I want to expand on a point pk has made in his mind for half a century, out loud for nearly as long, and online for a decade and a half: some actors can radiate macroinformation with the most minute adjustment of their features: Orson Wells, Peter Lore … And some crews — director, lighting, camera — can get related effects almost independent of the actor.
Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo … one moment they’re handsome as a god; change the angle a fraction, move an eyebrow a fraction, and they’re brutality incarnate.
I mentioned Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai in a module on legitimacy as able to project beauty and mix it with innocence, yet a moment later look Saturnine, pathological …
Well, I’m naming male examples. And in the faces-and-features-proclaiming-character department males have all the advantage: males and females evolved along parallel but not identical lines: women grouped, men teamed. Hunters, soldiers — males! have to communicate and be recognizable in silence! So: Humphrey Bogart gets noticed as a hunk, a matinee idol pretty boy; but then becomes immortal as a character. There are ten male Humphrey Bogarts for any one Betty Davis! There are hundreds of memorable male character actors, merely dozens (proportionally) of great female characters actresses: it isn’t just casting prejudice (thought there’s that too!) Conversely, there are hundreds of female beauties to take your breath away (some of them past forty!) (some of them past eighty!) to only a handful of males still pretty past thirty. (Past thirty some no longer make me barf!)
Last night Jan and I watched Barbara Steele in an Italian horror film, we were in awe. The actress was pretty as pretty: but with a flick of angle, a twitch of brow, a tiny movement of the head, she would simultaneously become pathological … evil … tortured … torturing … Poor girl got so sick of being cast to rise out of coffins she scuttled her own career!
I first noticed her, indelibly! in Fellini’s 8 1/2. Then the other week, watching Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby with Jan, seeing the whores lounging around the 1917 New Orleans brothel, I exclaimed, Look at that whore! that’s Guido’s rich friend’s mistress in 8 1/2. I gave myself low odds of discovering her name at IMDb.com; but in fact “Barbara Steele” jumped at me from the cast list the second the graphics loaded.
And now that I search of images online of Barbara Steele I notice more than one other blog offering pages of pictures of her!
Nakadai isn’t Mifune; but he is also great. Barbara Steele isn’t Betty Davis. But she’s more than just a pretty girl, and more than just a good actress. She’s indelible. And Peter Lore just flashed before me as Joel Cairo, moving his eyebrows all over his face like spilled mercury.
The DVD Jan and I watched last night was Black Sunday. I never thought I’d deliberately watch an Italian horror flick!