Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: "Ghost Writer"

The film is a thinly veiled (oh so thinly) critical attack on Tony Blair, former prime minister of Great Britain, and his corroberation with the American CIA. The accusation is an old contention: Iraqui war torture. The script suffers a bit from unchallenged self-righteousness and bald-faced anti-Americanism--but Roman Pulanski ("Chinatown;" "Roesmary's Baby;". "The Pianist") is a great director, and is a master at creating suspense even when there is little intrnsic story-reason for it. The ending is rather abrupt and unfulfilling; but there is wonderful acting throughout, and wonderful locations. It's always worth seeing a directorial master at work. It swept Europeam Fims Awards for 2010.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

ON ACTING: Fatherhood

The student told me he was having trouble playing a father. He said he has never been a father, doubts he ever will become one...and in general finds emotionally identifying with fathers difficult.

But he was now of the age when he was going to be offered father-parts to play. What to do?

So I said we should try to find a common denominator: Is there a universal emotional element in fatherhood that fathers and non-fathers (like him and maybe half the audience) can warm to? What does being a father mean? Is there a synonym for "fatherhood," I asked?

After an unresponsive, silent pause: "Responsibility," I offered. "Once that child's life enters the world, you are responsible...for it's food, it's emotional contentment and and spiritual nourishment." I asked the student if he ever felt responsible for something? "Of course," he said.

Well, I said, with a new-born child that responsibility never ends. "Jesus, Dad, enough already. Stop with the advice!"

"Never. At any age. Not until you are totally happy. Is your life perfect? Well, as long as the answer is no, I'm going to be in your life. As a father, I am responsible."

Irrational? Yes. Maddening? Yes. Inevitable? I hope so.

Love...paternal, maternal, spousal, or filial...is responsibility towards an other's existence. You are charged with being tethered to the other's life, to their needs, wants, desires and yearnings. Your life is no longer defined by just your life, but by theirs as well. (That's why you have every right to tell them what to do!) Your happiness is their happiness; and visa-versa. You will die, for them, with them, because of them...or you would kill for them. You no longer have an independent existence. You are they; they are you.

Responsibility. Love. Fatherhood. Endless. Eternal. Maybe that's what rigor mortis is: the dead body still trying to fulfill it's responsibility toward its children. Nothing more ecstatic. And exhausting. Fatherhood, along with motherhood: it makes the world, and the species, go round and round.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

ON ACTING: Fantasy Life

It seems our fantasy life, whether in acting writing or dreams, is the same thing. It obeys the same source, the same needs and the same structural imperatives when communicating it (successfully) to someone else. I guess that's why the deepest studies of all academic disciplines end up at the same place: a PhD; many faces of the same structured prism looking at one thing: human nature.


To must act exceedingly well, you must know yourself, like yourself, enjoy being yourself and want to share yourself. In good acting self-centered-ness is a a positive, creative and generous effort; "Here I am. May I be the author's conduit to your (the audience's) and my mirror?"

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

ON ACTING: Preparation; and Countering Avoidance

For those of you who use images, drawn up from either your imagination or in reality from the past, to stir up your personal pool of emotions prior to entering scene, I issue a warning: your personal survival system will fight you every steps of the way!

Let's say you conjure up a certain image, let's say of an old boy friend or girl friend who rejected you some time past, to fire up your emotional vulnerability to potential rejection in an upcoming love scene. Let's say the image begins to work. You are feeling personal sadness or loss, and suddenly your mind switches to another thought. Or you will say to yourself: "Great...now I'm all prepared;" or "That's not the best image I can find. Maybe I'll try to remember someone else;" or "I'm over that person. It's in the past," or...or....or...or.

Beware all the string of 'ors'! They are tools of avoidance, forms of actor self-deception. Your everyday mind is trying the help you escape the intensity of the preparation. Great for a modulated life; bad for intensely exciting acting.

Stay with the initial image. Use the 'avoidance' stimulus'/occurrence as a warning sign! Avoidance came to you because the image was a powerful part of your real or imaginative experience...and it has frightened you.

Counter it. Get even more intensely specific about the image you were trying to avoid. What was the sound of the voice of the past person who rejected you? Do you remember the day he/she dumped you? Do you remember how it felt? What particular part of the body was effected first? Second? What did you do? Say?

The emotion will become stronger...AND you will try to runaway again. Your mind with move on to other thoughts again. You will feel you have done enough. You will think of another experience.

Resist. Counter the avoidance once. And again and again.

And only when you are comfortable being deeply and uncomfortably sad or filled with loss; and, ironically, when you want stay with the image forever and continue to provide deeper and deeper feelings and details about the image...at that point your preparation is ended.

At that point fear of feeling the particular emotion you are preparing for will have been banished...and the preparation is truly over...and fully effective.

Enter the scene.

(NOTE: But enter the scene as the character...who will, like in everyday life, be trying like hell to win the scene and not be forced to feel the prepared emotion! But be confident that your desired emotion--the feeling of sadness and loss in this case--will be activated, in spite of your character's best efforts because you have prepared; that is, you have heightened your susceptibility to being made sad by the other person(s)!)