The most impressive aspect of Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln in Stephen Spielberg’s latest film is that it is not a bravura performance. It is a quiet one, composed of countless details, lacking conventional fireworks, devoid even of the inevitable big scene. His finest moment comes as he sits across the table from the CSA’s vice-president Alexander Stephens, negotiating pre-surrender terms. There is a pause when Lincoln’s eyes register that he is facing a stone wall of a mind that will never alter. It makes perhaps the year’s most unforgettable scene.
A remarkable ensemble helps create the world in which Abraham Lincoln struggles for a constitutional amendment which will outlaw slavery. Especially outstanding: David Strathairn, Sally Field, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader.
Another hero of the film is Rick Carter, production designer. With the photographer (Janusz Kaminski) he creates a light, a look and a mood wonderfully sustained. Director, photographer and editor (Michael Kahn) produce surging movement and emotion in a film which is essentially made up of pictures of people talking.
Among the many strengths of Tony Kushner’s script is the unconventional ending it brings to a story whose end we all thought we knew.
MEETING BEASTS: Amid all the excitement (well deserved) over the performance of Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy (sorry about my lack of accent, Ms. Wallis) in Beasts of the Southern Wild , don’t overlook Dwight Henry as her father — a fine piece of acting which is a key component in the success of the film.
SCORSESE FOLLOW-UP: My post of November 12 referred to a Newsweek article by Martin Scorsese in which he briefly discusses ten favorite films. The springboard for his list is his reflection on favorite film heroes in specific heroic actions. My collaborator BKG points out how unusual are Scorsese’s screen champions: from the impassioned cleric of Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest (Claude Laydu) to the great kid in De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (Enzo Staiola). BKG: Not a Superman or Batman in sight.
Note that CURNBLOG in a November 18 post titled “I believe in cinema” features a worthwhile short analysis of Bicycle Thieves and in his post for today does write about superheroes.
THE GREAT FILMS: My personal list of the ten greatest films of all time includes Peter Weir’s The Truman Show. I am pleased to find the film described in glowing terms by David Thomson in a brief squib in the Wall Street Journal by Eben Shapiro (10/12/12) announcing the release of Thomson’s new book The Big Screen. Thomson points out about The Truman Show: “This masterwork was made ahead of ‘reality tv’ and the jungle of screens through which we now make our way.” The film enshrines another superb performance from Jim Carrey, one of our most underestimated actors.
I refer readers to a October 30 post on CURNBLOG called “Is Reality TV the Symptom of a Cultural Disease?”
NEXT FRIDAY POST December 7
See you at the movies,