The Specialness of Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams possesses quiet versatility.  Her stunning performance in Oz is different from anything else she has done.  And in a film of good performances (Rachel Weisz and Mila Kumis) and a very good performance (James Franco, gallantly carrying on despite the prevalent mysterious critical hostility to his work), she stands out.  She perfectly catches the tone and mood of each scene.  Her every gesture and movement and expression match that tone and mood while building, or expressing, the unity of her characterization.    

Tuning Out Teachout

The brilliant Terry Teachout wrote a simple-minded column forr the Wall Street Journal called “A Movie That Plays Like a Play.”  According to the column, Spielberg’s and Kushner’s Lincoln plays like a play because it has lots of dialogue.  The column is so rich in shallow observations and implicit contradictions that one hardly knows how to comment.

Mr. Teachout appears to say that films without a lot of dialogue are cinematic and films with a lot are not.  He places Hitchcock on the visual side ignoring how important thematic dialogue and contrapuntal dialogue are in Hitchcok’s films.  The films are often visual masterpieces, but it is primarily in the good talk that the French critics found all that Catholicism.

Where would Mr. Teachout file Billy Wilder whose films are marked by much smart talk and invariably exhibit what Wilder himself called a second act curtain but are gems of rhythmic cutting.

He scoffs at admirers of titleless silents (masterpieces, this would mean, like The Last Laugh) and even makes fun of the marvelous look of Lincoln , the production design that creates and sustains mood.  He pretends  —  he must be pretending  —  that the purpose of the lighting was to simulate the era’s lack of electricity.  But he describes Lincoln as word-oriented without mentioning that Abraham Lincoln was too  —  as was his era, accustomed more to two-hour orations than to addresses Gettysburg.

Mr. Teachout cannot believe all that he has written here (Wall Street Journal 2/15/13).  Too many of his other writings belie this shallowness.  And…

Tuning Teachout Back In

And he splendidly redeems himself two weeks later (Wall Street Journal 3/1/13) in a column discussing the career of critic Kenneth Tynan.  He is fair.  He is balanced.  But he gives Tynan what Tynan deserves and, with precision, puts him in his ungenerous, spiteful place.

NEXT POST Friday, May 17.

Until then,
See you at the movies,

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