Friday, April 21, 2006

on film actors and the stage.

I started reading David Edelstein when he was the film critic for Slate; then he left (or they fired him or something) and joined New York Magazine and I keep reading him (and Slate too -- amazing how we become loyal to people and things we never even know). He has a style of criticism I like, intensely expressive and very personal, a style that obviously descends from the great Pauline Kael. (Edelstein calls himself a "Paulette"). It is a style I wish I could write in. Fastidious literary critics don't like the Kael style since it is clearly imbued with what the New Critics called the "affective fallacy" -- the idea that a piece of art can be explored in terms of the feelings or emotions it arouses in a critic (or anybody else, for that matter). They have a point but Kael is such a joy to read -- so thought-provoking, so annoying, so intensely literary -- that one has to fall under her spell.

In the recent issue of New York, Edelstein has an essay on Julia Roberts' first stage performance, in a Joe Mantello-directed production of Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain. I had the opportunity of seeing Greenberg's Take Me Out on Broadway (also directed by Mantello) and that production, with its magnificent performance by Denis O'Hare, introduced me to Greenberg's style -- talky, literary but where language is stretched to breaking point and where words, simply by their presence and their layering, attain heights undreamt of. Edelstein's analysis of Roberts in her first stage-role is not entirely unexpected: Julia is still, well, Julia but she's not quite at home on the stage.

UPDATE: Reviews of Three Days of Rain at the Post and the Times say much the same thing.

(I had the same experience when I saw Ewan McGregor, the man who lit up Moulin Rouge with his voice and the abosolute sincerity of his performance, in a West End production of Guys and Dolls. It's not the McGregor does a disservice to the play, it's just that he's upstaged by all the seasoned theater veterans around him -- who are so at home in their bodies and so good at making their bodies and their voices lenses into the souls of their characters).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

please mark titles with quotation marks.