November 25, 2009

Hams

"Amped up, antic and crackling with chemical intensity, [Nicolas Cage's] performance moved movie critic Roger Ebert to observe: 'Cage is as good as anyone since Klaus Kinski at portraying a man whose head is exploding.'" — from a recent LA Times news item on "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans".

Well, yes. Like Kinski himself, Cage is another of those actors (or overactors) you watch in order to watch the actor — Nicolas Cage (or, rather, "Nicolas Cage") in this case — rather than the character they're playing. Or rather, in my case, don't watch — I find both Kinski and Cage generally unwatchable in all their showy look-at-me intensity and hamminess. They're performers, not actors; and the performance is so often about their performance itself. It's all about (say) watching James Dean playing James Dean playing yourself (were you an American of a certain age), for example, or Nicolas Cage playing yet another variant of Nicolas Cage playing another twitchy quirky mannered variant of "Nicolas Cage". Tilda Swinton does the same in a rather different context. I doubt I'll be watching this version of Bad Lieutenant any time soon.

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