Re: HELEN MIRREN

Re: HELEN MIRREN: Today, there is a profile of Helen Mirren in the Good Weekend supplement of the Weekend Edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. It states that Helen Mirren did in fact stand as a candidate for the Workers Revolutionary Party.


Ok. Thats' interesting -- there must have been more thespians in the WRP arts industry caucus than I thought.

I think Mirren is one of the great actors of our time offering us characterisations that leave a lot of other stuff, by the great bulk of film actors, coming off as mere shallow indulgence.

Judy Dench's mantle is now held by Mirren, I think.(Not that Dench has retired)

However, much as her acting in Elizebeth I was superb -- this recent TV series was a stolid exercise that didn't know where to take itself --despite the performances both of Mirren and Jeremy Irons.

I watch Mirren in performance and I am blown away because it is so conscious, almost distant, in a way that Brecht talked about acting -- that it isn't driven by trickster effect and mannerisms.(I think Venessa Redgarve --another from the WRP stable -- took that distancing too far in her roles that I've seen on film)

Gillian Anderson's performance in Bleak House recently was similarly over powering. Mirren will tell you that acting women is a feminist issue and I think it surely is.

And, if you like, that identification is lacking from the work of Meryl Streep who I find far too technical.--and mainly just that.

This brings me to the whole question of women in film -- and women acting in film --and I'd like to share my favorites(just for the hell of it):

1) Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft in the Miracle Worker. But Bancroft ineverything although Patty has been crippled by mental illness for so
long since that extraordinary debut.
2) Judy Dench I mentioned
3) The French actors --Simone Signoret and Jeanne Moreau,
4) The Austrian actress -- Luise Rainer -- esp in esp in The Good Earth (1937)--which she is most well known for in English speaking countries
(5)Kathleen Turner -- who certainly offered us a mix and match before her arthritis set in -- but I think in terms of what I'm about here, I'd have to suggest her role in The Accidental Tourist.
(6) And really Greta Garbo still reins over many other actors despite the years since her films were first shot.
(7) And while this isn't a top ten sort of list -- as I'm justthinking off the top of my head --Ingrid Bergman. Yes, definitely her.
(8) The Italian actor -- Anna Magnani. Wow! You have to see her in action --so powerful and so sharp within the Italin Realist cinema.
(9) Irene Papas -- the great actor from Greece(who you might know as the widow from Zorba The Greek)
(10)And a neglected favorite of mine -- Karen Black --who few will know, I'm sure, as she is the most neglected actor I think.
(11)Theres' also one performance I'd like to mention in regard to this all and thats' Sharon Stone's performance in Casino. Amazing.
(12) Cissy Spacek -- esp Coalminer's Daughter --but almost everything else has has done.
(13)But rather than go on and on -- I'll throw in just one film which is driven by great acting such that Glen Close rose to her full potential-- Dangerous Liaisons (1988) -- which I think is a very important gender driven film.
(14) One final person -- Gena Rowlands -- who 'd you may know from the films of John Cassavetes.
(15)&One more:: Cicely Tyson,the afro american actor , in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)..at least

In case I fall foul of youth I guess some of the younger actors need a mention:

(1) The German actor - Franka Potente(Run Lola Run)
(2) A lot of the work of Hilary Swank
(3) And of a later age -- Pam Grier who'd you know from Jackie Brown (1997) ..a film where Tarantino offered her the respect as an actor she deserves.

I haven't mentioned Susan Sarandon -- but I haven't been that taken with her as a great actor. She's very good -- especially in White Palace which is my favorite of her movies...But then, although I'm being organic in my thoughts, I've not actually developed the reasons for why these women shine on film..as woman, real as distinct from artificial constructs generated in performance...as a sort of consumable which most acting is, unfortunately.

But I guess my starting point is the sort of outlook Kenneth Tynan generated in his review of Greta Garbo's career. He also has a great consideration of Rita Tushingham who is very neglected I think....Read it if you get a chance.

However, I think you are being more than a little unfair to Vanessa Redgrave and her legacy.


I wasn't talking about Redgrave as a political person doing political films . I was talking about acting in a way that it reflects some core aspects of real life experience and anguish and such through the individual performance without relying on trickery, such that the exploration at stake of (humanity & especially) woman's existence was a shared experience between the actor and the audience...

AND I was talking about film...so while I have immense respect for the Redgraves and the Richardsons I was suggesting that I thought Vanessa Redgrave wasn't in the same league as the others I was referring to. That doesn't mean that I don't appreciate her work OR her choices.

Take the fact that I think Jane Fonda's most extraordinary performance is in Klute (1971)where she plays a prostitute. In the context of her political development and her previous acting honours I nonetheless think this a seminal role and of a nature and pitch I don't think anyone has come near to.No one. I think I've seen the film at least 10 times since its release.

But I'm also being very subjective I guess as I'm sifting through my memory with my own preferences at past times ruling my judgement. And I guess I have a individual take on acting -- people may talk all they want about James Dean and think him so out there, but in Rebel Without A Cause I'm thrilled by Natalie Wood and Dean, to me, seems like a trickster.(I'm also hard on Marlon Brando --as the dedicated method actors leave me a bit cold except Rod Steiger who seems to have transcended the worst of their habits. )

I don't want to get involved in a long discourse on who's great -- but Mirren certainly is, and Prime Suspect or even the recent Elizebeth is
extraordinary performance on screen.

But to give you an idea of where I'm coming from I have to digress and note how amazing is Daniel Day Lewis' role of Bill 'the Butcher' Cutter in Gangs of New York. The guy is so darn good -- but that performance is so extraordinary it makes you want to believe in gods. What can I say: it blew me away completely/the most memorable moments on screen are Day Lewis'...and in the same ball park I can talk about Mirren or Dench...etc

I'm not talking about persona either but I guess what I'm getting at is very elusive. But in a way despite whatever these individual women's outlooks may be --and I could go on and on listing so many others -- it comes down to what they bring to the screen.

I was thinking about how this related to Australia and why I hadn't listed someone from here. I agree with Michael about Wendy Hughes but then there's Nonie Hazelhurst too. There are many very good actors here --and there are the international stars too.(And in this regard I was thinking that Nicole Kidman who is a very skilled actor --and I've been watching her on screen since she was 15 y/o ). But I thought -- who is someone I'd say was a very great actor --and my choice was unequivocal: Magna Szubanski.

I think that women warrants being awarded the status of a national treasure as Dench or Mirren should be in Britain.That may seem strange - but if you consider here 'oevre' theres' no doubt in my mind she is always on the money. And I'll have none of this fluff about her being "only" a comic actor. So were Keaton and Chaplin but they were some of the 20th century's greatest actors.

But really when you start making up a list it become endless. I guess my initial stimulation was to praise and offer due deference to Helen Mirren for everything she has given me/us over the years and still does. I think Prime Suspect contains acting greatness -- especially for television --and I'm not being blind to its political context either(due in no small measure to the contribution of Lynda La Plante -- its writer).

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