British Actors

I seem to have developed Oscar fever for the first time in my life, so I found this article in today’s Guardian by American writer Charles McNulty very interesting indeed. He discusses the things that distinguish British actors from their American cousins. Specifically the old guard, Helen Mirren et al.

…it’s not just glorious sound that sets British veterans apart. It’s their ability to wring complex meanings from a single line. They invite us not just into their characters’ minds but into their intricate thought processes as well. Still, it’s not a strictly realistic affair. These talents are drawn from a theatrical heritage that recognises drama as more than a slice of life. Too many US actors have become enslaved to a form of behavioural banality in which the highest value is placed on mimicking everyday life; at its worst fetishising the commonplace at the expense of the revelatory.

I watched Venus the other day and was totally won over by Peter O’Toole’s performance. McNulty has the following to say about it:

By playing a senior-citizen lothario with problematic post-op plumbing in Venus, O’Toole is venturing into territory that makes us not quite sure how to respond. We don’t really want Maurice to obtain the object of his affection, who is, after all, a teenager. Sympathy mixes uneasily with shame. We’ve entered a realm of ambivalence in which the dramatic conflict leaves us in a state of bewilderment. Philosophy, as Aristotle told us, begins in wonder. And Venus forces us to ponder the revivifying enchantment and destructive chaos of Eros.

Full article here.

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