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-

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