has I suppose made better and more accomplished films that Mr. Jealousy but it remains my absolute favorite film he has signed off on and most of that is due to Annabella Sciorra's lovely performance.  The film can be found in many a bargain-bin as it has never found the audience it deserves but I have to believe that I am not the only one who has fallen under the very bewitching spell that Annabella Sciorra casts as Ramona Ray.  

Annabella Sciorra continues to work regularly in film and television, and on the stage, and she continues to haunt my fevered cinematic dreams no matter how small the role.  I kind of adore her...

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-

Moon in the Gutter (Month By Month)

BLOG CREATED, EDITED and WRITTEN BY JEREMY RICHEY: Began in DEC 2006. The written content of all posts (excepting quotes from reviews, books, other publications) COPYRIGHT JEREMY RICHEY.