Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lost Sheep

We are like abandoned sheep, left by the shepherd to wander the vast, empty field. The task, it seems, is for us to collect overnight all the tiny stones that would become pages of the holy book in its completion. The obstacle, however, is a moonless sky, betraying no ray of light, and consequently, not the slightest wish of good fortune from the heavens.

Grappling your way through a yearbook that’s almost a year late is a bore.

* * * *

This week, I entered in my personal pantheon of actors a former Desiree Armfeldt of the London stage and the man behind the film that gave Penelope Cruz her first Oscar.

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen plays the neurotic lover boy opposite Diane Keaton’s archetypal complicated woman, and when one matches a neurotic lover boy with the archetypal complicated woman, the result is hardly the 90-minute, 21st-century romantic comedy Hollywood devotees have grown accustomed to. Instead, you get the messy, fragile love affair of two unlikely people, the result of which includes a torrent of unexpected, psychoanalytical declarations of love from one, and not much brainy retort from the other.

Allen’s directorial touch becomes not the least bit unnoticeable within the first twenty minutes of the film, if only to use his more recent albeit similar work Vicky Cristina Barcelona as a companion movie. Perhaps, I’d be correct to some degree in saying that instability – be it in the narrative, the characters, or the characters’ affairs – is the mark of a finely crafted job by the American filmmaker (and playwright, and jazz clarinetist). Truly, the viewing of Annie Hall requires a brain that’s both wide awake and ready for some intellectual dramatic comedy (with more emphasis on 'dramatic' by a fraction).

However, while it was Keaton and her arachnophobic lady friend who were poised at the receiving end of many an awards night, the brightest star of the film, for me, is Allen’s seemingly brain-damaged comedian. In a highly nuanced performance that well dissected the depths of an imaginary person, the actor-director does a job with few parallels to this time. Alvy Singer, the fictional comedian, joins the ranks of Heath Ledger’s The Joker and Adrien Brody’s pianist in my personal list of topnotch onscreen acting, though of course Singer’s already had his spot reserved long before I knew how to operate a VHS player.

Unfortunately (?), it would be biased for me to say that Allen was robbed of the Oscar by Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl, who won the award by also playing, according to Wikipedia, a neurotic.

* * * *

Notes on a Scandal is now my second most favorite dramatic film, next to John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt. Judi Dench redefines creepy as a spinster with unspoken lesbian intentions in life, preying upon the lonely and confused novice teacher played by Cate Blanchett. The part where Dench tries to convince Blanchett to accompany her to the vet for her cat’s euthanasia was a haunting display of desperation from the former. And Blanchett confronting and assaulting Dench over the secret diary, and subsequently blowing up amid a throng of media men made for a harrowing culminating scene. Of course, why there was the need for all that confrontation is for the viewer to find out. You’ll end up not feeling scandalized at all – or maybe more than scandalized.  

No comments: